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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

 

directed by John Ford
USA 1939

This is where it all started. John Ford’s smash hit and enduring masterpiece Stagecoach revolutionized the western, elevating it from B movie to the A-list and establishing the genre as we know it today. The quintessential tale of a group of strangers thrown together into extraordinary circumstances, Stagecoach features outstanding performances from Hollywood stalwarts Claire Trevor, John Carradine, and Thomas Mitchell, and, of course, John Wayne, in his first starring role for Ford, as the daredevil outlaw the Ringo Kid. Superbly shot and tightly edited, Stagecoach (Ford’s first trip to Monument Valley) is Hollywood storytelling at its finest.

***

The classic western, STAGECOACH is one of John Ford's greatest frontier epics. This western eclipsed all films in the genre that had gone before it, and so vastly influenced those that followed that its stamp can be found in most superior westerns made since Ford stepped into Monument Valley for the first time. Set in a landscape of endless horizons, STAGECOACH is a wonderful, broad portrait of pioneer life in the untamed Great Southwest, as well as an in-depth character study of eight people, all diverse in their pursuits and all traveling to separate fates on a journey packed with danger.


High peril is present from the first scenes, which depict Geronimo on the warpath and telegraph wires cut by raiding Apaches. Leaving the town of Tonto, New Mexico, by stagecoach are a motley bunch of Western types. Doc Boone (Mitchell) is a conniving drunkard, long ago kicked out of the medical profession for malpractice. Dallas (Trevor) is a prostitute whose sexual exploits have so unnerved the local women that they have banded together to oust her from their scandal-mongering society. Hatfield (Carradine), meanwhile, is a shady gambler with the manners of a southern gentleman, with his own mysterious reasons for leaving Tonto. He pretends, however, that his real motivation is to offer the withdrawn Lucy (Platt), who is pregnant and married to a cavalry officer, his "protection" as she travels to be with her husband. Henry Gatewood (Churchill), a pompous and demanding banker, gets aboard the coach carrying a small valise which is locked and which he will not let go of, while Samuel Peacock (Meek), a whiskey salesman, carries a sample case. These six strangers make up the passenger list, and riding on top on the driver's seat is Buck (Devine), a garrulous type with an aversion to Indians, and tough, gruff, but fair-minded Curly (Bancroft), a lawman riding "shotgun." Before they've been on the trail very long they pick up the Ringo Kid (Wayne, in a star-making performance), whose horse has gone lame. The stagecoach is set, so to speak, so bring on the adventure!

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

 

Theatrical Release: February 15th, 1939

Reviews       More Reviews       DVD Reviews

Comparison: 

Warner - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Warner (2-disc Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (2-disc Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

DVD Box Cover

The Special Edition is also available in the John Wayne-John Ford Film Collection along with The Searchers Ultimate Edition / Fort Apache / The Long Voyage Home / The Wings of Eagles / She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and They Were Expendable

         

Distribution

Warner

Region 1 - NTSC

Warner (2-disc Special Edition)

Region 1 - NTSC

Criterion Collection - Spine # 516 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:36:09 1:35:51 1:36:10.181

Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.16 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.73 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Disc Size: 49,208,736,663 bytes

Feature Size: 20,926,623,744 bytes

Average Bitrate: 25.10 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080P

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate : Warner Original

Bitrate: Warner (Special Edition)

Bitrate: Criterion Blu-ray

Audio English ( Mono) English (Mono) LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, None English, French, Spanish, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner

Aspect Ratio:
Original - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical Trailers and text screens

DVD Release Date: October 29th, 1997
Snapper C
ase

Chapters 24

Release Information:
Studio: Warner (Special Edition)
 

Aspect Ratio:
Original - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• 
Commentary by Scott Eyman, author of "Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford"
• New feature-length American Masters profile: John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker & the Legend
• New documentary Stagecoach: A Story of Redemption
• Audio-only bonus: radio adaptation with Claire Trevor and Randolph Scott
Theatrical trailer

 

DVD Release Date: June 6th, 2005
Double slim keep case

Chapters 25

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion
 

 

Disc Size: 49,208,736,663 bytes

Feature Size: 20,926,623,744 bytes

Average Bitrate: 25.10 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080P

 

Edition Details:
• 
Audio commentary by western authority Jim Kitses (Horizons West)
Bucking Broadway, a 1917 silent feature by John Ford, with new music composed and performed by Donald Sosin (54:29)
• Journalist and television presenter Philip Jenkinson’s extensive 1968 video interview with Ford (1:12:29 in HD!)
• New video appreciation of Stagecoach, with director and Ford biographer Peter Bogdanovich (14:17)
• New video interview with Ford’s grandson, Dan Ford about the director and his home movies (7:03)
• New video piece, featuring journalist Buzz Bissinger, about trader Harry Goulding’s key role in bringing Monument Valley to Hollywood (10:44 in HD!)
• New video homage to legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt, with celebrated stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong (10:00)
• Dreaming of Jeanie - Video essay by writer Tag Gallagher analyzing Ford’s visual style in Stagecoach (21:50)
• Screen Director’s Playhouse 1949 radio dramatization of Stagecoach, with John Wayne, Claire Trevor, and Ford, downloadable as an MP3 file
•  Theatrical trailer (3:29)
•  34-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by David Cairns and Ernest Haycox’s “Stage to Lordsburg,” the short story that inspired the film
 

Blu-ray Release Date: May 25th, 2010
Transparent (thick) Blu-ray case

Chapters 20

 

Comments NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION - Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray May 2010 - To the best of my knowledge these captures are all the exact frame matches and, in my opinion, it looks like both DVDs have issues - the original is thin and may have had edge-enhancement (see 3rd large capture - John Wayne) and the Special Edition from 2005 has some boosting and a waxy softness that may very well be DNR. The Criterion has strong grain structure and because of lesser manipulation seems to show more damage marks (speckles and light scratches). I'm okay with this and would rather have the marks than the over digitization. Strangely though the damage marks don't seem to match. I'm not privy to the source Criterion used but I suspect it is a different one than the DVDs - or further resorted on the film level.

