The Tall Men Blu-ray Review

Good 1950s Cinemascope western 3.5 Stars

Using Cinemascope beautifully and with a quartet of fine star performances, Raoul Walsh’s The Tall Men breaks no new ground in the western genre but remains a high quality, well-rounded entertainment.

The Tall Men (1955)
Released: 12 Dec 1955
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 122 min
Director: Raoul Walsh
Genre: Western
Cast: Clark Gable, Jane Russell, Robert Ryan, Cameron Mitchell
Writer(s): Sydney Boehm (screenplay), Frank S. Nugent (screenplay), Heck Allen (from the novel by)
Plot: Two brothers discharged from the Confederate Army join a businessman for a cattle drive from Texas to Montana where they run into raiding Jayhawkers, angry Sioux, rough terrain and bad weather.
IMDB rating: 6.7
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Fox
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 4.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hr. 2 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: clear keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 09/17/2019
MSRP: $29.95

The Production: 3.5/5

A western epic filled with traditional, predictable elements, Raoul Walsh’s The Tall Men is nevertheless very entertaining. Using Cinemascope beautifully and with a quartet of fine star performances, The Tall Men breaks no new ground in the western genre but remains a high quality, well-rounded entertainment.

Thinking better of robbing the wealthy rancher Nathan Stark (Robert Ryan), Ben (Clark Gable) and Clint (Cameron Mitchell) Allison instead are hired by their former almost-victim to lead a huge herd of cattle and horses from Texas to Montana. Earlier, they had seen a tribe of Sioux raiding a small pioneer village. The brothers save the spirited Nella Turner (Jane Russell) and romantic sparks immediately fly between Nella and Ben. However, Nella’s desire for wealth puts a damper on their burgeoning relationship as Ben’s aspirations go no farther than a small, comfortable Texas ranch. With the wealthy Stark dangling a luxurious life owning half of Montana, Nella switches her allegiance to him. Meanwhile, the cattle drivers must make one last trip through unwelcoming territories alive with bandits and hostile Indians.

Adapted from the novel by Clay Fisher, the Sydney Boehm-Frank Nugent screenplay trots out all of the traditional elements found in a cattle drive western: bandits in hiding demanding ransom to gain access to another territory, inclement weather, river and mountain crossings at their deadliest, and, naturally, for the finale, a showdown with bloodthirsty Indians (who pass up all opportunities to attack out in the open so they can box up their prey on all sides in a canyon; the resolution of this seemingly impossible situation is one of the few real surprises in an otherwise very predictable scenario). Even with all the clichés, director Raoul Walsh takes every opportunity to put his wide, wide Cinemascope frame to good use: wagon trains were the perfect visual for the wide, narrow format (whether crossing the plains, a river, or a mountain pass, the shape is ideal for it), and in the scene when Ben and Nella come to loggerheads on their differing ambitions for their futures, he moves them literally and symbolically to opposite sides of the frame. The action throughout is well staged, too: the two Indian attacks are not drawn out to exhaustion, a cattle stampede is among the best ever filmed, and a climactic showdown between protagonist and antagonist features very clever staging and shooting as well.

Clark Gable is perfect casting as the rough and tumble Ben Allison: tough but with a clear and calculating head on his shoulders. As his hot-headed, sometimes drunken younger brother Clint, Cameron Mitchell is well cast, too, getting into scrapes that his brother must maneuver him through. Robert Ryan as the more refined, wealthy Nathan Stark does very well by not making Stark a black-hearted character but merely a different side of the coin for the ambitious Nella of Jane Russell to choose between. Apart from multiple choruses of “Tall Men” crooned in her inviting style, Jane Russell doesn’t have much to do in the film apart from getting into and out of various gowns and revealing underwear. It’s simply ludicrous that she would have accompanied the men on this excruciatingly long and dangerous cattle drive with nothing to bring to the table but a shapely figure, but as the second-billed star of the movie, there was no way she would have been left behind in Texas for the last hour of the movie. Juan Garcia makes a very positive impression as the close amigo of Ben Allison whose allegiance is important during several tense moments of the movie.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s original Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.55:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Those who have occasionally been unsatisfied with the color timing on Fox’s 1950s Cinemascope transfers will have no problems with the transfer here. It’s pristine with excellent DeLuxe color (the men’s skin tones look very properly weathered) and very fine sharpness. Contrast has been dialed in beautifully. There are no issues with scratches, spotting, or reel change markers. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The disc obligingly offers three sound designs: 2.0 stereo, 4.0, or 5.1 configurations all in DTS-HD Master Audio. The default 5.1 for me was the least of the three encodes, a little underpowered and underwhelming. I spent most of the disc enjoying the 4.0 sound mix with its directional dialogue and nice spread of music and sound effects across the fronts and into the surround channels. Others may prefer one of the other choices. No matter which one you pick, you won’t be burdened with age-related hiss, pops, crackle, or flutter.

