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Blu-ray Review The Wayward Bus Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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A kind of downgraded B-movie version of The High and the Mighty that doesn’t have the color, star cast, or airplane (but does retain the Cinemascope), Victor Vicas’ The Wayward Bus is another slice-of-life look at the lives of some mid-20th century archetypes as they live through a dangerous journey and learn some things about themselves in the process. Based on a 1947 novel by John Steinbeck, The Wayward Bus is probably the least well known of the Steinbeck movie adaptations (Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, The Red Pony, Viva Zapata, East of Eden), and it deserves to be, but its melodramatic character studies do feature some engaging actors working outside their comfort zones and pretty much delivering what was asked of them.

 

 

The Wayward Bus (Blu-ray) Directed by Victor Vicas Studio: Twilight Time (Fox) Year: 1957 Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1   1080p   AVC codec Running Time: 89 minutes Rating: NR Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 English Subtitles:  none

Region: 0 MSRP: $ 29.95

Release Date: June 12, 2012

Review Date: June 4, 2012

     

The Film

3/5   With his marriage to alcoholic Alice (Joan Collins) in tatters, bus driver Johnny Chicoy (Rick Jason) embarks on a fifty-mile trip to San Juan, California, in a rickety old bus just as a major storm is brewing. On board are a stripper (Jayne Mansfield) trying to hide her profession from a traveling salesman (Dan Dailey) who’s showing interest, a bickering husband and wife (Larry Keating, Kathryn Givney) who are taking their man-crazy teenaged daughter (Dolores Michaels) away from an older man whom she’s been carrying on with, a grouchy man (Will Wright) who insists he must reach San Juan by 3 p.m., and former counter girl Norma (Betty Lou Keim) who’s movie mad and wants to try her luck in Hollywood. As conditions worsen, the bus must contend with rock slides, a bridge nearly washed out, and the brake drums which are filling with water.   With only the thinnest of plots, the interest in The Wayward Bus lies in the amount of character information we can learn about each person on board as the vehicle trundles along in its own haphazard way toward its destination. The plot and character machinations (some derived from Steinbeck’s book, others pure Hollywood invention by screenwriter Ivan Moffat) are fairly predictable, especially by 1957 standards which conclude with eye-rolling happy endings for the most troubled of the characters, but Victor Vicas does stage the film’s three disaster sequences quite well mixing live action, miniature work, and rear projection mock-ups quite skillfully. (One wonders if director William Friedkin remembered this film when he was staging his gripping bridge sequence in Sorcerer.) Other aspects of the film are sloppy, however. Storms come and go willy-nilly (especially bad continuity occurs when a drenching rain drives Rick Jason and Dolores Michaels into a barn while two miles down the road it’s sunny and nearly cloud free and calm enough to land a helicopter with, of course, Johnny’s wife Alice conveniently on board so she can catch him with the teenager “after the fact”). A cold sore on Dan Dailey’s lip appears mid-film and just as quickly disappears.   Joan Collins gets top billing, and it’s clear she’s trying something different with her role. She’s almost completely deglamorized herself until the end of the film with little to no make-up and playing a character older than her years. Though it’s not her fault that the writing of her character is so contrived, she gives a very strong performance. Jayne Mansfield is also not giving her usual bubble-headed ditz performance as a stripper unhappy with her past and hoping for a different future. There’s only a slight hint of the breathy, squeal-laden Mansfield from earlier films to be found here with most of her performance down-to-earth and genuinely heartfelt. Dan Dailey plays pretty much his stock character (brash but with a heart easily wounded) with effortless ease, and Will Wright is at his grouchy best as the always complaining Van Brunt. Dolores Michaels attempts to give a slightly different spin on her man-hungry teen (less obvious but just as calculating), but it doesn’t quite work. Kathryn Givney as the cold-hearted, über-critical mother is tiresomely spot-on. Rick Jason has some charisma as bus driver Johnny, but he, too, is the victim of conventional plotting and character writing.    

Video Quality

4/5   The film’s Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is delivered faithfully in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Though most of the image is free from artifacts, there are some dust specks to be seen, especially later in the film. Black levels aren’t as deep as possible limiting the grayscale effectiveness just a bit. Contrast is strong, and sharpness is quite good, however, making the use of miniatures and rear projection easy to spot, and the encode handles the checked jacket of Larry Keating's character without flashing. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.    

Audio Quality

4/5   The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix very effectively presents the dialogue, sound effects, and Leigh Harline’s entertaining score in a solid mono encode. The volume is just a tad on the low side, so viewers may wish to turn the volume up just a bit for maximum effectiveness. There are no age-related artifacts like hiss or flutter to mar the listening experience.    

Special Features

3.5/5   The audio commentary is contributed by film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini. Despite an occasional error in their research (screenwriter Ivan Moffat did not win the Oscar for Giant), the two men provide a laid back but informative running commentary on the film with only an occasional slight pause between comments.   The Leigh Harline music is offered in an isolated score track encoded in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo. It makes for very effective listening.   The theatrical trailer runs for 2 ¼ minutes in 480p.   The enclosed six-page booklet contains plenty of interesting black and white stills, poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s entertaining essay on the film’s long production history.    

