The War Wagon (1967)

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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
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1967
Running Time 96:32
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (52:56) Cast & Crew
Start Up Subtitle Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Burt Kennedy

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring John Wayne
Kirk Douglas
Howard Keel
Robert Walker Jr.
Keenan Wynn
Bruce Cabot
Joanna Barnes
Valora Noland
Bruce Dern
Gene Evans
Terry Wilson
Don Collier
Sheb Wooley
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Dimitri Tiomkin

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)
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 No

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Plot Synopsis

    The War Wagon is based on the novel Badman written by Clair Huffaker, who also wrote the screenplay for this movie. It is an interesting story, albeit one that uses a plot that has basically been used in many other movies of many genres. A man is wrongfully accused, and then seeks revenge on the wrongdoers. In this particular instance, our protagonist is Taw Jackson (John Wayne) who is on parole and returns to visit his old stomping ground in Emmett, New Mexico. He has a score to settle after he was shot and framed when the local mine owner, Frank Pierce (Bruce Cabot) realised there was gold on Jackson's land. Since Pierce either owns or pays the salary of the majority of Emmett's townsfolk, it was impossible for Taw to prove his innocence. Even the law is under Pierce's thumb and he uses this power to keep his empire running. This only means it will be even harder for Jackson to get back what is rightfully his...but not impossible.

    Three years ago, Lomax (Kirk Douglas) was sent to kill Jackson, but now, Jackson needs his skills. He also needs to round up a group of men with varying skills to help capture the next gold shipment, worth half a million dollars. It won't be easy - the gold is stored within the steel chamber of the "War Wagon", a 47.5 foot long wagon, horses included. This will require some serious firepower, fight scenes, explosives and ah, alcohol.

    Rumour has it that John Wayne became annoyed with Kirk Douglas during the production of this film, and that explains why there were no other features starring the two legends, which is a great pity. The two worked well together on-screen in this production and provided a solid backbone for the rest of the characters to work off. Maybe the Duke was upset because he couldn't do a running jump onto the back of a horse like Douglas could.

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Transfer Quality


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

    Considering the film's age, the movie image is quite sharp and clear. This is especially true for the foreground or close up shots. The wider scenes that take in a lot of scenery have a soft and occasionally fuzzy appearance in the background. Shadow detail is well controlled - one such example can be seen during a night scene at 64:53. Low level noise is not an issue with the darker sections of the print not showing a hint of this artefact.

    The colours were typical of a Western with the colours taking on the typical "washed in the river" appearance. There are no examples of bright bold colours and nor should there be. The trees, sky and surrounds also contained lifelike and accurate colours.

    There are no visible MPEG artefacts but there is some shimmering from time to time which is most noticeable on rock outcrops due to their colour and size. Aliasing is very common and shows up on everything from the shingle roofs to the brim of the cowboys' hats. Just take a look at 3:24 to see a typical example. In fact, look anywhere to see an example. Film artefacts are common, but due to their small size are not distracting at all which was a pleasant surprise considering the age of the print. If you take a look at the Theatrical Trailer that is included on the disc then there has been quite a clean-up from that version to the actual feature we see here. There was, however, one instance during a fade from one scene to another between Chapters 5 and 6 at 27:02 where the film has an obvious rip or tear that lasts for a few frames. You can see how rough this is from the image below where a neat cut and tape back together of the two sections was obviously not possible. It is also the only section where I noticed a fade from one scene to another which could be intentional, but I can only make assumptions.

    The subtitles are close to the spoken word but rarely are they exact.

    The disc is single-sided and dual-layered with the change placed in the middle of Chapter 12 at 52:56. It is during a scene where Pierce and his cronies are standing in the saloon and looking across the room. The lack of sound and limited movement make this quite a good spot for the layer change to be placed. Areas before and after would have been more noticeable for layer changes. The men may appear to freeze momentarily on slower players.

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


    There are four audio tracks on this DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. There are also French, German and Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. They are not surround encoded and in all cases provide sound from all three speakers across the front soundstage, with the majority coming from the front centre.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times. Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer, and was completely spot on.

    The musical score by Dimitri Tiomkin was very typical of a western and suited the show down to the ground. The action sequences tended to have a lot of music to accentuate the action.

    The surround channels were not used by this soundtrack.

    The subwoofer was also not used by this soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu design is themed around the movie and is 16x9 enhanced. The main menu features an animated clip from the movie and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Theatrical Trailer

    This trailer contains a very large number of film artefacts, both black and white, that are quite distracting. If this is what the original footage was like before the transfer then an impressive cleanup was undertaken.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Whilst there are some language and subtitle differences, it appears that we have missed out on the majority of the extras. The audio commentary alone would have been a great inclusion.


    Overall this is a great western which rarely seems to be included in the classics of either The Duke or Douglas.

    The video quality overall is quite good.

    The audio quality is typical of most westerns of the era and the lack of surround activity is not really missed.

    We get one extra from the Region 1 list, but it's not the extra I wanted!!

Ratings (out of 5)


© Peter Mellor (read my bio)
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersWhatmough Classic Series C31 (Mains); C06 (Centre); M10 (Rears); Magnat Vector Needle Sub25A Active SubWoofer

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