- Apr 24, 2006
- Charlotte, NC
- Real Name
- Matt Hough
John Huston’s The Unforgiven deals, in much the same way that John Ford’s masterpiece The Searchers does, with racial prejudice. Both films are thoughtful, compelling attempts at exploring this hot-button topic through the western genre, and while Ford’s opus is likely considered the finer achievement, Huston’s film is undoubtedly worthy of serious consideration, especially since its reputation, even with a sterling cast of noteworthy actors, has rather faded over time while Ford’s movie has grown ever higher in the estimation of the critics and public. The Unforgiven will be for many an undiscovered gem.
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: X Hr. X Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: DVD-5 (single layer)
Release Date: 08/12/2014
A crazed outsider named Abe Kelsey (Joseph Wiseman) wanders into a Texas territory claiming that Rachel (Audrey Hepburn), the adopted daughter of the Zachary clan, is in actuality an Indian stolen from the local Kiowa Indian tribe as a babe. Her brothers, level-headed Ben (Burt Lancaster), hot-headed, Indian hating Cash (Audie Murphy), and simple-minded Andy (Doug McClure), don’t believe it for a minute, but mother Mattilda (Lillian Gish) knows the truth, and she shouts down all who say Rachel isn’t white. But when word spreads to other ranchers like Zeb Rawlins (Charles Bickford) and the Kiowas themselves, they all demand answers and proof of her nationality which the family is loath to give them bringing on a spurning by the locals and mounting trouble with the Indians.Ben Maddow’s screenplay captures the vibe and spirit of this particular time in the American West in all its color, vivacity, and, of course, danger. Peace with the Indians is always a tenuous thing, and the ranchers depend on one another’s friendship for security for their survival; thus, the conflicts which arise over Rachel’s parentage are serious affairs and reveal the deep-seated racial prejudices rampant in the area at the time. Before that, we see local rodeos and picnics; there’s a treasurable moment when Burt Lancaster’s Ben brings home a surprise for the family: a pianoforte which is almost like a miracle and which they all react to in awe once the mother actually makes it come alive. Local boys and girls pursue one another (a subplot with Rawlins’ daughter Georgia (Kipp Hamilton) pursuing Audie Murphy’s Cash figures importantly later in the movie) and a massive cattle drive is about to commence which will bring much needed funds for all the ranchers. But things turn ugly in the last hour as prejudice rears its ugly head, and Huston goes for the jugular in showing society at its worst. Even delicate Lillian Gish has the spark of the lunatic in her eyes as she makes a massive attempt to protect the secret she’s guarding. Huston uses the Panavision frame magnificently – coming in close when there are intimate scenes between couples but pulling back and going up to show the expansive prairie once the settlers try to track invading Indians. There are three Indian attacks near the film’s climax, but lest one fears that’s two too many, each one is approached differently in the staging and shooting and first timers to the movie will truly not have a clue how things are going to turn out. For all of the film’s meditative focus on serious themes, Huston can certainly shoot an action sequence when he needs to.The cast is superb. If Audrey Hepburn can’t quite shake the deep down refinement in her person to portray an uncultured prairie girl, she gives it a mighty effort, and she’s very appealing despite the slight miscasting. Burt Lancaster (in the same year he won his Oscar for Elmer Gantry) commands the screen as usual as the older brother who pretty much runs the whole show, Audie Murphy gives one of the best performances of his career as the zealously prejudiced Cash, and Doug McClure is a sweet, simple Andy. Charles Bickford offers another of his fine, forceful paterfamilias performances, and Albert Salmi as his good-natured son sweet on Rachel is likewise excellent. Lillian Gish and June Walker as the mothers of the Zachary and Rawlins clans show pioneer women at their most hardened and dynamic. John Saxon as a Kiowa cowpuncher suggests more to his role than is on the page and might have been more a force in the movie to good effect if it had been written that way. Joseph Wiseman is quite memorable as the crazy Abe who lights the fire that sparks all the trouble.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
The film’s 2.35:1 Panavision aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is all one could want for most of the movie even if color seems to have faded a bit in certain scenes. Flesh tones do seem rather natural, however, and there are scenes that are quite beautiful in high definition, just not consistently so. There are plenty of dust specks and dirt present and a blip or two of damage, but the transfer could have looked a lot worse than it does here. Black levels at their best can be very good but are never stunning. The film has been divided into 8 chapters.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is a curious affair with Dimitri Tiomkin’s background music very removed from the rest of the encode, seemingly being piped in from a soundstage down the hallway and lacking fidelity in the worst way. Dialogue has been excellently recorded, and sound effects have enough power for a sound encode from this era, but the music has not been mixed with these other elements in a way that sounds natural or part of the same cloth.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
Theatrical Trailer (4:31, HD)
Special Features Rating: 1/5
The Unforgiven is a film all classic movie lovers should definitely experience once. It has an all-star cast, beautiful location photography (it was filmed in John Huston’s beloved Mexico), and a serious theme surrounded by enough action and conflict to keep just about anyone happy who’s looking for something a little off the beaten path. Recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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