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A view on High-Definition DVDs by Gary W. Tooze

 

The Cowboys Blu-ray

(Mark Rydell, 1972)

 

Warner (USA)
Review by Gary W. Tooze

Warner (USA)
2.40:1 1080p
2:14:27
Audio: DD Plus 5.1 English
Subtitles: Optional English SDH, French or Spanish
Extras: Commentary by Mark Rydell, Featurette: The Cowboys Together Again, Vintage Featurette: The Breaking of Boys and the Making of Men, Theatrical trailer
Released: June 5th, 2007
Standard Blu-ray case
37 chapters

The Film: I get quite fed up when I read lackluster reviews of films that I really enjoyed. This is a prime example. "The Cowboys" embodies all that makes westerns and young boys adventure stories enjoyable. It shows nobility, honor, despicable evil and pure innocence all wrapped up in a male-bonding road picture.

 

 

After Wil Anderson (played by  60 year old John Wayne) loses his cowhands to Gold Rush fever, the gruff rancher is forced to hire 11 schoolboys to help him on a 400-mile cattle run. Joining them is a philosophical black cook (Roscoe Lee Browne) who is another strong representation of a father figure. The boys are put to the test... they learn, mature and eventually seek vengeance on a bitter ex-con (Bruce Dern) who is out to rustle the herd. Capturing the natural surroundings of deep forests, grassy plains and the open skies of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Colorado, previously unremarkable director Mark Rydell had all the universal tumblers click into place with this early effort. Wayne was as real as he has ever been and the cow-boys could almost be considered neo-realistic as the majority were child rodeo stars never having acted in a film before. I LOVE every detail about this film.

 

Rydell discovered the novel when it was still unpublished, and sold the idea for the film to Warner Brothers. For the cattle-drive scenes, there were 1,600 cattle and more than 100 horses used. In the short featurette included in the DVD Rydell has stated that making THE COWBOYS was one of the greatest experiences of his life and watching this film blossom on screen, just as the young cowboys did, I can see why - many consider it the last great western. I do. out of    

 

Posters (CLICK to enlarge)

 

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Video:  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were takend directly from the Blu-ray disc. The original DVD from 1998 was kind of a disaster, fairly dull - showing dirt and speckles, the Deluxe SD DVD is brighter but still shows some artifacts. But the new Blu-ray really exemplifies the subtle camerawork of the majestic vistas of New Mexico and Colorado. It is much brighter, incredibly sharper and brilliantly detailed. I think the new BRD is one of my favorite in this new format. It can look quite breathtaking at times and it's a film I truly love. The DE supports the Blu-ray colors but they are just a smidgeon more brilliant, but truly the key to improvement here lies in the detail. Top marks for this Blu-ray disc in terms of image.

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

 

1) Warner DVD - Region 1- NTSC - TOP

2) Warner Deluxe Edition 1,2,3,4 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Warner REGION FREE Blu-ray - BOTTOM


 

1) Warner DVD - Region 1- NTSC - TOP

2) Warner Deluxe Edition 1,2,3,4 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Warner REGION FREE Blu-ray - BOTTOM


 

1) Warner DVD - Region 1- NTSC - TOP

2) Warner Deluxe Edition 1,2,3,4 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Warner REGION FREE Blu-ray - BOTTOM


 

1) Warner DVD - Region 1- NTSC - TOP

2) Warner Deluxe Edition 1,2,3,4 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Warner REGION FREE Blu-ray - BOTTOM


 

More Blu-ray captures

 

 

 

 

 

Audio: The only English audio track is an occasionally intense Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix (there is a 5.1 French DUB and a mono Spanish one). The audio beautifully represents the powerful John Williams score, but is balanced for the clear consistent dialogue. NOTE: The overture, entr'acte, and exit music were never used in the film's general release prints, but they are included on all three Warner DVDs. Bravo!
Optional English SDH ,French or Spanish subtitles support the Blu-ray audio.

Extras: The original DVD release had a light commentary by Rydell, a vintage featurette: The Breaking of Boys and the Making of Men, plus a theatrical trailer. All are added on the Deluxe and Blu-ray versions plus another new featurette The Cowboys Together Again where Rydell, Roscoe Lee Browne, Bruce Dern, A. Martinez and others - plus Robert Carradine (via tape) - reminisce about the film they made in 102 days over 35 years ago, working with The Duke and how the experience shaped their careers and lives.

Supplements

 

FINAL WORDS: Perhaps my favorite modern western and it looks better than ever on this Blu-ray. I watch this at least twice a year and the image quality is proof positive that I endorse this new 1080P format for home theater usage. The image looks fairly pristine and we give our highest recommendation.

Gary Tooze

July 12th, 2008

 

 

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