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

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 24, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    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
  2. Rain

    Rain Producer

    Mar 21, 2001
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    I'm looking forward to seeing this one for the first time. [​IMG]
  3. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

    Aug 2, 2001
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    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.
  4. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Real Name:

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

    Mark Walker Cinematographer

    Jan 6, 1999
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    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!

  6. Zenas

    Zenas Agent

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

    Randy_M Supporting Actor

    Oct 25, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Peoria, AZ
    Real Name:
    Randy Margolis
    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.
  8. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

    Dec 11, 2000
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    I haven't seen DRG for awhile....which is a good excuse to put it on my 'to-buy' list. [​IMG]

    Thanks for the review. [​IMG]
  9. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

    Jan 24, 2002
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    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.
  10. Larry Sutliff

    Larry Sutliff Cinematographer

    Jun 17, 2000
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    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!
  11. BarryM

    BarryM Stunt Coordinator

    Mar 25, 2002
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    0 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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