Rooster Cogburn (1975)

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Released 4-Aug-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Theatrical Trailer-2.35:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:08)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 102:49
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (50:52) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Stuart Miller

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring John Wayne
Katharine Hepburn
Richard Jordan
Anthony Zerbe
John McIntire
Paul Koslo
Richard Romancito
Tommy Lee
Strother Martin
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Laurence Rosenthal

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 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, during credits

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

Plot Synopsis

    Can I please, huh, please, huh, please, please, huh, please? Okay, here goes - "Fill your hands you son of a b****".

    I just love that line and all the connotations that go with it. Okay, it has nothing to do with this film but when it comes to great lines in films, this is one of them and it was uttered in the film that established the character of Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn - True Grit. Whilst it is often called a sequel to that film, Rooster Cogburn really has nothing much to do with that film apart from the lead character. Whilst True Grit was arguably his finest moment on screen, it was the character he created that was the icon. It therefore made a lot of sense to bring Rooster Cogburn back to run riot in the Indian Territories once again, this time paired with arguably the greatest female movie star of all time - Katharine Hepburn. Little more than an excuse to get the two screen legends together on screen, the result is actually another enjoyable romp.

    The story of Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) starts out where the plains meet the forests with an attempted arrest of some suspects for a robbery and murder. As usual, the shooting starts and when it is finished, three desperadoes lie dead along with another deputy. Returning to Fort Smith and Judge Parker (John McIntire) has had enough and strips old Rooster of his badge for his disregard of the law. The old days are gone and Rooster has not adjusted in the eyes of the judge. Meantime out in the Indian Territories, the band of outlaws led by Hawk (Richard Jordan), with the help of Rooster's former scout Breed (Anthony Zerbe), have ambushed an army column and stolen a wagon load of nitroglycerin. This dangerous stuff is more than likely to be used for a gold robbery. When the news reaches the judge in Fort Smith, naturally he runs to Rooster for his help, temporarily reinstating him as a U.S. Marshall. Out in the Territories, Hawk and his gang have arrived at Fort Ruby where they camp for the night. Some shenanigans with booze and the local Indians sees several of the Indians killed, along with the local preacher, the Reverend George Goodnight (Jon Lormer). When Rooster arrives next day, he insists that the Reverend's daughter Eula Goodnight (Katharine Hepburn) and an Indian boy Wolf (Richard Romancito) accompany him to safety. Well, they accompany him but not to safety - and this little trio forms the posse that heads off in search of and to capture Hawk. Naturally, Rooster has some problems with not just his posse but his instructions regarding Hawk.

    Whilst being fairly close to the general Western that was so much a part of the screen life of John Wayne, just about everything is superfluous to the interplay of the lead actors. It has to be said that whilst Katharine Hepburn could well and truly murder John Wayne in the acting stakes, The Duke really holds up his end of the film very well indeed. There is an easy charm and chemistry between the two leads that pervades the whole film and by the end of it you really are rooting for these two to get together. Whilst it could be easy to forget the rest of the cast was there - and in a couple of notable instances I really wish they weren't there - you have to ensure you don't overlook the small role of the almost omnipresent Strother Martin as Shanghai McCoy. A typical smallish role that he plays so well, any Western would not be complete without his contribution. Taking its lead from True Grit, the scenery of the location in Oregon is not overlooked by director Stuart Millar either and this really adds tremendously to the overall film. There are a number of shots where the director has chosen to linger on a broad expanse of the scenery and it really looks like heaven on earth.

    Not quite as memorable as True Grit, Rooster Cogburn is nevertheless a really enjoyable film and a superb opportunity to watch two great movie stars just play off each other in an easy, relaxed way. If you cannot enjoy this film simply for what it is, you really cannot enjoy any film.

