Will Penny (1968)

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Released 7-May-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Featurette-Remembering Will Penny
Featurette-The Cowboys of Will Penny
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1968
Running Time 105:13
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tom Gries

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Charleton Heston
Joan Hackett
Donald Pleasence
Lee Majors
Bruce Dern
Anthony Zerbe
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music David Raskin

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Will Penny is Charlton Heston’s perfect Western – and he gets to play the lead, which certainly helps. An aging cowboy goes to the hills for a winter job with a couple of friends. On the way, he has a chance encounter with a group of gun-toting religious psychopaths, headed by the wildly melodramatic Preacher Quint (Donald Pleasence). In the encounter, one of Preacher Quint’s sons is killed by the expert shot of Will Penny, only doing his part to defend what’s his. Penny then continues on and finally gets a job as a line rider, checking the perimeter of a ranch.

    It is at the line rider’s cottage that Penny meets for the second time the beautiful Catherine Allen (Joan Hackett), and her young son, left behind by an unscrupulous guardian who was meant to take them to California. Although the ranch doesn’t allow squatters, Penny agrees to let them stay. But all is not well, because Preacher Quint is out for revenge! Yet, for all their overacted madness, Quint and his clan are pretty stupid psychopaths. Not only unhinged, but also plain dumb. I mean, you can’t just half kill a man like Charlton Heston in the middle of a Western movie and expect him not to get back on his feet and kill you in the second half of the movie. Don’t they know the rules of Hollywood Westerns?

    I quite like this genre, although I must confess that I am more partial to the neo-Western movement embodied in films like Kevin Costner’s epic Dances With Wolves, Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, and one of my personal favourites, Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man. However, I have my favourites amongst the classics; Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western trilogy, featuring Clint Eastwood, is masterful, not only in its entertainment value, but also in its merging of Eastern Samurai philosophy and quirky humour in order to redefine the Western genre. Will Penny, on the other hand, is unlike any of these films. It is a traditional Hollywood Western, often politically incorrect, and unashamedly extolling the virtues of the frontier cowboy.

    Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a bad film. With a debut performance by The Six-Million Dollar Man himself, Lee Majors, how could it be bad? But it is dated, a little hackneyed, and at times clichéd. Performances can also be a bit hammy. I found myself laughing at it rather than with it on several occasions, but then I’m a little jaded nowadays. If you like neo-Westerns, you probably won’t like this. And there is none of the grace and comic timing which worked so well in Leone’s Westerns. But it is watchable, apparently quite the classic in its own right, and does have a heart somewhere at its core, even if the all-important gunfight at the end is a little lame, even by 1968 standards. Heston himself believes it to be “...the truest film about what the West was really like that I have ever seen, let alone been in.” I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s not bad for a Hollywood interpretation.

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Transfer Quality


    Presented in 1.75:1, 16x9 enhanced, this is close to the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

    The quality of the picture is actually pretty good for a film made in 1968. It’s a little grainy, with some persistent low-level noise throughout, and also a little soft. Colours are not brilliant, sometimes seeming a little washed out. But it was hardly going to be a perfect telecine transfer given its age. Shadow detail is acceptable.

    MPEG artefacts are virtually non-existent, except for some mild posterization on extreme facial close ups, and aliasing on background features, but nothing really noteworthy.

    There is quite a bit of dust in the transfer, and the occasional tiny hair, however none of this is really distracting. And again, given the age of the film, this is hardly surprising. In fairness, the amount of dirt is probably well above average for a film this old.

    There are 8 subtitle options: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Turkish and English for the Hearing Impaired. They are white with a black border and easy to read.

    The dual-layer pause is at 55:53. It occurs during a quiet scene and is subtle enough that I missed it the first time.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The default track here is an English 2.0 Dolby Digital mono soundtrack, but there are also German, Spanish, French and Italian tracks in the same format.

    There’s not much to say, really. Dialogue is easy enough to understand. There were no apparent audio sync problems.

    The range was adequate, and the score came up fairly well, but limited, in the mono soundfield.

    There is no surround information, nor even any left-right directional cues.

    There was no subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    All menus are 16x9 enhanced, static with no sound.

Featurette: “Remembering Will Penny” (13:17)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. This is a series of clips from the film interspersed with interviews from the principal (surviving) cast and crew or their progenitors as well as an historian.

Featurette: “The Cowboys of Will Penny” (3:21)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. This is more of the interviews from the people in the previous featurette discussing the actors who played the cowboys in the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 version is apparently presented in the correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1, but whether that information has just been inaccurately recorded or not I cannot determine. The features are the same.


    Will Penny is a classic style old Western. It’s not great, but apparently it is highly regarded.

    The video transfer is good for a film of this age.

    The sound is pretty lame, but all I would expect.

    Although there was not a glut of them, the extras are pretty good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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