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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Kentuckian [Blu-ray]


(Burt Lancaster, 1955)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Hecht-Lancaster Productions

Video: Kino Lorber



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:43:49.890

Disc Size: 24,522,813,762 bytes

Feature Size: 20,226,367,488 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.95 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: December 19th, 2017



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1561 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1561 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 /
48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)



English, None



• Original Theatrical Trailer (2:17)





Description: Hollywood icon Burt Lancaster (The Devil's Disciple, Valdez Is Coming) makes his directorial debut with this superb, action-packed western. Featuring a poignant, unconventional screenplay by A.B. Guthrie, Jr. (Shane, The Way West), and a powerful performance by legendary actor Walter Matthau (The Laughing Policeman, Charley Varrick) in his first screen role, The Kentuckian is an unforgettable western adventure of the highest caliber. Big Eli Wakefield (Lancaster) and his young son are rugged Kentucky adventurers who long for an exciting life on the Texas frontier. They soon learn, however, that the greatest challenge to their progress lies not in the uncharted wilderness, but in the people they meet along the way. Thrust into the midst of a bitter family feud, Eli confronts both the deadly rage of a madman (Matthau) and the love of a beautiful woman (Diana Lynn, The Miracle of Morgan s Creek). Eli is soon lured into a brutal showdown, but must stay true to his convictions, his honor and dreams to survive.



The Film:

Produced and directed by star Burt Lancaster, The Kentuckian is a leisurely western occasionally punctuated by spurts of startling brutality. The recently widowed Lancaster heads towards Texas with his son Donald McDonald. Most of the folks he meets, notably winsome schoolmarm Diana Lynn, bondslave Dianne Foster, and Lancaster's down-to-earth brother John McIntyre and sister-in-law Una Merkel, are pretty good souls, despite the raging family feud that motivates the plotline. The same cannot be said of whip-wielding saloonkeeper Walter Matthau (in his film debut), who goads Lancaster into a bloody fight. Matthau wins this round, but he gets his just desserts before the final fadeout. Based on a novel by Felix Holt, The Kentuckian makes excellent use of Technicolor and Cinemascope, as well as the musical expertise of composer Bernard Herrmann.

Excerpt from B+N located HERE

In 1954, Burt Lancaster announced that he was planning to leave acting behind in order to become a full-time director. His first effort would be The Kentuckian (1955). As it turned out, aside from a minor co-directing credit on 1974's The Midnight Man, The Kentuckian would also end up being his only effort.

Based on the novel The Gabriel Horn by Felix Holt, the story was set in Kentucky circa 1820, when that state was on the edge of the frontier. It centered on a backwoodsman eager to pursue a future in Texas with his young son, partly because he is weary of an ongoing local family feud. Briefly tempted by his brother to stay in Kentucky and settle down, he in the end renews his determination to head for Texas with his son, only now they are joined by a woman. Lancaster's character is a Davey Crockett type, good-natured and slow to react in anger or negative emotion. In all, the picture is an amiable, folksy slice of Americana.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

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

The single-layered Kino Lorber Blu-ray of The Kentuckian looks very pleasing in 1080P. The image has bright, rich colors with layered contrast and decent detail. The film's almost exclusive outdoor sequences can tend to look quite impressive showcasing plenty of depth. The source is clean, with only a few speckles. There are one or two instances of inconsistency but I don't know that they may have been part of the original production. This Blu-ray gave better-than-expected viewing in the 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio.





















Audio :

Kino Lorber use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track at 1561 kbps (16-bit) in the original English language. Originally The Kentuckian did have 4-Track stereo audio. There are aggressive effects in the film - Muscats, breech-loaders, whips, fists, steamboat, piano etc.. The score is by the great Bernard Herrmann (Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, Cape Fear, The Magnificent Ambersons, Taxi Driver, The Wrong Man, Dressed to Kill, etc. etc.)  and, uncredited, Roy Webb (Fixed Bayonets, Clash by Night, I Married a Witch, This Is Cinerama, Easy Living, The Window, Journey Into Fear, I Walked with a Zombie etc.) represented beautifully in the lossless with drama and an epic feel. There are optional English subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

Only a trailer for the film and other trailers.



The Kentuckian is a fabulous period adventure with themes of the pioneering spirit that formed the country. I was very entertained by the language, characterizations, americana and a well-paced story. The bare-bones Kino Lorber
Blu-ray seems the only way to see this gem in 1080P and I thought it was a solid, likable, film - one I will certainly revisit. Recommended!  NOTE: At the writing of this review it is 23% OFF at Amazon.

Gary Tooze

December 16th, 2017



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