HTF REVIEW: "The Unforgiven" (1960) (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 23, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Ronald Epstein

    The Unforgiven

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1960
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 121 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish

    It may very well be easy to mistake the title of
    The Unforgiven with Unforgiven, the
    1992 Clint Eastwood movie about an aging gunfighter
    in the old west. Made 32 years earlier, The
    is a totally different kind of
    western about a family that adopts a girl on a
    remote ranch in Texas, only to find the Indians
    are claiming the girl is theirs.


    As the film opens, we meet Rachel Zachary (Audrey
    Hepburn), a foundling daughter of a frontier family
    living in Texas in the 1850s. Rachel is a beautifully
    sweet girl who lives under the watchful eye of her
    adopted Mother Mattilda (Lillian Gish). Ben
    Zachary (Burt Lancaster) is the eldest son of
    this a family of ranchers. Cash (Audie Murphy)
    and Andy (Doug McClure) are his brothers. Together
    this family struggles with raising cattle and
    battling Indians.


    When a strange old man with one eye and a saber
    makes mysterious visits around town, rumors
    begin to fly that Rachel is an Indian girl stolen
    from her family when she was just days old. To
    make matters worse, the Kiowa Indians begin showing
    up at the Zachary's homestead demanding the return
    of their "sister."

    With rumors persisting, a division begins to form
    not only amongst the townspeople, but the Zachary
    family as well. The Zachary brothers have been lead
    to believe that Rachel is their blood sister, but
    suddenly Cash refuses to defend her and Ben finds
    he is falling in love with her.

    I had never seen The Unforgiven until today,
    and I found it to be a highly enjoyable and
    excellent western filled with superb performances
    from both Lancaster and Gish. It's a shame to learn
    that when the film was released it was panned by
    many critics. Its director John Huston even commented,
    "Some of my pictures I don't care for, but The
    Unforgiven is the only one I actually dislike...."

    How is the transfer?

    There's something really cool about watching a
    western film that has been filmed in Panavision
    and Technicolor. The film has a very spacial
    feel to it with colors look natural and well
    saturated, and an image that is sharper than I
    expected. There is noticeable grain within the
    deep blue sky backdrops, but I realize this is
    normal. The print seems to be in immaculate
    condition with no unsightly blemishes to be seen
    anywhere. If I had a complaint, it would be that
    the dark scenes are a bit too dark, causing
    surrounding picture detail to be lost. While not
    the best Technicolor transfer I have seen on DVD,
    but this one looks pretty damn good.


    The film's original MONO soundtrack sounds a
    bit too bright and harsh, but it's nothing I
    didn't expect in the first place. There is no
    evidence of background hiss here.

    Special Features


    Though we only get the film's original theatrical
    here, I am thankful to MGM for providing
    it. It's certainly more than another unnamed studio
    is providing with their classic western product.

    Final Thoughts


    Despite what the critics and director thought, I
    can't help but sit here and defend the film. It's
    a piece of masterful work that explores prejudicial
    issues that are still relevant today. I can see why
    MGM chose to release this title alongside Dances
    With Wolves
    as both films similarly look at the
    complexities of race relations.

    Fans of western fare most certainly should rent
    this. I personally think it's worthy of a purchase.

    Release Date: May 20, 2003

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

    Thomas T Producer

    Sep 30, 2001
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    Thanks for the favorable review, Ron. While not a bonafide classic western, it is nonetheless an underrated film that needs some serious re-evaluation.

    I think some of the original negativity might have been partly due to the casting of Audrey Hepburn. 1950's audiences used to seeing Hepburn play elegant princesses (Roman Holiday), high fashion models (Funny Face) and other romantic comedies (Sabrina, Love In The Afternoon) might have been taken aback with Hepburn as an Indian in a western and truth to tell, her innate elegance does seem out of place in the Old West but it's still a fine film.
  3. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

    May 7, 2001
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    Yes, let's hope this title get's caught up in the DwW fever.
  4. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    I love this film and thanks for reviewing Ronbo.

  5. Mark_TS

    Mark_TS Screenwriter

    Mar 23, 2000
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    yay! This is also one of my favorite Westerns!
    The score, the vistas, Audrey H......the real sense of 'the old West' Thanks Ron.
  6. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

    Oct 5, 1998
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    Boise, ID
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    I may have to see this one, especially after reading this trivia:

    "Huston was astounded to discover that Gish could shoot more accurately, and faster, than he and Lancaster, both of whom thought of themselves as expert marksmen. "

    So much for patronizing a lady. [​IMG]

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