Man Who Shot Liberty Valance DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ends up taking on a whole other dimension.
  • OVERALL
    5.0
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
This is a great film from a great director.
THE BAD
I wish there was more in regards to historical information.
THE FEATURE
It is the old west and Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) is making his way by stagecoach when and others are mysteriously stopped one night. The coach is robbed but Stoddard is savagely beaten by a man with whom he comes to realize is Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). When Stoddard comes around he finds himself in the town of Shinbone, and he soon realizes that Valance has the whole place under his thumb. Nobody wants him around, the law is too scared (or inept) to do anything, and everything looks lost. Standing in the shadows is Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), who could very easily take out Valance but he chooses not to. Add to this that the town sweetheart Hallie (Vera Miles) gets herself crossed between Stoddard and Doniphon, and you have all the ingredients of a classic western.
THE EXTRAS
Disc One

Audio Commentary Tracks

This release contains two commentary tracks. One has Peter Bogdanovich and archival recordings with John Ford and James Stewart. The other commentary track gives us Dan Ford with archival recordings by John Ford, Stewart and Lee Marvin. As I am a huge fan of director Peter Bogdanovich (and he was a major fan of John Ford) and I was limited on time, I decided to go with that commentary. I was very happy that I did because this thing is a film lover's dream. We get to hear inside stories from Bogdanovich about the making of this film, and things are only made richer by the recordings of Ford and James Stewart giving us production anecdotes from the grave.

Disc Two

The Size of Legends, The Soul of Myth

In this 7 part look at the making of this film, viewers get a highly elaborate and well put together look back at everything that went into this production. Mixed with footage from the past and present, we get to see the amount of work that went into bringing this film to life. From the staging of the momentous shooting of Liberty Valance, to the more emotionally cerebral moments, I was really impressed with the depth that Paramount has put into this portion of the proceedings. Fans of westerns or simply this film will be buoyed by just how much it has to offer people.

Galleries
THE VIDEO
Widescreen Version - Enhanced for 16:9 TVs. This black and white film looked awesome on DVD. I didn't watch it on my big screen but rather on my 13" standard set, and I thought that everything looked really sharp. The black and white images looked almost concentrated and I never felt like there was a misstep on either Ford's or Director of Photography William H. Clothier's part. Paramount also seems to have done a good job cleaning up this movie for this release.
THE AUDIO
Dolby Digital: English 5.1 Surround/English Mono/Spanish Mono. Subtitled in English, French and Spanish. I had to turn the audio on my TV a little more than halfway up but once I did that everything played how I thought it would. What I loved about this movie is that Ford never makes it easy on the viewer. Sure, there is a soundtrack that bespeaks the drama on the screen. Amidst all of this, I never felt like he was leading viewers by the hand to try and get them to think a certain way or push forth an agenda. This film is about story first with everything else coming in a distant second.
THE PACKAGE
John Wayne stands in the middle of a small picture on this embossed slipcase packaging. Standing side by side with him are Lee Marvin and James Stewart. The back of the this slipcase gives us 3 shots from this movie, a description of what it's about, a Special Features listing, a credits list and technical specs. The amaray DVD case that houses the 2 discs in this set has the same artwork, the only difference is that the front cover picture of the three icons is bigger. Inside is also some written information about this movie.
THE FINAL WORD
Set against the background of Shinbone coming into it's own as frontier town, the story of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is told looking back in 1910 from the perspective of an aging Stoddard. It is this ability to combine all these elements within this movie that earmarks just how incredible of a director John Ford is. What struck me about this film was how unlike a western it was. Sure there are the classic devices of robberies, a man finding his courage, a love triangle between a learned man and a virtual barbarian, but when one looks at the narrative layout of the film, mixed with the subject matter at hand, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ends up taking on a whole other dimension.

Probably the most amazing aspect of this film is that the story is actually quite simplistic. Yet, John Ford, who rarely did two takes of any one scene and avoided close-ups as much as possible, gives us a rich 123 minute film that is nothing but a revelation on this Paramount Centennial Collection DVD.

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Comments (1)

  1. 313td

    Nice review.

    5 years agoby @313tdFlag