HTF REVIEW: "Winchester '73" (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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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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


    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

    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

    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

    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
  2. Neil S. Bulk

    Neil S. Bulk Screenwriter

    Sep 13, 1999
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    Neil S. Bulk
    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.

  3. Mark Cappelletty

    Mark Cappelletty Cinematographer

    Jun 6, 1999
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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.
  4. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Apr 15, 2002
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    thanks as well for the review, sounds like a must buy to me

  5. Rain

    Rain Producer

    Mar 21, 2001
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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.


    Ron, will you be reviewing Destry Rides Again?
  6. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    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!
  7. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

    Aug 2, 2001
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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.
  8. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

    Jan 24, 2002
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    Southern, Ca
    Real Name:
    Zen K. Butler
    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!
  9. Randy Korstick

    Randy Korstick Producer

    Feb 24, 2000
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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.
  10. JulianK

    JulianK Supporting Actor

    Oct 3, 2000
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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.
  11. alan halvorson

    alan halvorson Cinematographer

    Oct 2, 1998
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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).
  12. Brent Bridgeman

    Brent Bridgeman Second Unit

    Aug 12, 1999
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    Atlanta, GA
    Real Name:
    Brent Bridgeman
    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.

  13. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    Okay, smartass, you knew what I meant! [​IMG]
  14. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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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.
  15. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer

    Feb 20, 2001
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    Livonia, MI USA
    Real Name:
    Kenneth McAlinden
    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.


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