The Far Country (1954)
|Year Of Production||1954|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Anthony Mann|
Jay C. Flippen
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.00:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Renee: "You’ve got to help people when they need help.”
Jeff Webster: “Why?”
It is 1896 and Jeff Webster (James Stewart) and his partner Ben Tatum (Walter Brennan) are taking a herd of cattle from Seattle to the Canadian goldmining town of Dawson via Skegway in Alaska. However, on arrival in Skegway their cattle are impounded by crooked Sheriff (and Judge and Jury) Gannon (John McIntire) leaving them destitute. The pair then sign on with saloon keeper Ronda Castle (Ruth Roman) who is taking supplies across the mountains to Dawson, but not before they steal their own cattle back from Gannon and run them into Canada, outside of Gannon’s jurisdiction. Joined by Rube (Jay C. Flippen) and young woman Renee (Corinne Calvert) the supplies are taken successfully into Dawson, where Ronda opens a new saloon, undercutting the locals. Jeff and Ben buy a gold claim and strike it rich. Then Gannon and his men arrive in Dawson, swindling the miners out of their claims, but Jeff refuses to get involved until the killing of someone he cares for forces his hand.
The Far Country had the same team of director Anthony Mann, star James Stewart and screenwriter Borden Chase as their films Winchester ‘73 (1950) and Bend of the River (1952). It was the fourth Mann / Stewart western; by now their partnership had really got into stride and The Far Country is a superb, quite complex, western with stunning scenery and Stewart at the top of his game. His Jeff Webster is a grim, self-centred, unlikable man, only interested in helping himself, or perhaps himself and his partner Ben, uninterested in aiding anyone else, including those swindled or terrorised by more ruthless individuals, including Gannon and saloon madam Ronda. It is an excellent role for Stewart; we know, or at least hope, that he will come good sometime, but that sometime takes a very long time arriving. Stewart is well supported by the dependable Walter Brennan and the top hatted John McIntire.
Filmed in glorious colour in Alberta, Canada, by cinematographer William Daniels, Oscar winner for The Naked City (1948), The Far Country looks stunning with its snow covered mountains and glaciers, forests, meadows and the extensive gold diggings. The result is a superb western, entertaining, well crafted, with stunning scenery and a spot on James Stewart performance.
The Far Country is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced, in PAL. The IMDb gives the original aspect ratio as 1.20:1 but all previous DVD releases have been 1.85:1, except one at 1.33:1, so I guess this is what is available.
There is something about shooting on film that gives a nice depth of field and deep, beautiful colours. The horsemen and cattle look tiny in front of the glacier or the snow covered mountains while the rich greens for the woods and meadows, the blue of the skies and water, the grey of the diggings and the rocks, look stunning. Some widescreen shots lose a bit of detail but interiors are strong and close-ups detailed. Blacks are fine, shadow detail good, skin tones natural. There is some obvious grain and infrequent small marks but nothing serious.
English subtitles are provided.
The audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 192 Kbps. The film was released with mono audio.
Dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The effects were understandably flattish but horses’ hooves, shouts and the gunshots were sharp enough and the ice avalanche boomed satisfactorily. The small tinkling bell on Webster’s saddle, which has a part to play in the plot, comes over nicely. The score is generic; there is no composer credited but the IMDb indicates that music by Henry Mancici, Hans J Salter, Frank Skinner and Herman Stein was utilised.
Lip synchronisation is fine.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Other DVD releases of The Far Country also add nothing more than the trailer. Buy local.
By the time of this collaboration Anthony Mann and James Stewart had honed their skills to a fine art. The Far Country is a fabulous western, a must for fans of the genre, the star or the director. Others may disagree but I put this one right up there with Winchester ‘73. Enough said.
The video presentation is good, the mono audio fine. The trailer is the only extra but there is nothing more available elsewhere.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|