True Grit (1969)

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Released 4-Jul-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (3:27)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1969
Running Time 122:47
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (91:48) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Henry Hathaway

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring John Wayne
Glen Campbell
Kim Darby
Jeremy Slate
Robert Duvall
Strother Martin
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Elmer Bernstein

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English 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

    "Fill your hands you son of a b****".

    Come on, if you like movies then you have to like one of the true classics, starring one of the greatest stars of all time and containing one of the classic lines of cinema. Note that I did not say greatest actor - it is well known that The Duke was not a great actor. What he was though was one of the great screen presences of all time, a commanding figure that just oozed star by his mere presence. No fancy airs or other crap here - just a great star, secure in his ability and adored by millions of fans the world over. His range might have been a tad limited but when the encyclopaedia of Westerns is written, John Wayne will forever rank high in the lexicon. If John Wayne was the quintessential western star, then the quintessential western film has to be True Grit. There is no doubt in my mind that True Grit is a great western, and a classic film in every way. It brought together every clichéd aspect of the genre, mixed the whole together and added the star of the genre for good measure. It is the film that gave John Wayne his only Oscar and by golly did he deserve it, even if the vote was probably more of a sympathy vote for a great trouper rather than for a scintillating performance. Mind you, I would argue until the cows come home that this is arguably The Duke's finest moment in film.

    I would hate to think how many times I have seen the film, but for me True Grit is one of those classic films that I simply never tire of watching. Funnily enough though, this is the very first time I have seen it in all its widescreen glory, and glory it indeed is. Take one rather trite story mixing all the obligatory clichés together with a hefty dose of fun, cast one of the great stars of all time to head a cast that features two newcomers in the two other main roles and stick the whole thing out in some magnificent scenery and you have the guts of True Grit. More is the pity that it was not shot in a super-widescreen format rather than the usual 1.85:1 widescreen format, for the scenery grandeur would have been a more impressive backdrop to the film. As it is, director Henry Hathaway took the elements given him and melded together a classic film, one that will be enjoyed throughout the ages.

    The story of True Grit, like that of many a western, is pretty simple. Frank Ross (John Pickard) has headed to town for a bit of horse trading with one of the ranch hands, Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey). After a dispute over the legitimacy of a card game in which Tom has lost a few dollars, the combination of booze and agro sees Tom gun down his employer and steal his money and horse. Cue the vengeful daughter Mattie (Kim Darby), who is determined to find and bring to justice the killer of her father. She arrives in Fort Smith for a few eye-opening pieces of reality and ends up searching for a man of "true grit" with the ability to head into Indian Territory to capture Tom Chaney. That man of "true grit" is none other than Deputy U.S. Marshall Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn (John Wayne). I will not bore you with the details as to why it is necessary to get a Federal Marshall to go into Indian Territory, just accept the need. Quite why it has to be that Deputy U.S. Marshall is what makes the story work so well. Rarely making permanent relationships with anyone and especially not with a dollar, Rooster Cogburn has a more lasting relationship with alcohol. So exactly why does he succumb to the charms of this tomboyish young girl who is determined enough to want to see Tom Chaney brought to justice at the inconvenience of actually travelling with Rooster to find him? It also turns out that Tom Chaney is not only being pursued by Mattie Ross - a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Glen Campbell) is also chasing the man. As the apparent reward dollars for capturing the man seem to be going higher, Rooster is all the more determined to find the man. This determination is made all the sweeter for the fact that Tom Chaney is apparently running with gang led by a nemesis of Rooster's known as Lucky Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall). Rewards from all corners and the chance to finally nail Ned Pepper and his men? Too much attraction for Rooster to ignore methinks.

    The film of course climaxes with the immortal shoot-out during which Rooster utters the immortal line quoted above. If you don't know the scene, you don't know westerns and you are no fan of classic films. Despite what some people think, the scene is only the climax of the film and not the end of the film - you would be surprised how many people I know think it is the end of the film.

    This is a western with everything - but it all begins and ends with the Duke. If there is one film that John Wayne was born to star in, it is True Grit. If there is one part that John Wayne was born to play, it was Rooster Cogburn. That says about all you need to know about the contribution of John Wayne to this film. It was one of his defining screen moments and one for which he deserved that elusive Oscar. His entire performance is rollicking good fun and he played the part with aplomb. So defining a moment is his performance that he in some eyes was the film and many have carped on about the second rate cast he had to work with, especially Glen Campbell. Well, Glen Campbell is not Robert DeNiro that is for sure but what everyone seems to forget about the role of LaBoeuf is the fact that he was supposed to be pretty much be the set-up man for Rooster, and in that context Glen Campbell did a good job in my view.

