The Virginian (1946)

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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
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1946
Running Time 83:22
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Subtitle Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Stuart Gilmore
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Joel McCrea
Brian Donlevy
Sonny Tufts
Barbara Britton
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Daniele Amfitheatrof


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame 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 None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Portuguese
Dutch
Swedish
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Hebrew
Arabic
Russian
Turkish
Greek
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Virginian has been a popular Hollywood property over the years and had been filmed a number of times before this 1946 version (notably with a very young Gary Cooper in 1929). The advertising for this remake made much of the fact that it was the first colour version. There was also a popular TV series made with the same name, which I recall I quite enjoyed when I was young. The film stars Joel McCrea, a popular leading man in the 1940s, whose amiable personality makes him ideal for the laconic heroes often portrayed in Hollywood Westerns.

    It is difficult when reviewing a film of this age to decide how frequently plot elements had been used up to this time. Given the popularity of Westerns in early cinema, it is possible that they were repeating themselves by the 1920s. This film has a pretty young girl moving out west to become a schoolteacher (because no schools back east will take her). She encounters The Virginian (McCrea) and his friend Steve (Sonny Tufts in a likeable performance) as she arrives at the station in Medicine Bow. After a humorous interlude with a "runaway" bull, Trampas (played by Brian Donlevy) rides into town. He is dressed all in black, so I guess that makes him the bad guy?

    Well, it seems that there are some castle rustlers in town - I wonder who their leader is? There is a romantic subplot involving a triangle between Steve, Molly and The Virginian (yes, we never find out his name). Apart from a fairly moving hanging scene around 59:00, the film meanders along pleasantly enough but without engaging too much of your intellect (or more likely your interest). I like the star, and Barbara Britton (playing Molly) is effective, but the story is too weak to sustain a feature length film. Oh, and at the end, there is a sunset, and some riding into it is involved. I don't think that counts as a plot spoiler unless this is the first film you have ever seen.

    So, is the film worth watching? Well, I like Westerns, and this was an acceptable diversion. The rest of the family wandered in and out while I was viewing and watched particular scenes, but none of them stayed for the duration. The DVD is currently available at mid-price, but so is The Magnificent Seven, which would be a much better buy (and so would ...).

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Now for some good news. For a film of this age this disc has a pretty good picture. I have seen many later films that have not brushed up as well as this one has. It is filmed in early Technicolor and it is apparent that they must have had a pretty good preservation copy to work with.

    As expected from a film made before the early 1950s, this is presented at 1.33:1, very close to its original Academy aspect ratio of 1.37:1 (and so is not 16x9 enhanced).

    The picture is nice and sharp throughout, except for the occasionally dodgy bit of rear projection where the film moved from location work to studio inserts. Shadow detail is not great, though the night scenes are much better than usual for an older film. There is occasional low level noise, but not enough to detract from the viewing experience.

    Another major plus is the vibrant colour, especially in the early part of the film (it seems to become more muted in later reels). The original Technicolor process used three different reels, one for each of the primary colours; these are more resistant to fading than the single emulsion processes commonly used in the 1960s. If all are preserved then the film can still look very good today, and this seems to have been the case here. However, the colour did vary at times (see 35:16) which may indicate that the preservation of the original reels varied in quality.

    There were no noticeable MPEG artefacts. Occasional minor aliasing can be seen (see the shirt at 23:31 for one example), but nothing too worrying. Film artefacts are infrequent, with some of them coloured marks, which points to damage in one of the three layers of colour (see 57:22). The occasional minor negative artefacts (see 13:38) are not at all distracting.

    The subtitles are the least accurate I have seen for some time. They frequently missed entire sentences and distorted the meaning of many they did present. As one example "They're just as curious as you are" becomes "They're just curious".

    No layer change was apparent on viewing the disc.

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

Audio

    Unfortunately, the audio on this disc is not as effective as the video.

    The disc contains 5 language tracks, all of them Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to the English soundtrack, and portions of the German. There are also French, Italian and Spanish tracks to choose from. The German track included a heroine who sounded more like one of the Valkyries from The Ring cycle than the delicate blonde on the screen (think busty blondes with big voices). You really should listen to a foreign track some time - they really are quite entertaining..

    The dialogue is clear, though a little thin at times. Audio sync is good. On the German track, the dub sounded at quite a different volume level to the background sound in the film and was quite distracting as a result.

    The music by Daniele Amfitheatrof is undistinguished, though it has occasional enjoyable moments of "bouncy cowboy bop" (I'm sure you'll know what I mean if you watch a lot of Westerns). The music has much fuller sound than the dialogue.

    This is a fairly undistinguished mono mix, with only the music moving across the front of the soundstage. It is also recorded at a low level - I had the volume higher for this film than I have had for any other film in months. Volume also varied from the opening scenes to the later ones.

    The subwoofer adds slightly to some of the music but is not used otherwise.

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

Extras

    None. I'm getting rather tired of typing that.

Menu

    Animated menu with music, 20 scenes in the Scene Selection menu.

R4 vs R1

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

    This DVD does not appear to be available elsewhere, which I suppose makes this the superior version by default.

Summary

    Well, this is a strictly average Western.

    The video quality is quite good for a film of this vintage.

    The audio is rather disappointing.

    No extras (sigh, again).

    Possibly worth a look if you find it in a bargain bin, or if you like Joel McCrea (does anyone out there remember him?), or miss the Saturday afternoon matinee at the local cinema. Or, possibly not.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Monday, November 10, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

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