In Conclusion

3.5/5 (not an average)   The Wayward Bus is a low-key albeit rather interesting drama rather predictably echoing other screen dramas of the 1950s. Its top-billed stars are attempting to stretch their screen personas and manage to make a passable melodrama worth a second look. Only 3,000 copies of this release are available. Those interested in experiencing it should hop to www.screenarchives.com to see if copies are still available. They're also available via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies .       Matt Hough Charlotte, NC

 

Ronald Epstein

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I spoke about this film briefly, elsewhere on the forum today.

This was my first time watching The Wayward Bus, and I was
very pleased with both the film and its presentation.

I am very happy that you provided all of us with a much more
refined look at the film and its technical aspects than I was able
to provide.

I just wanted to again reiterate how much I enjoyed watching
this film. Despite its simplicity, it's extremely well-paced and
has some thrilling moments within it that are greatly enhanced
by the Cinemascope photography.

I think there was a great deal of effort into making this transfer
look as beautiful as it does, despite a few blemishes here and there.

Thanks for the review, Matt. I think this release is a winner.
I am so happy that I had the opportunity to sit and watch it for
the first time on Blu-ray. I may not have enjoyed it as much if
not for the kind of presentation a format like this has to offer.
 

ahollis

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9afce57e_waywardbus-BO-2.jpeg
 

Joe Caps

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1.0 mono???? thios was a four track surround movie as was Fox normal practice for scope movies at the time.
 

Robin9

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I'm very surprised to see this movie come out on Blu-ray as it was carefully excluded from both the Joan Collins and the Jayne Mansfield DVD box sets. I assumed Fox thought it was junk. Why they made a high definition master for Twilight Time is beyond me. Even more mysterious is Fox's decision when making The Wayward Bus to hire a little-known French director. Anyone know of any other movies directed by Victor Vicas?
As I'm a big fan of Dan Dailey and have great respect for Joan Collins, I might buy this even though I've never seen The Wayward Bus.
 

Charles Smith

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Sounds great to me. Love this kind of film. And it's just as well I'm now in the (expensive) habit of routinely pre-ordering these things...
 

JoHud

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I like these sorts of low-key 50s dramas. I'm looking forward to seeing this once I get it in the mail.
What's also interesting about this release is that Wayward Bus was released on blu before Bus Stop, a 50s Fox drama featuring another more widely known bombshell blonde.
 

TheVid

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Joe Caps said:
1.0 mono???? This was a four track surround movie as was Fox normal practice for scope movies at the time.
What a shame. I pre-ordered WAYWARD BUS because I've never seen it before, but am surprised to hear that it's going to lack a big drawing point for me: 4-track stereo. I do like monochrome CinemaScope, though, and at least the isolated Harline score is stereo.
I wasn't all that thrilled with a 30-buck AS GOOD AS IT GETS but I went ahead and pre-ordered that too. Nicholson is the greatest, even when he's stuck in a yucky sitcom movie.
Oh well, it looks like a double feature of 50's and 90's ensemble schmaltz.
 

haineshisway

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Joe Caps said:
1.0 mono???? thios was a four track surround movie as was Fox normal practice for scope movies at the time.
Do you suppose that if it WERE a stereo film and they HAD the stereo tracks that they would not have used them. From what I'm told, there were no stereo elements, save for the music track. They use what they have. Why does this continue to shock you. You know there are missing stereo tracks for films.
However, other than your memory, what is your source for thinking this film was in stereo? And please don't say the Widescreen Movies book, which is, as you know, riddled with errors. I saw the film back in the day and back in the day I was acutely aware of when stereo was used because I loved it so much. My nabe theater always had stereo prints of the Fox films and The Wayward Bus was definitely not stereo there. Not saying it was or wasn't elsewhere, just looking for proof.
In any case, the transfer is great (I don't ever really understand the need to mention a few dust bits and the black levels are what they should be on this film, IMO), and they used the only sound element available (Fox did - they provide the transfer).
 

Joe Caps

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I saw this film several times on double feature reissues in 1959 and 1961 - always stereo.
fox can be strange with some of their mastering.
they released Soldier of Fortune with Susan Hayaward and Clark Gable as part of a Gable box set - packaging sayd 5.1 stereo.
It isa 5.1 track but it has only one mono channel on it, fox says the stereo track was too corroded.
Okay, but the film has been run for years in true stereo on Fox Movie Channel and AMC. Fox vid should have taken the stereo track from that and
join it to the restored picture on the dvd. Indeed, thats what I had to do for myself.
Another example - Fox vid released Warlock in mono on dvd, saying no stereo existed. DVD gets released the very same week that Fox Movie channel runs the same master in stereo!!!
 

lionel59

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Good points made there Joe! For fans of THE WAYWARD BUS, the IMAGE dvd of HOLLYWOOD SCREEN TESTS TAKE 2 contains Joan Collins' test for the role she would ultimately portray and also that of Linda Darnell, who was hoping for a major comeback in the same part.
 

ahollis

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Thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I also have thing for black & white Fox CinemaScope films and this one certainly did not let me down. Joan Collins was excellent as the alcoholic owner of the cafe that always created her own problems. I also was impressed with Rick Jason's role and while I only know of his talent from watching reruns of Combat, he truly was a good actor. But it is the character acting of Larry Keating, Kathryn Giveny and the great Will Wright that give the film backbone. And Jayne Mansfield proves she has acting chops and now I know why her daughter is so good on Law & Order SVU.

Thanks to Twilight Time for getting this past neglected film in to our hands.
 

benbess

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Enjoyed this movie. Joan Collins was great.

The black and white combined with the setting somehow reminded me of the Twilight Zone episode Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up.
 

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