Both DVDs may be marginally vertically stretched. Masters of Cinema's incredible transfer of City Girl seems to have raised the bar to an inordinate level and this can effect our expectations on such older titles brought to 1080P resolution - like Stagecoach. The Criterion has much more in common with the contrast level of the original (less noise, more detail) than the, obviously, boosted SE. While the Criterion improvement in detail and film textures may be only marginally apparent in the screen captures below - it becomes much more prominent when in motion. I can vouch for this (I toggled back and forth) - the Criterion displays dramatic superiority on my system. It has never looked better for home theater consumption. 

Criterion stay 'original' in keeping the single channel audio, but it is given a lossless transfer in a linear PCM track at 1152 Kbps. It is flat but there is a certain level of crispness over the DVD that comes through if you have an ear for it. Suffice to say this is the best audio for Stagecoach. As usual, there are expertly rendered, optional, English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it is being Region 'A'-locked.

Extras are a real prize - We get a decent audio commentary by western authority Jim Kitses (author of Horizons West). It can be a little dry but fans of Ford will surely want to indulge. Bucking Broadway, is a 1917, 54.5 minute silent feature by John Ford, with new music composed and performed by Donald Sosin. It also has new intertitle cards. It is described as "a rollicking western about a cowboy (Director favorite Harry Carey) whose true love is whisked away by a city slicker. Bucking Broadway showcases the underdog protagonist, jovial humor, regard for family unity, and epic visual style that would become hallmarks of the director. The film, like all video supplements , is shown in HD and is advertised as restored by the Archives Francais du film, CNC.  We a just a marvelous 1 1/4 hour interview with Ford by British journalist and television presenter Philip Jenkinson from 1968. The director discusses a wide variety of topics such as the western genre, John Wayne, race representation, Stagecoach and violence. This may be the most entertaining extra feature. There is a new video appreciation of Stagecoach, with director and Ford biographer Peter Bogdanovich lasting just shy of 15-minutes. We get more new video featurettes - another interview - this time with Ford’s grandson, Dan Ford who talks about the director and his home movies. This lasts 7-minutes. Journalist Buzz Bissinger, talks about trader Harry Goulding’s key role in bringing Monument Valley to Hollywood for more than 10-minutes. There is a video homage to legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt, with celebrated stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong lasting exactly 10-minutes. I was very keen to indulge in Dreaming of Jeanie - a video essay by writer Tag Gallagher analyzing Ford’s visual style in Stagecoach. It's 22-minutes of pure supplement gold. There is an audio only piece - the Screen Director’s Playhouse 1949 radio dramatization of Stagecoach, with John Wayne, Claire Trevor, and Ford, - also downloadable as an MP3. Finishing off the digital extras is a 3.5 minute theatrical trailer. Criterion, have once again, included a 34-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by David Cairns and Ernest Haycox’s “Stage to Lordsburg,” the short story that inspired the film. This is probably the best extras package of the entire year to date - and it may not be bested in 2010.

Just to find some fault here - the Criterion Blu-ray's file folder says "BIGGER_THAN_LIFE". So they aren't perfect.

A mammoth release as much for the definitive quality of the feature presentation as the extensive extra features. One of the essential releases of the year. Purchase without prejudice. ;)

 - Gary Tooze

***

ON THE DVDs: Personally, I am not a fan of brightness boosting or over-digitization. In my opinion the new 2-disc Stagecoach Special Edition has both. Although I had nothing to compare it to I was fairly happy with the original Warner release (way back in 1997!) - I expected the damage and earmarks of a film from the late 30's - scratches and blemishes. By brightening the new SE image, Warner have brought out those damage marks giving them more visibility (see example below). I also see a softening of the image in the new SE, usually resulting when the transfer has been over-digitized. There is some movement in the frame with the new SE showing occasional cropping on the top edge (really, I suspect negligible zooming-in - see example below). Audio sounded the same to me - only the original mono tracks provided. Both releases have optional subtitles with the new SE's looking a little clearer. Obviously the extras go far in the new 2-disc releases favor - the Eyman commentary is very good - a lot of details about the production are explored and anecdotes provided. The second disc features go further into examining the Ford/Wayne legend and I even enjoyed the Randolph Scott radio broadcast.

I don't mean to come down hard on Warner, but I feel this transfer was a mistake. I encourage DVD production which does not attempt digital enhancement - especially brightness boosting - if we want it brighter we can do that on out own system, and suffer the consequences. Overall this new SE is still a great package - one for western fans to cherish.    

 - Gary Tooze

 

 


DVD Menus

(Warner - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Warner (2-disc Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)

 

 

Disc 2 of the Special Edition

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (2-disc Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (2-disc Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (2-disc Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (2-disc Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (2-disc Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (2-disc Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (2-disc Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


Recommended Reading for Western Genre Fans (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

Check out more in "The Library"


 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray

 
DVD Box Cover

The Special Edition is also available in the John Wayne-John Ford Film Collection along with The Searchers Ultimate Edition / Fort Apache / The Long Voyage Home / The Wings of Eagles / She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and They Were Expendable

         

Distribution

Warner

Region 1 - NTSC

Warner (2-disc Special Edition)

Region 1 - NTSC

Criterion Collection - Spine # 516 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,

   CANADA

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