Special Features: 2.5/5

Isolated Score Track: presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0

Theatrical Trailer (2:26, SD)

Six-Page Booklet: contains some black and white and color stills, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Mike Finnegan’s astute essay on the movie.

Overall: 3.5/5

Raoul Walsh’s The Tall Men is a worthy western now coming to Blu-ray from Twilight Time. Even if it doesn’t offer many surprises, it’s a sprawling epic smoothly directed and with some appealing star performances and outstanding cinematography. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested in purchasing it should go to either www.twilighttimemovies.com or www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.

Published by

Matt Hough

editor,member

24 Comments

  1. You beat me to it – again. 🙂

    The transfer is fantastic, but I await the usual suspects TEAL and TOO BLUE and these films never looked like this. Only they did, Blanche, they did. This is no different than any other Fox transfer of the last few years – it corrects the color of the old DVDs and previous home video transfers. There’s tons of blue in this – TONS – blue lighting galore, all over the place and clearly blue gels on the lights.

    I really liked the movie, too.

  2. Robert Crawford

    I like this movie a little more than you do, but I'm not ready to shell out $29.95 for it on Blu-ray as I'm quite happy with my 2012 German BD. Now, if somebody can tell me definitively that the TT release is an improvement over the Koch BD then I might change my mind. However, I do have it on HD Digital too.

    This is a whole new transfer and is fantastic.

  3. Robert Harris

    I’ve not yet had a chance to review, but from these frames, two things seem to appear, neither of which may be accurate.

    First, left side of frame cropped. Secondly, image appears overly unsqueezed, which could be the desire to reach a 2.55 from 2.35 aspect ratio.

    Yes, cropped on the left and a tiny bit on the bottom also.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

  4. Randy Korstick

    I'm just not a big fan of Warlock. I like it just don't love it. I like it because of the big production and the cast but find it a bit sluggish.

    Fair enough, but I just think Warlock is a better and deeper movie than The Tall Men.

  5. Simply to put in my two cents about whether WARLOCK or THE TALL MEN are better Westerns. Of course, it all depends on how you define "Western."

    WARLOCK is mostly staged on interior sets. It's character driven, very subtle and fascinating, if you get caught up in the interplay and character transformations. It's a great "psychological" Western. However, there are no real big action sequences.

    THE TALL MEN, on the other hand, is filled with spectacular actions sequences, though the plot is really just a pin to hang those action sequences on. Clark Gable and Jane Russell don't play characters; they are larger than life versions of their typical personas. This is not meant as a criticism. They don't need to act. All they have to do is BE, and they both do that spectacularly.

    I love both these films. I think both of them are wonderful examples of their specific type of Western, and I really can't see how one could argue that one is better than the other, as they're really completely different.

    It's like which is better: Pizza or Coq au Vin? Well, it depends what you're looking for!

  6. haineshisway

    Completely incorrect – it is every bit as blue as the other Fox titles – try watching it rather than looking at random screen caps.

    How can it be incorrect when I obviously commented on the caps that another member linked to and not the disc?

  7. lark144

    Simply to put in my two cents about whether WARLOCK or THE TALL MEN are better Westerns. Of course, it all depends on how you define "Western."

    WARLOCK is mostly staged on interior sets. It's character driven, very subtle and fascinating, if you get caught up in the interplay and character transformations. It's a great "psychological" Western. However, there are no real big action sequences.

