A few words about…™ The Hanging Tree — in Blu-ray

Support investments in restoration. Please purchase a dozen or so copies, and distribute to friends. 4 Stars

The Hanging Tree is an interesting, and under-appreciated film, that I enjoy simply as a Gary Cooper picture, and as the film which introduced me to the term “sluice robber.”

It’s also the first time a cinema audience got to take gander at a gent named George Scott.

Technically, it’s been a problematic film. Past home videos releases were less than stellar, and the wonderful folks at Warner Archive understood that and went for gold.

Underlying lit had fallen prey to the Abend decision, and had to be re-purchased by the studio. Because of underlying, the film was out of distribution for probably twenty years, and when it returned, it did so with mediocre elements.

Since prints were Technicolor, there was no IP…

So Warner Archive pulled the original camera negative into service, and it looks it. After a 4k scan, new color and clean-up, The Hanging Tree once again looks (and sounds) superb.

The fact that they were able to hide fade is a testament to the colorist.

The Hanging Tree is important for many reasons, but among the greatest is the outdoor cinematography courtesy of Ted McCord (The Sound of Music, The Treasure of The Sierra Madre, East of Eden).

Music is by that Steiner guy, who takes the main title theme, and blends it beautifully into the overall score, as he did with Casablanca.

Is there a downside.

I’m afraid there is.

The Main Title is a bit dupey. Not terrible, and may have always been that way, but once out of it, and into production photography, it’s nirvana the rest of the way.

As an aside, director Delmer Daves became ill during the shoot and direction was taken over by…

Wait for it…

Karl Malden.

Color, densities, grain structure and black levels are gorgeous.

Support investments in restoration. Please purchase a dozen or so copies, and distribute to friends.

Image – 5

Audio – 5

4k Up-rez – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – Absolutely!

Highly Recommended

Published by

Robert Harris

author,member

20 Comments

  1. Ok, Mr. Harris. You convinced me. I'm buying it. (Guess I'm easy to convince.) In any case, I saw this when it came out at my neighborhood theater, and I remember how stunning the photography was.

  2. Mark-P

    Please be talking about Cheyenne Autumn !

    and I thought he was talking about a 70mm production that opened at the Ziegfeld Theater on November 16th, 1970

    Frankly, I'll take whatever is available.

  3. I was going to buy this anyway; but when Robert Harris gives scores of five to both picture quality and audio: that's it; game over; I'm buying!

    Very interesting about Karl Malden. I didn't know that before. I wonder which scenes he directed.

  4. Robin9

    I was going to buy this anyway; but when Robert Harris gives scores of five to both picture quality and audio: that's it; game over; I'm buying!

    Very interesting about Karl Malden. I didn't know that before. I wonder which scenes he directed.

    Malden directed a pretty damn good film in Time Limit starring Richard Widmark and Richard Basehart. It came out on DVD back in 2009.

  5. Robert Harris

    The Hanging Tree is an interesting, and under-appreciated film, that I enjoy simply as a Gary Cooper picture, and as the film which introduced me to the term "sluice robber."

    It's also the first time a cinema audience got to take gander at a gent named George Scott.

    Technically, it's been a problematic film. Past home videos releases were less than stellar, and the wonderful folks at Warner Archive understood that and went for gold.

    Underlying lit had fallen prey to the Abend decision, and had to be re-purchased by the studio. Because of underlying, the film was out of distribution for probably twenty years, and when it returned, it did so with mediocre elements.

    Since prints were Technicolor, there was no IP…

    So Warner Archive pulled the original camera negative into service, and it looks it. After a 4k scan, new color and clean-up, The Hanging Tree once again looks (and sounds) superb.

    The fact that they were able to hide fade is a testament to the colorist.

    The Hanging Tree is important for many reasons, but among the greatest is the outdoor cinematography courtesy of Ted McCord (The Sound of Music, The Treasure of The Sierra Madre, East of Eden).

    Music is by that Steiner guy, who takes the main title theme, and blends it beautifully into the overall score, as he did with Casablanca.

    Is there a downside.

    I'm afraid there is.

    The Main Title is a bit dupey. Not terrible, and may have always been that way, but once out of it, and into production photography, it's nirvana the rest of the way.

    As an aside, director Delmer Daves became ill during the shoot and direction was taken over by…

    Wait for it…

    Karl Malden.

    Color, densities, grain structure and black levels are gorgeous.

    I don't want to put an odd idea out there, but with the investment to bring this one to the fore, inclusive of new color, cleanup and the 4k scan…

    if it does well…

    We might just see the scan of a certain 70mm production later this year.

    So please purchase a dozen or so copies, and distribute to friends.

    Image – 5

    Audio – 5

    4k Up-rez – 5

    Pass / Fail – Pass

    Upgrade from DVD – Absolutely!

    Highly Recommended

    ordered…………….brill review…

  6. Great film and glad to hear the transfer is great.

    I know its sadly just a pipedream but my hope for your 70mm restoration is the Roadshow of the Alamo. My number 1 want on blu ray now. I would settle for the best HD scan available on blu ray at this point just to upgrade the laserdisc.

  7. First saw this a few years ago in very poor standard definition on a Canadian classic movie channel and was impressed. After reading this review by Robert Harris, I can't wait to see it in all its glory. Thanks for the great review. Without it I probably would not have ordered it.

  8. Mr. Harris review & DeepDiscount 15% off sale sold me.

    Loved "The Hanging Tree" song when I was a teen and heard/saw this on TV.
    I copied & sent this review to a film fanatic friend of mine and he followed with the same purchase route.

  9. Ken Koc

    Robert Harris said:
    "We might just see the scan of a certain 70mm production later this year."
    PLEASE let it be RYAN'S DAUGHTER!!!!!!!!

    More popular than Cheyenne Autumn and much cheaper to get right than Raintree County and Around The World in 80 Days so this would be my choice if somebody would ask which of the 4 should be released without overextending the Warner Archive budget. On the other hand The Hanging Tree is a western so I am not sure how sales of it will be such a great indicator of how well Ryan's Daughter would do. So what RAH wrote points, at least for me, to Cheyenne Autumn which by the way has some stunningly detailed photography in the desert scenes. It was quite an eye-opener when I first saw it in 70mm and I also expect it to look fantastic on Blu-ray!

  10. rsmithjr

    Warners controls a lot of 70mm films that need restoration and Blu-ray (or UHD). I would take 80 Days, then Ryan's Daughter myself.

    As you know most of them have already been released so I would rule those out although I would love for Warner to revisit Mutiny on the Bounty. What remains unreleased are the 4 titles I mentioned or is there another one still missing?

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