    Kim Darby unfortunately never got another role as good as Mattie Ross and to a very large extent she is known for this film alone. Why she never quite scaled the heights of this role remains something of a mystery as she was brilliant here. I have always considered her performance as one of the very best supporting roles in any John Wayne film - which might not sound much but let's face it, John Wayne films were about one person only. Filling out minor roles were the ilk of Robert Duvall, in something quite different for him, and the original 1960s wild man Dennis Hopper. The ever-reliable Strother Martin makes his almost obligatory appearance in a western, this time in something of a different role for him. No matter where you look here, there is plenty of quality in the acting. Add into the mix some terrific scenery, extremely well captured by the great cinematography, and the whole things comes together as a western of distinction.

    Indeed, it might well be said on occasions that the story sometimes gets lost in that scenery. One can only presume that this was the intent of director Henry Hathaway. Not the most instantly recognisable directorial name ever, but a solid director as demonstrated by this film.

    Forget the clichés, forget everything really and just sit back and watch a great star doing what he did best - entertaining the matinee crowds. John Wayne is Rooster Cogburn and this is the proof of how big a star the man was. So sit back, fill your hands with your favourite snack and enjoy a genuine classic film, one that you can enjoy over and over again. This is what movies are all about!

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Transfer Quality


    Despite the number of times I have seen the film, this is once again one of those films that I have never seen in widescreen. Thankfully, Paramount have done a pretty fair job of the transfer. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, very close to the theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, and the transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is not an absolutely terrific transfer and does not bear comparison with recent transfers but considering that the film is over thirty years old is much more than serviceable. Definition is good throughout, albeit not exactly razor sharp - although edge enhancement is evident here and there (such as at 102:20). It is good enough though, and way better than we were used to in those dim, dark days pre-DVD. Clarity is good throughout, with no real indication of any grain problems. Shadow detail could have been a little better but that is a reflection of the age of the film.

    On occasions I have complained about the quality of early Technicolor films. This is not an early Technicolor film but there are just a few quality issues here and there. First up is the fact that the red opening credits are somewhat oversaturated and display some colour bleed. It should be pointed out that this may be a problem with S-Video and people using RGB or component connections may well not suffer from the problem (as I repeatedly get told by people using such connections). Then during the film there are a couple of places where there seems to be just a slight variation in the consistency of the colour. Nothing really bothersome but nonetheless there. Broadly speaking, exteriors are slightly undersaturated in tone, whilst interiors are rich-toned with just a hint of oversaturation. Otherwise, I have no complaints whatsoever regarding the colour palette, which is at times quite vibrant.

    There did not appear to be any serious MPEG artefacts in the transfer, although there is some evidence of pixelization at 53:25. There were instances of aliasing in the transfer; nothing really disturbing but just a little noticeable, such as at 79:45 on the collar. As we should expect from a transfer of this vintage, there are quite a few film artefacts floating around the picture, some a tad noticeable but not really distracting.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change coming at 91:48. It is at a scene change and whilst noticeable is not really disruptive to the film.

    There are twenty four subtitle options on this DVD - you can bet I have not checked them all out. The English and English for the Hearing Impaired efforts are frankly quite average. They miss a fair chunk of dialogue at times and certainly change the phrasing of the dialogue too much for my taste. There is also a glitch in the English subtitles at 10:02 - the sign on the door, which is of course is in English, gets treated to conversion into German subtitles!

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


    There are five soundtracks available on the DVD, all being Dolby Digital 2.0 mono efforts. The language choices are English, German, Spanish, French and Italian. I stuck to the English soundtrack for review purposes.

    The dialogue comes up well in the transfer and is usually clear and easy to understand. There did not seem to be any audio sync problems with the transfer.

    The original music comes from Elmer Bernstein, although it is probably fair to say that the film is being remembered for the theme song from Glen Campbell. The soundtrack is again fairly typical western fare with that slight edge of distinction that Elmer Bernstein is able to bring to a score.

    The sound is simply mono, so there really is nothing much to say about it. Thankfully free from any serious background hiss and clicks and dropouts, this is a purely functional effort and little more. Most of your speakers can be sent on holiday for this film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Not exactly a rip-roaring effort here.


    Static with no audio enhancement. It is 16x9 enhanced though.

Theatrical Trailer (3:27)

    You might just get the idea that John Wayne stars in the film thanks to the trailer! Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is not the best looking effort you will ever see, but is better than nothing.

R4 vs R1

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

    Whilst it has been a while since I watched the Region 1 DVD, as far as I can recollect there is nothing substantially different to the Region 4 release. The transfers are similar and this is basically down to whether you can pick up the Region 1 version any cheaper than the Region 4.


    Another of my classic films, True Grit is a rollicking good ride and thoroughly enjoyable. It brings us John Wayne's finest moment on screen, and that is where the necessity of this film in any collection begins and ends. Whilst it is a little disappointing that the film has not had a full restoration job on it, and that something more extensive in the way of extras are not provided, the bottom line is that I can live without all that just to enjoy the film.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Wednesday, July 03, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Maybe not "THE" classic Western... - Tony R (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)