    THE TALL MEN, on the other hand, is filled with spectacular actions sequences, though the plot is really just a pin to hang those action sequences on. Clark Gable and Jane Russell don't play characters; they are larger than life versions of their typical personas. This is not meant as a criticism. They don't need to act. All they have to do is BE, and they both do that spectacularly.

    I love both these films. I think both of them are wonderful examples of their specific type of Western, and I really can't see how one could argue that one is better than the other, as they're really completely different.

    It's like which is better: Pizza or Coq au Vin? Well, it depends what you're looking for!

    I agree they are different films just as Warlock and Bandolero are different types of Western but the precedent was set in that thread to compare which is better which carried over here since all 3 are recent Twilight Time Western releases.

  8. Randy Korstick

    I agree they are different films just as Warlock and Bandolero are different types of Western but the precedent was set in that thread to compare which is better which carried over here since all 3 are recent Twilight Time Western releases.

    Actually, I think the only proper recourse is to own and regularly watch both (along with BANDOLERO)

  9. OliverK

    How can it be incorrect when I obviously commented on the caps that another member linked to and not the disc?

    Because you didn't say that in your post? I understand what you were doing, but it was completely incorrect and I wanted to be sure that anyone ne reading it understood you did not have the disc. He even talks about all the blue in his whatever you call what he writes.

  10. haineshisway

    Because you didn't say that in your post? I understand what you were doing, but it was completely incorrect and I wanted to be sure that anyone ne reading it understood you did not have the disc. He even talks about all the blue in his whatever you call what he writes.

    I would think that quoting the post linking to the screenshots would make it clear to everybody that I was commenting on them. Forum readers are usually quite familiar with the quote function….

  11. My copy was due today but didn’t make it. This is a bit off-topic, but the review mentioned the ‘traditional elements found in a cattle drive western…’ and the clichés.

    A western published in 1973 by Clair Huffaker takes the cattle drive western and puts a bit different spin on it. In 1880, fifteen cowboys are tasked to take a herd of longhorns (350+) from Montana to Vladistock, Russia, then lead them 1000 miles into Siberia. Reaching the Russian port, they are met by sixteen Cossacks who are to act as bodyguards. For the cowboys, yes- but more importantly, for the cattle. Also replace hostile Indians with Tartar warriors. The novel is called ‘The Cowboy and the Cossack.’

    ———————————————————————————-

    It’s author, Clint Haffaker “…was a legendary western screenwriter and author. His screenplays include The Comancheros, Hellfighters, and War Wagon starring John Wayne, along with Flaming Star, Seven Ways from Sundown, Rio Conchos, and Posse from Hell. Huffaker also wrote for TV western series such as Bonanza, The Rifleman, The Virginian, and Rawhide, including eighteen episodes of Lawman. Many of his movies were based on his bestselling books. Huffaker was a cowboy, a champion boxer, a part-time smuggler, and a writer for Time, Inc. in New York. He served in the Navy in World War II, studied in Europe, and eventually returned to the US where he began his career as a freelance writer. He wrote short stories, screenplays, and novels at his home in Los Angeles, which was a gathering place for actors, stuntmen, directors, and writers who could regularly be found there shooting pool, playing poker, and exchanging tall tales.”

    Huffaker, Clair. The Cowboy and the Cossack (Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust Rediscoveries) (p. 362). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

    ———————————————————————————-

    And there’s this from Paul Bishop’s blog (http://www.paulbishopbooks.com/2019/09/the-cowboy-and-cossack.html)—

    “With Huffaker’s ability to get his novels not only bought by Hollywood, but to also get them produced and released, it is a mystery why The Cowboy and the Cossack (arguably his best and most popular novel) has never made it to the screen. At one time producer Lance Hool held the movie rights. He famously attempted to get the film made with Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson in the title roles, which would have been epic casting. Later, Albert R. Broccoli, the co-producer of the James Bond films, acquired the rights, but his efforts also stalled in development hell.”

    ———————————————————————————-

    Anyway, it’s available on Kindle for 99 cents. Just my two cents.

Leave a Reply