The Gunfighter (1950)

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Released 8-Jun-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1950
Running Time 81:04
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Henry King
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Gregory Peck
Helen Westcott
Millard Mitchell
Jean Parker
Karl Malden
Skip Homeier
Anthony Ross
Verna Felton
Ellen Corby
Richard Jaeckel
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Alfred Newman
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)
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 Danish
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
French
German
Italian
Norwegian
Spanish
Swedish
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish 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

    Gregory Peck plays the Ringo Kid in this so-called "psychological western" from 1950. Jimmy Ringo is an ageing gunfighter, only 35 years old, but that's pretty old in the Wild West. Wandering into a small town saloon, he only wants to have a quiet drink,but a punk kid (Richard Jaeckel) wants to pick a fight with him. Naturally, Ringo shoots him dead, or we would have a very short film indeed. The squirt (for that is what they call punks in the West) has three brothers who follow Ringo out of town into the wilderness, intent on revenge. Ringo manages to get the drop on them, relieves them of their guns and horses and tells them to walk home. But they follow him on foot after realising he is heading for the nearby town of Cayenne.

    In Cayenne, Ringo has an estranged wife and son whom he wants to see. Ringo gets trapped in the local saloon, not by gunfighters, but by the locals who want to see what a gunfighter looks like. There's an old friend, Mark, who is the local sheriff (Millard Mitchell), another peppery squirt who fancies himself as a gunfighter (Skip Homeier), some outraged womenfolk, the avuncular barman (Karl Malden) and sundry other characters. Ringo's wife doesn't want to see him, but Ringo prevails on Mark to try to convince her. There's also a race against time before squirt number one's brothers can walk into town.

    It is difficult today to see how this film must have looked to audiences of 1950, who did not go to see it in droves, but this film is regarded by some as a classic. To me it seems a bit dated, and for a film that is often referred to as a "psychological western" and "the first adult western" it is pretty mild, especially when compared to many of the westerns of the later 1950s. Peck gives a good performance as the tired gunfighter, although he is a bit too earnest and polite to be totally convincing. His moustache is convincing, though. Millard Mitchell is also fine as the sheriff, and they (he and Peck, not the moustache) have a couple of good scenes together, for example the confrontation with the old ladies of the town. If the film looks dated today, it is partly because of the performances of some of the supporting players, as well as the too clean and tidy wild west town. A more charismatic actress than Helen Westcott would have made more of the role of Ringo's wife, and Karl Malden looks out of place, his persona more suited to double-dealers than straightforward types.

    The direction by Henry King is up to his usual high standard, with some nicely composed and constructed scenes, and the film does generate some tension. But to me it does not add up to very much. I was a little disappointed when I first saw The Gunfighter many years ago, and my opinion has not changed on another viewing. An entertaining film, but not as good as some suggest.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is transferred in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, near to the original 1.37:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    I am a little disappointed in the transfer. The image is not ideally sharp, nor is there the level of detail I would have expected from a new transfer of this film. While it is better than VHS, the improvement is not significant.

    Being a black and white film, there is not much I can say about the colour. Blacks look quite deep and dark, with no noticeable low level noise. There is a reasonable spread of greys throughout.

    The transfer, though, appears to be a little dark and lacking in contrast. This may well be due to the print material used, but it looks a little lifeless and flat compared to transfers from the same era. Shadow detail is poor as a result.

    The film has not been restored. While the print material seems to be in relatively good condition, there are noticeable white flecks and spots, and some faint vertical scratches. There is also a smattering of dirt, especially at the beginning of the film. The transfer is also quite grainy.

    Optional English subtitles are provided. These seem to be fairly accurate and are readable from the sample I selected.

    This is a single layered disc, so there is no layer change.

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

Audio

    The audio quality is reasonable without being exceptional. The default audio channel is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, with four alternative languages available.

    Dialogue is clear and distinct, although there is a slight harshness and sibilance to the sound. This is particularly noticeable when the audio level increases. There is a strange clattering sound at 46:36 which does not seem to come from anything happening on screen.

    The music score is by Alfred Newman and is quite typical of westerns of this era. There is nothing particularly memorable about it, nor it is especially noticeable during the film, except during the opening sequence where it seems to be a little overdone (Newman did not orchestrate the music himself).

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

Extras

    No extras are provided. Menus are 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

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

    This film does not appear to have been released in any other region as yet.

Summary

    A reasonable entertainment if you do not take the critics at their word and expect a masterpiece.

    The video transfer is average.

    The audio quality is average.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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