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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Horse Soldiers [Blu-ray]

 

(John Ford, 1959)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: United Artists

Video: MGM

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:00:08.242

Disc Size: 40,423,167,059 bytes

Feature Size: 39,420,954,624 bytes

Video Bitrate: 37.87 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 10th, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2030 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2030 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit / DN -4dB)
Dolby Digital Audio French 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio German 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Italian 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / DN -4dB

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, none

 

Extras:

Theatrical trailer (2:49 in 1080P)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Based on an actual Civil War mission, Colonel Marlowe (John Wayne) and Major Kendall (William Holden) are ordered by... General Grant to take three regiments 300 miles into enemy territory. They must destroy the railroad line between Newton Station and Vicksburg in hopes of choking off supplies to the South. Marlowe encounters a Southern belle loyal to the enemy, and keeps her in sight throughout the journey so she can't warn the Confederates. Kendall, a Northern surgeon, and the crusty Marlowe have their differences along the way. Action, romance and gory battlefield surgery accompany the army as the mission is completed. John Ford directed this film based on a novel by Harold Sinclair.

~ Dan Pavlides, All Movie Guide

 

A crisp retelling of a true-life episode from the Civil War, The Horse Soldiers is a latter-day sorta-Western from John Ford, falling midway between The Searchers (1956) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). In 1863 a Union colonel named Grierson (Marlowe in the film, and John Wayne by any name) led his cavalry several hundred miles behind Confederate lines to cut the railway track between Newton Station and soon-to-be-embattled Vicksburg. Grierson's raid was as successful as it was daring, and remarkably bloodless. Never fear that the screenplay makes up for that un-Hollywood lapse--as well as supplying amatory distraction for the colonel in the form of a feisty Southern belle (Constance Towers) who has to be dragged along to protect secrecy.

 

 

The Film:

Underrated Civil War Western, leisurely and sometimes simplistic, but mostly quintessential Ford as Wayne's pragmatic colonel and Holden's humanitarian doctor debate (and embody) aspects of war while leading a Union cavalry patrol deep behind Confederate lines, with their conflict extended by the presence of a fiery Southern belle (a lovely performance from Towers) taken along for the ride because she's overheard their plans and bursting to undermine their mission. There's a magnificent payoff in the sequence where children from the military academy cheerfully march off to the tune of fife and drum to mount a last-ditch defence of the Confederacy, flimsy toy soldiers so ripe for the slaughter that the baffled enemy simply turn tail and flee.

Excerpt from TimeOut London located HERE

As beautifully photographed as any of Mathew Brady's Civil War photographs, director John Ford's The Horse Soldiers (1959) is a historical account of an actual event in the War Between the States, known as Grierson's Raid. During a sixteen day period in 1863, Colonel Benjamin Grierson led his Union troops across the Mississippi and into the heart of Confederate territory where he destroyed the railroad line to Vicksburg. It was a strategy that demoralized the Confederate Army and won the praise of General Grant who proclaimed it one of the most brilliant feats in military history.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

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

The Horse Soldiers is not pristinely sharp on Blu-ray from MGM but has a pleasing thickness and grainy texture that remains consistent throughout the film.  Blues (uniforms) and reds (Miss Hannah's dress) stand out well.  This is dual-layered with a very high bitrate but not an abundance of depth. There is no damage and I doubt this film will ever look better for a home theater presentation. It may not 'Wow' you by modern standards but this 1.66:1 transfer captures integrity of the film image. Contrast is, likewise, authentic to source without boosting. It may be a bit dark at times - but I'd rather have that than the unnaturally bright. This Blu-ray probably looks like the film The Horse Soldiers did some 50-years ago and certainly advances beyond the limitations of the SD medium.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Along with some optional DUBs we get a solid DTS-HD Master in stereo at 2030 kbps. The film doesn't support a lot of separation but there is some aggressive explosions and gunfire that have some audible depth. There is some music - like "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and the rousing "Dixie" that comes through reasonably well in lossless. There are many optional subtitle choices and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

Extras :

Nothing but a trailer in HD. The film deserves more and being Ford/Wayne you might expect some relatable supplements. To be fair to MGM - the price reflects the lack of extras.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Horse Soldiers is a much better film that I was anticipating. 'The Duke' is his usual but doesn't have to carry the film - with a solid story and excellent performances from Holden and the sexy Constance Towers (who we all recall from Fuller's The Naked Kiss). Despite not being considered premium 'John Ford' this has his trademark of engrossing signature storytelling. I really enjoyed the film and the bare-bones Blu-ray seems like a good purchase at the offered price. I expect many people will be impressed with the film - and with the bonus of seeing it in 1080P. 

Gary Tooze

May 18th, 2011


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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