The Last Wagon (1956)

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Released 6-Oct-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1956
Running Time 95:03 (Case: 89)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Delmer Daves
Studio
Distributor
20th CENTURY FOX
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Richard Widmark
Felicia Farr
Susan Kohner
Tommy Rettig
Stephanie Griffin
Ray Stricklyn
Nick Adams
Carl Benton Reid
Douglas Kennedy
George Mathews
James Drury
Ken Clark
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $14.95 Music Lionel Newman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English 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 None Smoking Yes, an occasional pipe
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

†††† Arizona Territory 1873. Comanche Todd (Richard Widmark) is a white man who had lived 20 years with the Comanche Indians. But now he is a condemned murderer, captured by Sheriff Bull Harper (George Mathews) and being taken in to be hanged. When they come across a wagon train of settlers heading west through Apache country led by Colonel Normand (Douglas Kennedy) they join together for mutual protection. Tensions arise when Jenny (Felicia Farr) and her younger brother Billy (Tommy Rettig) object to Harperís brutal treatment of Todd. But the wagon train is attacked by Apaches and there are only a few survivors; Jenny, Billy, half sisters Jolie (Susan Kohner) and Valinda (Stephanie Griffin), young men Clint (Ray Stricklyn) and Ridge (Nick Adams). And Comanche Todd. Now the condemned murderer is the only chance the group of young people have to survive in hostile Indian country and make it back to white civilization and the soldiers.

†††† With Apaches on their trail, Todd takes the group through the aptly named Canyon of Death. As they journey through the rugged, hostile terrain, each member of the party has to come to terms with deep seated prejudices and to learn that a personís actions speak louder than the colour of their skin. As the Apaches close in it becomes a race to get to the soldiers before they are overtaken and killed, but Todd knows, of course, that if he succeeds in saving them it will only be to put a rope around his neck.

†††† The Last Wagon will not be a film that leaves much of an impact although it is not without interest. Filmed on location in Arizona in Cinemascope it looks stunning; the bluffs, valleys, desert and forests are simply spectacular as the landscape dwarfs the humans. We feel exactly how small people are in this vast land. Director Delmer Davis also knows a bit about the western landscapes, his credits including Broken Arrow (1950) and the original 3:10 To Yuma (1957), and here he uses the environment as an extra character. The music score is by Lionel Newman. Although not as well known as his brother Alfred Newman (who won 9 Oscars), he delivers a very 1950s sounding lush score that adds to the epic feel of the film. The actors fare less well; while Richard Widmark gives an athletic and competent performance, none of the rest of the basically unknown cast convince, so that their self realisations are not as interesting as they might be. Indeed, the script probably does them no favours; for while the anti-prejudice message is indeed worthy, here it is heavy handed and unbalances an otherwise straightforward narrative.

†††† In the end, The Last Wagon is worth watching for the spectacular Arizona locations and Widmarkís performance.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† The Last Wagon is presented in 2.35:1, its original ratio, and is16x9 enhanced. For a 54 year old film it looks wonderful, the print doing full justice to the stunning Arizona locations.

†††† The colours are deep and look very natural, with the reds, browns and greens looking great. Brightness occasionally varies slightly but skin tones are natural, blacks solid and shadow detail very good (although all the night scenes in the film were shot in the day, which helped). Sharpness and clarity are on the soft side but were far better than I expected.

†††† There were a few artefacts, but again far fewer than I expected, as well as film grain. However, none of this was distracting and this is a very good print indeed.

†††† There are no subtitles.

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

Audio

†††† Audio is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192. Dialogue was clear and understandable and the effects are acceptable if flat sounding, especially the explosion at the end which really lacked any depth. I did not notice any hiss or distortion. My system directed some music to the surrounds, the sub was not used.

†††† The orchestral score by Lionel Newman came across nicely.

†††† Lip synchronization was occasionally slightly off, evidence of the on location filming.

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

Extras

†††† Absolutely nothing.

R4 vs R1

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

†††† The Region 1 US is a double sided disc with the 2.35:1 version on one side and a cropped, pan and scan version on the other. Extras are Poster, Stills and Behind the Scenes Galleries plus the Theatrical Trailer. The video and audio seem similar to our version with only PAL / NTSC differences. The extras donít appear extensive enough to go beyond the local release, and why would you want to see such a wonderful Cinemascope landscape in cropped 1.33:1?

Summary

†††† In The Last Wagon condemned murderer Richard Widmark must guide the survivors of a wagon train massacre through Apache country, knowing that if he succeeds all he faces is a hanging. Of interest mainly for the spectacular Arizona locations and Widmarkís performance. The video is excellent for a 56 year old film, the audio is fine. There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, December 03, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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