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The Ox-Bow Incident
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by American West historian Dick Etulain and William Wellman Jr
  • Introduction by Peter Stanfield, author of Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s: The Lost Trail and Horse Opera: The Strange History of the Singing Cowboy
  • Scene-select commentaries by Stanfield
  • Henry Fonda: Hollywoodís Quiet Hero, a 45-minute documentary on the actor from the Biography series
  • Stills gallery
  • Theatrical trailer

The Ox-Bow Incident

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: William A. Wellman
1943 | 75 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: £15.99 | Series: Arrow Academy
Arrow Films

Release Date: July 4, 2016
Review Date: July 18, 2016

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SYNOPSIS

One of Hollywood's most prolific directors, William A. Wellman was responsible for more than 80 features and a string of masterpieces including Wings, the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar, The Public Enemy, which made a star of James Cagney, screwball classic Nothing Sacred, the original A Star is Born and this marvellous noir-inflected Western, The Ox-Bow Incident.

Set in a small Nevada town where tensions are running high thanks to a spate of cattle rustling, things reach boiling point when cowboy Larry Kinkaid is murdered. With the sheriff out of town, the residents form a posse and head to Ox-Bow Canyon to find the three men they believe to be guilty Ė including Dana Andrews and Anthony Quinn in early major roles Ė and enact their own form of justice. A favourite of both Clint Eastwood and star Henry Fonda, who serves as the film's moral centre, The Ox-Bow Incident is a tough, complex picture whose uncompromising starkness continues to astound to this day.


PICTURE

Arrow Academy presents William A. Wellmanís The Ox-Bow Incident on Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 4K scan of a duplicate negative. The disc has been locked to region B and north American viewers will require a Blu-ray player that can playback region B content.

Iím a bit thrown by this one and Iím not too sure what to make of it. The biggest surprise from this presentation is that it is fairly soft. This ends up limiting textures and depth since the fine details never really pop. I was trying to figure if it had something to do with the scan but film grain actually appears to be rendered fairly well, so I donít think itís that. I can only assume there is something off with the duplicate negative that was used.

Contrast also appears to be out of whack and boosted a bit. Whites can be blown out, which can be a bit overbearing in daylight scenes, while on the reverse side of things black levels are also pumped to a point where they limit shadow details and tonal shifts in the grays can be a bit muddled.

The restoration itself is otherwise very good, and other than a few minor blemishes I donít recall anything truly worth noting. In the end the imageís contrast levels look off and it just leans a bit on the soft side of things, remaining that way throughout. Whether it be the source or something went wrong during the transfer and restoration I canít say, though itís no less disappointing.

(Again, this disc is region B locked and North American viewers will require a Blu-ray player that can play back region B content.)

6/10

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

The lossless 2-channel PCM mono track is limited by age: itís flat, lacks fidelity, and can be a bit tinny at times. There is also an audible hiss in parts of the film. But, in the end, dialogue is still easy to hear and the track doesnít present any drops, pops, or clicks.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Arrow puts together a nice little special edition, first presenting an audio commentary featuring American West historian Dick Etulain and the directorís son, William Wellman, Jr. Iím unsure as to when they were recorded but the two participants were recorded separately. Etulain offers the more scholarly slant, whether it be comparing how the film to the novel, admiring how Wellman was able to compress so much down into the film (the 50-page opening was compressed down to a few minutes, conveying everything about the characters and the situation down to a few lines of dialogue, actions, and visuals), or how Wellman was able to make so much with his low budget, using the setbacks to his advantage, and so on. Wellman looks at the film from a more personal level, giving an extensive backstory first to how the film came to be and then sharing stories about his dad and Fonda, the two becoming good friends after the film. He also shares the wonderful story as to how his father came into the business. For a 75-minute track I was a bit surprised at a few lengthy dead spots, and Etulain maybe points out the obvious a couple of times (did you know the film ďrepresents the dangers of vigilante justice?Ē) but I found it an enjoyable enough track.

Arrow also provides an introduction by author Peter Stanfield, which can be watched on its own or optionally before the beginning of the film. For 12-minutes Stanfield gives background to the film, contextualizes it to the period, and explains how it influenced a new wave of darker westerns.

Stanfield also provides select-scene commentaries over six sequences, for a total of almost 33-minutes. I could go either way on these tracks. Stanfield expands on some areas that the other track covered, focusing a bit more on sequences and how the play out and character specifics and relationships, but the best portion of it may be when he compares the opening of the film to the opening of Wellmanís Yellow Sky using a split screen. On its own I guess Iím not so sure how worthwhile it is, but as an add-on to the commentary itís a solid addition to the release.

Arrow then carries over from the Fox DVD the episode from the A&E series Biography on Henry Fonda, aptly titled Henry Fonda: Hollywood Quiet Guy. The 45-minute feature is typical of the series, giving an overview of the actorís life and career through various footage, interviews from friends, family (including daughter Jane, son Peter, and widow Shirlee here), and ďexperts,Ē I guess you can call them. Itís an enjoyable overview of his life and career and Iím happy to see it was carried over here.

The disc then closes with a still gallery and the filmís trailer. The included booklet (limited to first pressings as I understand it) features a solid essay on the film by Nick Pinkerton, going over Wellmanís work, the filmís backstory, structure, and performances.

Not a packed special edition but I found the supplements well rounded and engaging, everything worth going through.

7/10

CLOSING

I suspect the limitations to the presentation have more to do with the source materials, though that doesnít make it any less disappointing; this was a Blu-ray release I was really looking forward to so Iíd be lying if I said I wasnít a little let down. But Arrow still puts together a solid special edition for the film, gathering together an entertaining collection of material.




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