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HTF REVIEW: "Destry Rides Again" (with screenshots) (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
Real Name
Ronald Epstein

Destry Rides Again

Studio: Universal
Year: 1939
Rated: NR
Film Length: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish

It seems for the past few weeks I have been stuck
in Western mode. From reviewing so many western
films like Little Big Man, Nevada Smith, Dances
With Wolves, The Unforgiven
and Young Guns,
I feel as if I'm starting to empty sand out of my
cowboy boots every night before I go to bed.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you -- I really have
grown much fonder of this genre that I have always
associated as films only my father would have enjoyed.
Making this experience even more special is the
release of 11 new DVDs that are part of the
Universal Western Collection. Here is an
opportunity to watch some of Hollywood's greatest
stars like Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood, Maureen
O'Hara and Audie Murphy tame the wild, wild west.

A good friend of mine heard I received the Universal
collection and immediately recommended I watch
Winchester '73 followed by Destry Rides
. I was told only that each film starred
James Stewart, but in very different sort of roles.
While I felt the 1950 Winchester '73 was a
fairly good average western, I was really amazed
that Destry Rides Again, a film made 11
years earlier, was far more enjoyable. Perhaps
what attracted me to this film more than others is
the fact that director George Marshall takes an
already known story and combines it with comedy
to give us a very amusing western send-up.

Welcome to the rowdy frontier town of Bottleneck.
It actually could be the one of the coolest towns
to live in outside of Dodge City if not for the fact
that it has become corruptly run by a crooked saloon
owner named Kent (Brian Donlevy) and his sultry
girlfriend Frenchy (Marlene Dietrich), who when not
cheating honest folks, can be found belting out a
song for the saloon's drunk patrons.

When Sheriff Keogh asks one too many questions
about a rigged poker game that gives Kent a
stranglehold over the local cattle rangers, Kent
has the Sheriff shot. In his absence, the town
drunk, Washington Dimsdale (Charles Winninger), is
appointed as the new Mayor, in hopes that it will
cause no serious disruption to Kent's power.

Problem is, Dimsdale takes the job seriously and
immediately sets out to brings in a legendary lawman
named Thomas Jefferson Destry (James Stewart). Much
to Dimsdale's dismay, the lawman arrives as an
unimposing, genteel man who doesn't carry a gun.
Of course seeing this, the townsfolk immediately
laugh him off. Destry soon proves to them, however,
that you don't need a gun to make a point as he
begins enforcing his eccentric law and order

The most enjoyable aspect of Destry Rides Again
is watching its stars, Jimmy Stewart and Marlene
Dietrich expertly play off each other. You can't
help but laugh at the tall boy scout going up against
the tough-as-nails saloon singer and watch chairs
fly in one of the biggest undignified cat fight
brawls ever to be filmed.

It was interesting to learn that this particular
story was first touched upon in a 1932 film with
the legendary Tom Mix in the role of Tom Destry.
Director George Marshall was responsible for
recommending the role of Frenchy to Marlene Dietrich
after Paulette Goddard became unavailable for the
role. Though Dietrich had returned to Germany to
try to rebuild her career, she accepted and returned
to America for the part.

How is the transfer?

It seems that age never quite dictates how good
or bad a particular transfer will look. I had
just finished reviewing Winchester '73,
a film made in 1950. In that review I commented
that the print was full of blemishes and scratches
as well as a noticeable amount of grain.

Go back 11 years to Destry Rides Again, and
here is a transfer that looks somewhat better than
that 1950 film. Filmed in B&W and presented in
its original full frame ratio, here is a print that
looks to be in almost pristine condition. Images
are nicely detailed with excellent contrast levels
and blacks that are remarkably deep. Age blemishes
are apparent here alright, but they are not as
prominant. Though this is not nearly the best
B&W transfer I have seen, I was quite taken back
by how good this transfer still looks for a film
that is now 64 years old.

The film's original mono soundtrack sounds a
bit high and harsh, which was something I more
or less expected here. Fortunately, background
hiss is kept to a minimum.

Special Features

There are none. I am sort of surprised that
there was not the smallest amount of promotional
material available for this film.

Final Thoughts

I'm having quite a good time sifting through some
of these lesser-known titles that are part of the
Universal Western Collection. These are
gems that are waiting to be discovered by people
like you and I who never thought they would enjoy
a western.

If you feel courageous, I urge you to start your
road of discovery with Destry Rides Again,
certainly amongst my favorite westerns I have seen
thus far. At an on-line price of only $11 each,
this is a title worth checking out.

The more of these little gems I watch, the more
I want to see. Expect another Universal western
review next week! Think I'll go for Bend of
the River

Release Date: May 6, 2003

All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality


Senior HTF Member
Mar 21, 2001
Real Name

I'm looking forward to seeing this one for the first time. :emoji_thumbsup:

Eric Peterson

Senior HTF Member
Aug 2, 2001
Real Name
Eric Peterson
Excellent review Ron!

This is one of my favorite Westerns and I can't wait to order. I'm a little irritated at the total lack of extras, but at least Universal understands the proper pricing scheme for a featureless disc, unlike Paramount who still seems to think that a featureless disc with an average transfer is worth $25.

Robert Crawford

Senior HTF Member
Dec 9, 1998
Real Name

That is not true any longer. Please, take another look at the prices of Paramount's catelogue releases.


Senior HTF Member
Jan 6, 1999
Real Name
Glad to hear the picture quality is good.
There is still too much of Marlene not on DVD.

Glad to scratch one off my Marlene list of "forever waiting for on DVD."

Thanks, Ron!



Nov 14, 2002
I just realized... my grandfather would have been at the age I am now when this movie came out! :eek: It looks pretty awesome... I really like the premise, and might check it out!!


Supporting Actor
Oct 25, 2000
Peoria, AZ
Real Name
This has always been a favorite of mine; and I'm certainly not a western lover.

I envy those watching it for the first time.

Enjoyable from start to finish.


Senior HTF Member
Dec 11, 2000
Real Name
Steve Gonzales
I haven't seen DRG for awhile....which is a good excuse to put it on my 'to-buy' list. :)

Thanks for the review. :emoji_thumbsup:

Zen Butler

Senior HTF Member
Jan 24, 2002
Southern, Ca
Real Name
Zen K. Butler
Great review. Would you please review Bend of the River, so my friend will finally shut-up? Your right $11 is a bargain. Haven't seen this one in a while.

Larry Sutliff

Senior HTF Member
Jun 17, 2000
Nice review, Ron! DESTRY is one of my favorite westerns, and I always tried to get the old Laserdisc when ever it turned up on eBay, only to be outbid. It's going to be nice to be able to get an even better version of the film for less than 12 bucks!


Stunt Coordinator
Mar 25, 2002
Real Name
Barry Margolis
BUT.....be warned that unless my copy is horribly defective, then playing this otherwise superb DVD using the mono TV speaker setup (sorry, guys, I mainly enjoy pre-1950's movies), the sound is so terribly tinny and weird that I thought I was on drugs....

I'm going to reconfigure my set-up to use the stereo speakers...hopefully it'll be better.


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