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HTF REVIEW: "Winchester '73" (with screenshots) (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

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Winchester '73





Studio: Universal
Year: 1950
Rated: NR
Film Length: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish





I'm the first to admit that westerns were never
my favorite type of film to watch, and knowing that
you can certainly understand how I never readily
associated Jimmy Stewart with westerns. Upon
further research I found out that Jimmy Stewart
and director Anthony Mann teamed up several times
to make several great westerns together including
Bend of the River, The Far Country,[/i] and
Winchester '73. Mann's 1950s westerns nearly
single-handedly rescued the western genre from
oblivion. As for Stewart, it was apparently time
for an image change. Post-war audiences were no
longer content with the sort of whitebread heroes
the actor had been known to play.



The star of Winchester '73 is undoubtedly
the gun itself, a 1873 Model, 44-40 caliber rifle,
one of One Thousand grade -- a most rare and
coveted item. As the film opens in Dodge City, we
see the gun displayed in a shop window where we
learn it's a prize for a contest that is forthcoming.
In town that day are Lin McAdam (Jimmy Stewart) and
High-Spade Frankie Wilson (Millard Mitchell) who
have come to participate in the contest. McAdam's
principal opponent is Dutch Henry Brown (Stephen
McNally), a man who murdered his father in cold
blood.



Though McAdam wins the contest fair and square,
Dutch steals the rifle and for the rest of the film
we watch the gun rapidly go through several changes
of ownership, including a gun runner (John McIntire),
an Indian (Rock Hudson), a tenderfoot, and a
desperado (Dan Duryea). All of this leads to a
super-charged final shoot-out between Lin and Dutch
against a jagged landscape.

Winchester '73 is part of a 11-disc DVD
Universal Western Collection that hits
stores in early May. These classic titles range
from the late 30s through late 60s and feature
such actors/actresses as Ronald Reagan, Clint
Eastwood, James Stewart, Audie Murphy and Maureen
O'Hara.


How is the transfer?


Filmed in glorious B&W and presented in its
original full-frame ratio of 1.33:1, This is an
average looking transfer at best. I have never
seen this film before, so I am unsure as to how
bad this film has looked on previous formats, but
the print seems to be plagued with an abnormal
amount of film blemish that includes splotches,
scratches and film dirt. Contrast levels seem
to be normal, with black levels that are not
very deep. Though everyone continues to say that
"grain is our friend," I must point out that
levels are a bit high here -- especially when
moving into the interior saloon settings. By
all means, this is not a bad transfer -- however,
as a reviewer I need to point out all the faults
I see in the presentation.



The film's original mono track sounds fairly
good. The audio never reaches that high
"shrill" quality of sound. There is very little
distortion here and narely a sign of background
hiss.


Special Features



I had expected to click on Interview with
James Stewart
to see some sort of early
videotaped segment featuring the actor. Instead,
the film simply began playing and I found myself
listening to what appeared to be a running
commentary interview with the actor that must
have been done prior to his death in 1997.
Stewart talks about doing Winchester '73 as
part of a picture deal that was tacked on to
Harvey. The elderly actor talks about
what it was like changing his image and doing
western fare. He certainly feels that his
characters were more vulnerable than the type of
characters John Wayne played. Stewart talks
about his string of films that he did in the 50s
as well as what it was like to take on more
physical types of roles. There's a really cool
story embedded in this commentary where Stewart
talks about his experience with horses. He
found many of them difficult to ride. During the
shooting of Winchester '73 on the Universal
lot he happened to come upon a horse that he fell
in love with. It belonged to stunt girl who
reluctantly let him ride it for the next 20 years.
Though I am careful not to label this as a
"commentary," it is an interview that runs nearly
the length of the entire picture.

The film's original theatrical trailer
is also included.


Final Thoughts



I didn't think Winchester '73 has the
depth or tension to stand amongst some of the
best westerns I have seen, but nonetheless, the
film is nicely paced, features solid performances
and features a memorable shoot-out finale! It
is certainly a film I am proud to have in my
collection.


Release Date: April 29, 2003


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

Neil S. Bulk

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If I'm not mistaken that James Stewart interview is a carry-over from the LD and is one of the first commentaries ever recorded.

Neil
 

Mark Cappelletty

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Thanks for the review, Ron. The interview/commentary is ported over from the LD and you just answered a big question I had about this release.
 

Rain

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I'm getting this one for sure.

A few nicks and scratches on the print are tolerable on a film this old.

:emoji_thumbsup:

Ron, will you be reviewing Destry Rides Again?
 

Ronald Epstein

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Destry Rides Again posts later today.
I can tell you that the print is in much better
shape than Winchester '73[/b].

I liked it better, too!
 

Eric Peterson

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Great news that the interview was carried over. I'll definitely be picking this title up.

I can't wait for the Destry review.
 

Zen Butler

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Nice review Ron. This one I will be getting. Your right, it's not as deep as some westerns. It sure is a lot of fun. One of my personal faves

Ron, you sure are pumping out tons of reviews as of late. Thank you!
 

Randy Korstick

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Another Good review Ron. I recommend that you watch Bend of the River. Its the best of the Stewart/Mann Westerns IMHO with The Naked Spur a close second. Its a little deeper in story and just as much fun with great color photography to boot.
 

JulianK

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Thanks for the review, Ron. I'm not generally disposed to pick up catalogue titles like this, but the James Stewart commentary, and the attractive price, won this disc a place in my next order.
 

alan halvorson

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Love this film, have the LD - doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to get the DVD though.

About the 1 in a 1000 Winchester. I just happened to catch a program on the History Channel devoted to the development of the Winchester company and its weapons. The 1 in a 1000 Winchester was actually produced. At the end of the hour, an example of a 1 in a 1000 Winchester was auctioned. It went to $100,000 in seconds (and ended there).
 

Brent Bridgeman

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Glad to see more westerns coming out on DVD. Especially nice to see some of the older classics that I grew up watching on Saturday afternoons in front of the tube.

a running commentary interview with the actor that must have been done prior to his death in 1997.
As opposed to those really boring postmortem interviews?:D
 

Robert Crawford

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I actually like this film a lot more than Ronbo with a young Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson appearing in this film. I've always enjoyed the Dodge City segment with Will Geer playing Wyatt Earp and who can forget Dan Duryea's "Waco Johnny Dean". Though some grain existed throughout different portions of the dvd, I'm very pleased to have added this dvd to my collection.
 

Ken_McAlinden

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I just watched the DVD myself. The print wear and tear didn't bother me much, but the shimmer on Waco Johnny's vest was kind of annoying. Overall, though, it's great to have this title on my favorite format and I am very glad they carried the interview/commentary over from the laserdisc. This film is a great example of how with the right writing, directing, and acting touches, strong characters can be drawn with quick short strokes. It's amazing how many memorable supporting characters are established over the hour and a half or so running time.

Regards,
 

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