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HTF REVIEW: "The Unforgiven" (1960) (with screenshots) (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
Real Name
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
Please support HTF by using one of these affiliate links when considering a purchase.

Thomas T

Senior HTF Member
Sep 30, 2001
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.


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

Dennis Nicholls

Senior HTF Member
Oct 5, 1998
Boise, ID
Real Name
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. :D

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