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The Far Country
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • 2.00:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Two presentations of The Far Country in both original aspect ratios of 1.85:1 and 2.00:1
  • New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
  • American Frontiers: Anthony Mann at Universal, an all-new, feature-length documentary with Mann biographer Alan K. Rode, western author C. Courtney Joyner, script supervisor Michael Preece, and critics Michael Schlesinger and Rob Word
  • Mann of the West, a newly filmed appraisal of Far Country and the westerns of Anthony Mann by the critic Kim Newman
  • Image gallery
  • Original trailer
  • Limited edition booklet with new writing on the film by Philip Kemp and original reviews
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys

The Far Country

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Anthony Mann
1954 | 97 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: Arrow Academy
MVD Visual

Release Date: November 12, 2019
Review Date: November 11, 2019

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amazon.com  amazon.ca

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SYNOPSIS

An archetypal example of its genre, The Far Country is one of five superb westerns the screen legend James Stewart (Vertigo, Man of the West) made with acclaimed Hollywood auteur Anthony Mann (El Cid, The Man from Laramie). Mann's film tells of Jeff Webster (Stewart) and his sidekick Ben Tatum (Walter Brennen, My Darling Clementine): two stoic adventurers driving cattle to market from Wyoming to Canada who come to logger heads with a corrupt judge (John McIntire, Psycho) and his henchmen. Ruth Romain (Strangers on a Train) plays a sultry saloon keeper who falls for Stewart, teaming up with him to take on the errant lawman. An epic saga set during the heady times of the Klondike Gold Rush, The Far Country captures the scenic grandeur of northern Canada's icy glaciers and snow-swept mountains in vivid Technicolor. Mann's direction expertly steers the film to an unorthodox, yet thrilling 'all guns-blazing' finale, whilst the imposing landscape takes on a whole new splendour in High Definition.


PICTURE

Arrow’s Academy line presents Anthony Mann’s The Far Country on Blu-ray, making use of a brand new 4K restoration performed by Arrow and scanned from the 35mm original camera negative. The 2 dual-layer disc set presents two aspect ratios: the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on the first disc and 2.00:1 (a common Universal aspect ratio at the time) on the second disc. Both are given 1080p/24hz high-definition encodes.

The presentation (for both ratios) looks rough, though it looks to have been out of Arrow’s hands. They’ve obviously done all they can and the digital encode and presentation shows this, not adding any digital anomalies to the end presentation.

Unfortunately the issues all appear to be source related and it’s hard to tell whether it’s just how the film was shot (environment, film stock, equipment, stylistic choices, editing?) or if it comes down to deterioration of the original elements; I really can’t say. The film has a very fuzzy, thick, grainy look to it (not sure how else to describe it) and details are very limited, everything looking pretty fuzzy around the edges. There are moments where the finer details manage to worth their way through (like grass in the fields or fuzz on a sweater) but the image is rarely razor sharp, and transitions can be especially bad as the image becomes incredibly smudgy for a few seconds. Nighttime shots (which are probably day-for-night most of the time) can also have a smudgy, crushed look at times, and halos can also be evident here, but I think it’s a byproduct of the photography since the overall presentation doesn’t show signs of this otherwise.

It does have some strong aspects: though a bit dull I thought the colours could look very strong at times, with a decent overall Technicolor look that features some bold reds with some wonderful looking blue skies. Outside of the dark shots I also found black levels strong. It’s also clean, with only a few faint tram lines popping up in places and the occasional fluctuation in the colours. And another plus, as mentioned previously, the digital encode is solid. Film grain can be a bit heavy but it is cleanly rendered and does look natural.

For the two presentations Arrow appears to be using the same masters for each as quality wise they look the same. The 2.00:1 presentation is cropped at the top and bottom in comparison to the 1.85:1 (with the tops of heads cut out a bit in some shots), and I assume Arrow framed it based on specifications or in comparison to a theatrical print. As to which version is better it will come down to preference, though I prefer the 1.85:1 ratio. They don’t differ in quality otherwise, presenting the same pros and cons.

In the end the image is what it is, limited severely (by the looks of it) by the original source materials. At the very least Arrow has done what they can with their restoration and encode, and they don’t exasperate the existing issues.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Both versions sound to come with the same lossless PCM 1.0 mono track. There can be a slight edge to music but dialogue is clear and there are no pops or drops. Some background noise is present but it’s kept by the wayside and not overly distracting. Fidelity is also pretty strong.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Arrow’s special edition starts off first—as mentioned previously—with two aspect ratios for the film, with the 1.85:1 ratio presented on the first disc and the 2.00:1 aspect on the second. All special features can be found on the first disc with only one being repeated on the second disc.

Arrow gets Adrian Martin to do a brand new audio commentary for the film, and though Martin is always dependable I must admit to being a little letdown with this one. I felt he was spending more time going over the general plotline and what was going on onscreen than much else, though to be fair it was to showcase the structure of the film and how these elements differed Mann’s westerns from others (with a lot of comparisons to Ford’s). Still, he keeps the track going and offers some good side topics filling out things nicely, even referencing other writings on Mann and Stewart’s work together, adding his own thoughts and opinions in relation to them, but it’s not one of my favourite Martin tracks. The track can also be played with the version on disc 2.

Unfortunately I can’t say the remaining supplements fair all the much better, though at the very least I did really enjoy the new 33-minute documentary, American Frontiers: Anthony Mann at Universal. Though it is supposed to be a general documentary about Mann at the studio, and does cover most of his work there, there is more of a focus on The Far Country than any other film (Winchester ‘73 coming in second in regard to coverage), and disappointingly there isn’t anything about Spartacus. But it gives a decent overview of some of his early work, how Winchester ‘73 changed things and concludes with the falling-out he and Stewart had. It could have been more in-depth for sure but it’s a decent primer on Mann’s and Stewart’s work together and offers a decent analysis of The Far Country.

Kim Newman then pops up to give a short 24-minute interview about Mann and The Far Country. It’s an okay discussion, though I can’t say it’s overly illuminating. Newman talks a little about the film’s story and certain moments, while also talking about the performers and their characters. He also talks about the real-life influences, like how John McIntire’s villain is based on Judge Roy Bean.

The disc then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer and an image gallery filled with three auto-playing galleries that also have chapter stops to allow you to skip through them. The galleries are divided into “production photos,” “art concepts” (for posters), and “posters and lobby cards.” Arrow also includes one of their excellent booklets, first featuring an essay by Philip Kemp and then a (very) short anonymous review of the film written for Monthly Film Bulletin, which basically sums up the film as “a’ight,” which can also describe the supplements found here.

6/10

CLOSING

Features definitely leave a lot to be desired but the bigger disappointment is the end presentation of the film, which looks to be limited by the source materials. Arrow, at the very least, have done all they can with it, delivering a filmic image in the end.




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Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca