Shane (1952)

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Released 8-Oct-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Audio Commentary-George Stevens Jr. and Ivan Moffat
Theatrical Trailer-1:56
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1952
Running Time 113:09
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:49) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By George Stevens
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Alan Ladd
Jean Arthur
Van Heflin
Brandon de Wilde
Jack Palance
Ben Johnson
Edgar Bechanan
Emile Meyer
Elisha, Jr Cook
Douglas Spencer
John Dierkes
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Victor Young


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
German
Greek
English
Spanish
French
Hebrew
Croatian
Icelandic
Italian
Hungarian
Dutch
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Serbo-Croatian
Slovenian
Finnish
Swedish
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Every so often, some inspired group makes a classic film for a genre. A film that will influence a great many films in the genre from that point forward. They don't always know that they have done so. Certainly the makers of Shane didn't realise that they were making a classic Western that would still be watched after 50 years. It influenced a great many movies since (not all of them Westerns), with many considering Pale Rider, the Clint Eastwood Western, a remake of this classic.

    Because this film has influenced so many films, the storyline may seem rather familiar. A lone stranger rides up to a small farm located in a valley among the Teton mountains in Wyoming, in the 1890s. He seems a bit on-edge, reacting instantly to the sound of a gun being cocked. After he helps the homesteader, Joe Starrett (Van Heflin), he's invited to share supper with the family, wife Marian (Jean Arthur, in her last movie), and son Joey (Brandon de Wilde) — he introduces himself as Shane (Alan Ladd). Unasked, he works off his supper by chopping at a tree stump. He gets a job, helping on the Starrett homestead.

    We need conflict, of course, and in this film it takes the form of the Ryker brothers, the elder Rufus (Emile Meyer), and the younger (John Dierkes). These two, and their men, are trying to run the homesteaders off, because they are getting in the way of their free range cattle. This is a believable conflict, because the free-range cattlemen believed themselves entitled to run their cattle across the open prairie, and greatly resented the newcomer homesteaders putting up fences, ploughing the land, and diverting the water for irrigation — this was a real problem at the time, and not a simple case of "evil man in black hat". When the Rykers decide that it might come to killing, they hire a gunfighter, Jack Wilson (a young Jack Palance, in the credits as Walter Jack Palance), so their own hands are clean. There are plenty of hints at Shane's past, suggesting that gun-fighting skills may not all be on one side...

    The director, George Stevens, was quite insistent that they be as true to the period as they could be. He hired an expert on the era, and insisted that clothes, for example, be accurate. He also insisted that the gunplay be credible — he had just come back from the Second World War, and had seen the damage a single bullet could do, so he was disgusted with films that showed a man being shot, getting up, and shooting again. His fist-fights were a lot more credible, too, and this is one of the rare films that shows the men being patched up after a fight, including painting cuts with turpentine.

    I was bugged because I was sure I recognised one of the other homesteaders, but I couldn't put a name to him. Fortunately, the commentary (which is excellent) identified him as Elisha Cook Jr, which was enough to remind me that he played the young hood in The Maltese Falcon.

    This is a classic Western, and one that influenced many others. It's a good story, told well. You ought to see it, if you haven't seen it before.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is therefore not 16x9 enhanced. This was not the original theatrical aspect ratio. This film was the first widescreen Paramount film, with an intended aspect ratio of 1.66:1, but it was shot with spherical optics and a negative ratio of 1.37:1 — I'd guess that what we have here is an open-matte presentation, although there are a couple of scenes that look like they've been matted down (particularly the gun lessons).

    This film is just over 50 years old, but it has been rather well restored.

    The image is soft, especially in long shots — close-ups appear somewhat sharper (except for the deliberate soft-focus on close-ups of Jean Arthur!), but still not sharp; it looks like a question of limited resolution, due to the film stock available at the time (there's mention of film stock issues in the commentary). Shadow detail is poor, but night shots come through better than you might expect. This is covered in the commentary, where they explain that the "night" shots were filmed in daylight, but printed dark in the laboratory — apparently the instructions for this were mislaid over the years, and that's why some (other) prints show the night-time shots far too bright (see the trailer for an example of this — it is even mentioned in IMDb as a goof) — this restored version reinstates the darker processing, and to great effect. Although there isn't much in the way of obvious film grain, it is the likely reason for the softness of the image. There's no low-level noise.

    Colour is surprisingly good. This is a Technicolor film, but the director was careful to avoid the common errors in using Technicolor. I suspect that there was considerable care taken in the restoration process, too, to ensure that colour correction was careful and accurate.

    There are still plenty of film artefacts, as you might reasonably expect on a film this old. Most of them are small spots and flecks — it looks like they removed most of the large film artefacts. There are still things like the strange blue streaks at 49:56, though. There's also a couple of small glitches that look like a dropped frame. They aren't disturbing, though.

    There is very little aliasing because the image is soft. There's no moir้ of any note, no shimmer, and no MPEG artefacts.

    There are subtitles in 24 languages, including English, plus English for the Hearing Impaired. I watched the English subtitles, and they are quite accurate, well-timed, and easy to read. Interestingly, there are also subtitles for the commentary in five languages, including English. This is welcome, and far too rare.

    The disc is single-sided and double layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is at 57:49, and invisible on the players I tried. It's in the middle of a scene, in a still and silent moment — a superb piece of work.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in five languages, but I only listened to the English. It is Dolby Digital 2.0 with the surround encoding flag set, at 192kbps. I only noticed activity from the centre channel, suggesting that this is really a mono soundtrack (unsurprising — the original soundtrack was mono). The frequency response on this soundtrack is somewhat limited, due to the limited fidelity of the original recording.

    The dialogue is clear and comprehensible. There are no obvious audio sync problems, but quite a few of the actors don't move their mouths a lot when they talk (this is a Western, after all!), so it's hard to tell at times.

    Victor Young gets the credit for the score. Quite a bit of it has been copied a lot since, so parts will sound rather familiar, even clich้d. I suspect that wasn't the case when this film was made.

    I heard nothing from the surrounds, even with the surround encoding flag set. There is no signal for the subwoofer, so it gets the night off.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static and silent.

Audio Commentary: director's son George Stevens Jr, associate producer Ivan Moffatt

    The director's son was 19 when this film was made, and worked on it in a minor capacity. He has taken the trouble to go through his father's notes on the film, and he quotes some of them during the commentary. This is quite a good commentary, with some gaps, but a lot of information.

    This commentary is subtitled in five languages, including English, which is good news for hearing-impaired viewers.

Theatrical Trailer (1:56)

    The trailer is full of spoilers — it even shows both the climax and the ending of the film. It is interesting, however, because it shows an example of the messed-up processing of the film (showing a night scene so light that it appears daytime).

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 disc was released some time back. Superficially it seems very similar to this one (far fewer languages, but the same extras, and almost the same menus), but a direct comparison of the discs reveals the big difference.

    Both versions use the restored print, and the same aspect ratio, but the video transfer on the R1 is greatly inferior. The bright parts of the transfer are adequate, but the darker scenes are far too dark. The climax of the film looks like a scene from an early Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, with half the screen covered in unrelieved black. Shadow detail is noticeably worse than this disc (and this disc won't win prizes in that category).

    This is an easy win to the Region 4, purely on the basis of a markedly better video transfer.

Summary

    A classic Western, given a good presentation on DVD considering the age of the film.

    The video quality is good enough.

    The audio quality is good enough.

    The extras are reasonable.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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