Ride a Crooked Trail (1958)

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Released 14-Sep-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Main Menu Audio-Music from score.
Theatrical Trailer-(2:07)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1958
Running Time 87:39
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jesse Hibbs
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Audie Murphy
Gia Scala
Walter Matthau
Henry Silva
Joanna Moore
Eddie Little
Mary Field
Leo Gordon
Mort Mills
Frank Chase
Bill Walker
Case Click
RPI $14.95 Music Stanley Wilson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format ?
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     It will be good news to lovers of classic films that Bounty Films have added three more interesting titles to their catalogue, each originally from a major Hollywood studio. From 20th Century Fox comes the 1967 comedy The Flim-Flam Man starring George C. Scott, Sue Lyon and Michael Sarrazin, delivered by Bounty in a sparkling anamorphic transfer very close to the original CinemaScope ratio of 2.35:1. Then we have the 1954 Alan Ladd western Drum Beat, originally released by Warner Brothers at Sydney's marvellous Hoyts Plaza, in a disappointing anamorphic transfer which trims the sides from the CinemaScope image. Finally, from Universal, comes the Audie Murphy 1958 western Ride a Crooked Trail, at almost the original full CinemScope width, in a very satisfying anamorphic transfer of a western with a bit of a difference.

     From a story by George Bruce (Alan Ladd's 1946 starrer Two Years before the Mast and Solomon and Sheba), the screenplay by Borden Chase (Bend of the River), father of Barrie Chase, wastes not one second in getting into the action. Immediately after the credits we are thrown into the middle of a horseback pursuit between two western characters. This sequence is beautifully shot and edited and gets the film off to a flying start, literally. The leading horseman's steed is shot and the rider, who is Audie Murphy, clambers along a cliff edge high above a river. The second rider dismounts and goes after him, but the pursuer loses his footing and plunges to his death on the rocks below. We cut to a town nearby where the local law keeper, Judge KyleWalter Matthau, is vetting newcomers to the town. Murphy rides up and the judge, mistakenly, thinks he is Jim Noonan, a famous Marshall. We soon learn that "Noonan" is actually Joe Maybe, a bank robber, and that the pursuer in the film's opening was in fact the ill-fated Marshall. "Noonan" is pressured by the judge into remaining in the town as the new Marshall, and narrowly escapes being unmasked by an old flame, Tessa Milotte (Gia Scala) when she arrives by riverboat. Tessa is forced to assume the role of the Marshall’s wife, the couple given a house as part of the Marshall’s employment package. The two old lovers settle into their life of new respectability, while Tessa is actually checking out the town's bank in advance of the arrival of her current lover, Sam Teeler (Henry Silva), who has plans to relieve the town's bank of its contents. Add to the plot an orphan boy, ward of the judge, who takes up residence with the "Marshall" and his wife, a scruffy dog and various colourful townsfolk, respectable and otherwise. The wily judge becomes increasingly suspicious of his new Marshall and everything comes to a head with the arrival of Teeler. Will we see Joe/Jim return to his old unlawful ways, or steadfastly defend the town? Will Tessa choose the excitement and passion of Teeler - "Sam Teeler buys my clothes - I don't like another man to mess them" - or will she succumb to the more sedate respectability of life as the Marshall’s wife? What about the boy? The dog? The judge? All questions are neatly answered in less than ninety minutes of an entertaining, colourful yarn.

