The Rare Breed (1966)
|Category||Western||Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:12)|
|Year Of Production||1966|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Andrew V. McLaglen|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, during credits|
The Rare Breed is not exactly a Western in the true sense of the genre but it features cowboys and is predominantly set in Texas, so basically near enough is good enough. It is not an especially complicated story but that is hardly the point of the film - this is very much a film for the purpose of showcasing the talents of its two leading actors, the great James Stewart and the beautiful Maureen O'Hara. So if you don't like Westerns, and don't like the two leads, then perhaps you are checking out the wrong review.
The story is set in 1884 and Mrs Martha Evans (Maureen O'Hara) and her daughter Hilary (Juliet Mills) have arrived in America with some cattle - pure bred Herefords, the likes of which have not been seen before in the United States. Their intent is very simple - to introduce the breed to Americans with a view to breeding half breeds of sturdier stuff than the typical American beef cattle of the time, namely the Texas Longhorns. Arriving in St Louis, they sell off the cows and put their prize bull, Vindicator, up for auction. With local meat packer Charles Ellsworth (David Brian) taking a real shine to the recently widowed Martha, you can bet the house on who outbids everyone at the auction of this "muley bull". Ellsworth then arranges for one of his hands, Sam "Bulldog" Burnett (James Stewart), to take the bull back to the Texas ranch of Alexander Bowen (Brian Keith) for whom he was acting at the auction. Given the general feeling about this poll bull amongst local cattlemen, you can bet that Alexander Bowen is not going to be too thrilled when he sees the Hereford. So a rival rancher in John Taylor (Alan Caillou) makes an offer to Bulldog and antes up $1,000 to buy the bull off Ellsworth through Burnett. Burnett then sets off to Texas, via Dodge City, with Vindicator and the two ladies in tow. Things don't go real well on the trip, especially when Hilary finds out about the deal with Taylor, but of course things don't always go according to plan. So Bulldog and the two ladies arrive at Bowen's ranch still with Vindicator in tow. Let's just say that Bowen is more thrilled to see Martha than he is Vindicator, whilst Hilary has already taken a shine to Bowen's son Jamie (Don Galloway) following a run-in with an old sparring partner of Bulldog's in Deke Simons (Jack Elam). So how is the prize stud bull going to fare on the Texas plains with a harsh winter on its way? Well, Alex Bowen thinks he will do all right with Martha. Don't know about Vindicator though...
It is all really simple stuff and proceeds along in a nice easy manner without really taxing the old grey matter none. Precisely what is wrong with that? This was just another in a long line of Westerns that Jimmy Stewart made and the reason why he made so many of them was quite simple - he was good at them and they were well liked by the fans. There is absolutely nothing distinctive about this one at all, other than the two leads (although Juliet Mills adds into the mix rather nicely). In other words, a typical matinee movie, and I am certainly never going to condemn a film for aspiring to being just that - enjoyable entertainment.
It certainly will not be to everyone's taste, but this is the sort of stuff that I readily lap up. Indeed, so much so that when this and five other Westerns were released at the same time (mostly involving James Stewart), they were acquired immediately - the others by the way were Bend Of The River, Shenandoah, Winchester '73, Night Passage and The Duel At Silver Creek. You might guess that I am a fan of the Western... So if the genre is to your taste, then there is certainly no good reason to not add The Rare Breed to your collection - enjoyable stuff that can be picked up at a pretty good price at your local discount department store.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in accordance with the original theatrical ratio, and it is 16x9 enhanced.
The transfer is pretty much what you would expect a forty year old, unrestored film to look like. Sharpness is reasonable enough, although the digital medium ensures that the effects work is fairly obvious. Definition is okay, and detail is pretty good all things considered. Grain is quite an issue here at times, notably during some of the "night time" shots. There does not, however, appear to be any low level noise issues. Shadow detail is reasonable but could have been a bit better.
The colours are fairly well handled, albeit with just a hint of inconsistency here and there (the end credits for instance start as a fairly bright yellow and then become quite a faded yellow). On the whole, whilst lacking a little in the depth of the tones, the whole thing looks pretty good and really is quite believable. There are no issues with oversaturation or colour bleed, even if a little dark and lacking in contrast at times.
There no significant issues with MPEG artefacting in the transfer, although the age of the transfer is highlighted by the slight loss of resolution in movement. Unfortunately, there is a very consistent problem throughout the transfer with aliasing, which becomes quite obvious in every movement as well as in background details. Most of the time it is not that bad, but occasionally there is absolutely no way you will avoid noticing it. Add into the mix some moiré artefacting in clothing (such as at 5:30, 85:37 and 85:53) and this is where the whole thing gets a tad disappointing. Film artefacts are quite obvious at times - in the night time scene around 15:45 it is a bit difficult to not notice the white specks - and there is some print damage at 71:20, where it looks like some of the film emulsion has been lifted by slight contact with something.
This is a single layered, single sided DVD so there is no layer change to worry about.
There is just the sole subtitle option on the DVD, being an English for the Hearing Impaired effort. They are good with very few problems noted.
There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 effort.
The dialogue comes up pretty well in the transfer and is easy enough to understand. There did not seem to be any significant issues with audio sync in the transfer, although once or twice it did seem to be ever so slightly adrift. Perhaps this is indicative of some slightly sloppy ADR work rather than genuine audio sync problems.
The original music score is provided by Johnny Williams. We know him slightly better nowadays as just John Williams, and this is one of his earlier efforts in film. I cannot say it is that distinctive but it certainly seems a bit better than what you would generally expect for this sort of film. There are just a few odd hints at the sort of dramatic scoring that he would later become famous for.
The soundtrack is respectable enough with no obvious deficiencies. There are a few little inconsistencies in the sound at times but nothing dramatic, which nicely complements the fact that there is little in the way of hiss here.
|Surround Channel Use|
Nothing much here, which is in accordance with the rest of the DVDs released in the same batch.
Nothing special here, basically repeating the slick cover, but it looks okay.
Theatrical Trailer (2:12)
Nothing special here either, being very average in quality with poor colour definition and rather grainy in nature. The presentation is in 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced and with average Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Whilst I have not been able to locate any authoritative reviews of the Region 1 release, I do know that it has the same basic presentation that we have here in Region 4 (and Region 2, since that is the same DVD as the Region 4). Since it would be hard to imagine there being anything substantially better in terms of transfers on the Region 1 release, sight unseen this would have to be considered an equal result - so probably get whichever region is the cheapest.
It does not reach any great cinematic heights but this is quintessential matinee stuff that is simply an enjoyable way of spending ninety minutes. As long as you are not expecting miracles from the transfer, this offers up decent viewing with a decent presentation on a decently priced DVD.
|DVD||Denon DVD-1600, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Aconda 9381 ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||built in. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|