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Transfer Quality


    For a change, this is a John Wayne film that I have previously seen in its widescreen glory - I saw it as a kid at the cinema. However, having been a good twenty five odd years since then, it is a welcome return to the film in its widescreen glory once again. The film was shot anamorphically and this really is one terrific looking transfer in nearly all respects.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    There is plenty that is very good about this transfer and it starts with a stunningly sharp and vibrant look that really is a delight to watch. Whilst the transfer is extra sharp, there is certainly no indication of edge enhancement to be found and for a twenty eight year old transfer, this is way more stunning that I was expecting. The detail is wonderful, right down to the very depths of the background. There is no indication of grain or low level noise in the transfer at all, apart from some slight graininess in the sky at 30:07, and shadow detail is very good. If you want an indication of how clear the transfer is, just check out the early scenes at the river where the bottom is well and truly visible.

    The colours are really vibrant, even though they are not really bright primary colours. The palette is well saturated and evenly toned but it is mostly in the natural greens and browns, with nothing really evident in the brighter end of the scale. This suits the era of the film I suppose, but when you get a transfer this good you really wish for those bright primary colours just to see how good the transfer really is! There is nothing in the way of oversaturation, and although you might quibble about undersaturation of tones here and there this is what the director wanted I would presume. There is no colour bleed at all in the transfer.

    There did not appear to be any serious MPEG artefacts in the transfer, although there is some evidence of loss of resolution in camera movement at times (presumably source material related). There are a number of places where macro blocking and/or pixelization appears to be an issue (20:33, 34:12, 56:51 and 72:06 for instance) which appears to indicate some issues in the mastering process. The main problem is the consistent issues with aliasing in the transfer - it is just everywhere. Whilst mostly of the mild variety, the sheer consistency of it really disappoints. Examples can be found at 3:00 on the belt, 6:42 on the ropes, 16:34 on the mirror, 22:42 and 33:37 on the hat and 48:45 on the wagon. Added to the aliasing is some fairly obvious moiré artefacting on the roof at 13:22 and on the building at 16:34. Thankfully film artefacts were not that much of an issue, although present mainly as specks, but the other problems certainly detract from the overall transfer.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change apparently coming at 50:52. It is mid-scene but really is not that noticeable and I only picked it up by a very slight pause in the sound at that point.

    There is a decent array of subtitle options on the DVD. The English efforts are frankly very average. Aside from being presented in a rather odd looking font, they miss a fair chunk of dialogue at times and certainly change the phrasing of the dialogue way too often. There was at least one spelling error noted - sights was shown as sites. Overall, amongst the poorest subtitles I have seen for a while.

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


    There are five soundtracks available on the DVD, all being Dolby Digital 2.0 efforts. The language choices are English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. I only listened to the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up well in the transfer and is usually clear and easy to understand. There did not seem to be any particular audio sync problems with the transfer, although once or twice the ADR work seemed just a little sloppy.

    The original music comes from Laurance Rosenthal. It is quite a decent effort overall, but there is nothing really remarkable about it.

    There is nothing at all wrong with the soundtrack, which does its job well enough but equally without any real distinction. Just once or twice it sounded like there was some background noise but nothing that was distracting in any way.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Considering the stature of the two leads, this is a decidedly underwhelming package in every respect.


    With modest audio and animation enhancement, the 16x9 enhanced menus do their job and not much more.

Theatrical Trailer (2:08)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 that is not 16x9 enhanced, the sound is Dolby Digital 2.0. It is a vibrant, sharply detailed trailer that is let down badly by some modest aliasing and a pile of film artefacts.

R4 vs R1

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

    Whilst reliable reviews of the Region 1 release are surprisingly few and far between, as far as can be ascertained the Region 4 release misses out on:

    On the other hand the Region 1 release misses out on 16x9 enhancement, making the Region 4 release the preferred option.


    If it were not for the problems with film-to-video artefacts that plagued the transfer, Rooster Cogburn would have been given an unqualified recommendation. Unfortunately, those problems cannot be ignored and it means that this is perhaps a DVD that you preview before you buy. A pity since it really is a good film and DVD in every other respect.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Thursday, August 28, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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