The Unforgiven (1960)

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Released 18-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1960
Running Time 116:26
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:33) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Huston

Starring Burt Lancaster
Audrey Hepburn
Audie Murphy
John Saxon
Charles Bickford
Lillian Gish
Albert Salmi
Joseph Wiseman
June Walker
Kipp Hamilton
Arnold Merritt
Doug McClure
Carlos Rivas
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Dimitri Tiomkin

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French 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 for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    A similar film in some respects to The Searchers, The Unforgiven has nothing to do with the Clint Eastwood film with a similar name. The Zachary family live on a ranch somewhere in the Texas Panhandle. Mother Zachary (Lillian Gish) and adopted foundling Rachel (Audrey Hepburn) are alone when a mysterious and obviously batty old coot wearing a tattered uniform turns up declaring that he is the "Sword of God" (Joseph Wiseman).

    Fortunately, the Zachary sons return from living it up in Wichita. There's elder brother Ben (Burt Lancaster), the man of the family after his Pa was killed by Indians, Indian-hating middle brother Cash (Audie Murphy), and fresh-faced youngest brother Andy (Doug McClure). The Zacharys are cattle ranchers who are preparing for a cattle drive along with their neighbours, who include the Rawlins family, headed up by Zeb (Charles Bickford). The local Kiowa Indians cause some problems when they offer Ben Zachary some horses in exchange for his sister. Is there a skeleton in the Zachary closet?

    This is a pretty good western from director John Huston based on a 1957 novel by Alan LeMay, who also wrote The Searchers. There are some similar themes and plotlines, though to go into details about the differences and similarities would be to give away too much of the plot. While watching it I thought that there were some references to the political situation in America over the previous decade, with the frequent references to redskins perhaps suggesting Reds instead, though I might be reading too much into this. The story does tend to meander a bit, particularly in the opening half, though this can be seen as an attempt to make the characters more believable and sympathetic.

    The star of this film is the widescreen photography by Franz Planer, which looks superb, especially in set pieces like the sandstorm. The actors are all pretty good, even though Hepburn in her only western seems a little miscast. Lillian Gish is especially fine as Mother, and Charles Bickford is also good as the grizzly Jeb, on crutches that symbolically look to be made out of rifle butts. Joseph Wiseman overacts (as usual) as the loopy Kelsey, while John Saxon's Indian horse tamer seems to just vanish partway through the film. A very young-looking Doug McClure has a much larger role than his billing way down in the cast list would suggest.

    While The Unforgiven is not one of the great westerns, it has its moments and is worth a look.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Despite not looking so good at the very start of the film, this transfer is a reasonable one. It is sharp without being razor sharp. There is a good level of detail , but I felt that the transfer was not from first-generation materials. Colour is adequate though not rich and not always completely realistic, as sometimes it looks faded. Shadow detail is good, as are black levels.

    The only film to video artefact of any note is some mild edge enhancement, most noticeable on objects in the background.

    Film artefacts are relatively few, although there are many flecks and some dirt in the opening moments.

    Optional English subtitles are provided, in readable and timely white text that matches the dialogue well.

    The film is presented on an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change placed at 60:33, during a short scene without dialogue and is only mildly disruptive as a result.

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


    The default audio track is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue is generally clear, but the whole audio transfer seems constricted and not as forward as would be desirable. There is some minor distortion and a lack of vibrancy to the sound, as though it were recorded in a different acoustic to that we see on screen.

    The music score is by Dmitri Tiomkin and is quite disappointing. I think part of the reason is the recording, which was made in Italy with a full orchestra. The best analogy I can give for the acoustics of the soundtrack is that if the dialogue seems to be within my lounge room, the music sounds like it is coming from the bathroom. The score itself I found distracting, with lush orchestral music in inappropriate places, and often not appropriate in style to the action on the screen. The composer incorporates some traditional tunes, such as John Brown's Body.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer (4:19)

    The trailer presents some of the highlights of the film. The visual quality is not unlike that of the feature, but it has a lot more film artefacts. It is presented in 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

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

    Judging by the reviews, the US Region 1 and the UK Region 2 seem to be identical to the Region 4.


    A reasonable western, and though not one of the best of the genre, worth seeing at least once. Whether you would want to own it is a matter of taste.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is disappointing.

    The sole extra is a trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, October 22, 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.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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