     The adroit director at the helm was Jesse Hibbs, who directed a string of movies for Universal in the 50s, including To Hell and Back and Walk the Proud Land, also Audie Murphy vehicles, before turning to TV and directing episodes of Gunsmoke, Laramie and Perry Mason among others.Hibbs obviously worked well with his star, who here seems more relaxed than in some of his other screen appearances. Murphy was, of course, the United States' most decorated soldier of World War II, receiving, amongst other awards, the Congressional Medal of Honor. His film career totalled forty-four films, his life ending at age forty-six in a plane crash. In Ride a Crooked Trail, Murphy is relaxed and likeable, handling all scenes well and apparently buoyed by the well chosen, capable supporting cast. Gia Scala, at that time a promising young actress starring the year before in Don't Go Near the Water with Glenn Ford, is exotically beautiful and provides a most attractive sparring dialogue partner for Murphy. Ironically, Gia Scala died the year after Audie Murphy at the age of thirty-eight. As the judge we have Walter Matthau, the same year as he appeared in King Creole with Elvis Presley. Here Matthau is in character mode, yet to have settled into the irascible comedy persona that had yet to bring such acclaim and popularity. As the villain of the piece, Sam Teeler, we have Henry Silva, this appearance coming between The Bravados starring Gregory Peck and Green Mansions with Anthony Perkins and Audrey Hepburn. Silva is always an arresting presence on screen and here he makes Teeler both threatening and suitably sexy in his scenes with Miss Scala. Also welcome is the appearance of the beautiful Joanna Moore (Walk on the Wild Side and The Andy Griffith Show), mother of Tatum and Griffin O'Neal, as a town saloon girl. Joanna Moore's career crumbled after her divorce from Ryan O'Neal, and it is sad to see this lovely young woman on the screen and to be aware of how sad her life became.

     Sometimes the peripherals of an old movie are more interesting than the film itself. Regardless, Ride a Crooked Trail stands on its own merits as entertaining western fare. Perhaps a bit light on action for some, the dialogue is smart and often quite funny, the performances are solid, the setting is just a bit different and the production values are high. This town looks real and solid, unlike the digital weirdness in the True Grit remake. Heck, here we even get to see a real paddle steamer and a real train in the one movie. This is a trail well worth riding.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     This is a very pleasing anamorphic presentation from Bounty of a western more than half a century old. The original 1958 CinemScope ratio of the film was 2.35:1, and this transfer is virtually accurate.

     The print used is in excellent condition, with not one frame of apparent damage. Cue marks have been removed, and there is no flecking, scratching or debris of any kind. It is great to see the full CinemaScope width, the camera capturing the excellent production values. The town looks authentic and real, and the riverboat looks fantastic. Using Eastman Color by Pathe, colours are rich and full, the generally muted rustic browns and greys accentuated by the splashes of vibrant colours, particularly in some of the female costumes. The image is sharp with a moderate amount of grain. Video artefacts are very rare, the only instances noted being some aliasing on finely lined costumes (32:36 and 59:47). Blacks are deep and solid, and the shadow detail in the night street scenes is exceptionally good.

     There are no subtitles.

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

Audio

    There is one audio stream, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoded at 192 Kbps. The original mono soundtrack, the norm for Universal CinemaScope movies, is in excellent condition.

     There is no hiss or crackle, and no pops or dropouts. Dialogue is perfectly clear, without any sync problems.

     There is considerable depth in the action scenes, and Stanley Wilson's attractive western score sounds full and rich, despite the mono limitations. Wilson is uncredited, with only Joseph Gershenson's name appearing for Music Supervision.

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

Extras

     There is nothing on this disc apart from the film, its Main Menu and a trailer.

Main Menu

A coloured still with melancholy theme over.

Trailer

    There are some minor film artefacts, mainly flecking. The trailer is well constructed and does a typical 1950s sell of the movie. It is presented in a 4x3 transfer at the ratio of 2.00:1.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    This title is available in Region 1 as one of four Universal movies in the Audie Murphy Western Collection. The other titles are : Sierra (1950), Drums Across the River (1953) and Ride Clear of Diablo (1954).

Summary

     This is one of the best Audie Murphy westerns. The story is a little different, the town is a little different and the characters are interesting. The star has a solid supporting cast and the rest of the production values are extremely high. To top it all off, Bounty have presented the film in an extremely solid CinemaScope ratio transfer that should delight fans of 50's scope films. There are no extras, but it is enough to have this entertaining western in such a handsome presentation.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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