Zane Grey-West of the Pecos/Nevada (Double Pack 1) (1944)

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Released 16-Aug-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Menu Animation & Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1944
Running Time 127:48
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5 Directed By Edward Killy
Studio
Distributor
C&C Television Corp
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Robert Mitchum
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Paul Sawtell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Ever heard of Zane Grey? He was a rather prolific novelist, writing Westerns. In the 1940s, a number of his novels were turned into movies. These weren't high-budget efforts. I suspect that they were made as supporting features, shown before the main movie - the original "B" movies. One of the reasons I suspect this is because they run for just over an hour. As was the norm for the time, they were made in black-and-white and in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 (called the Academy ratio). They lose very little being cropped to 1.33:1 for display on TV.

    Zane Grey's novels are drawn on the romantic version of the "Old West", where "men were Real Men, and women were glad of it", or something like that. Don't expect to find a lot of doubt or soul-searching in his heroes - they know what's right, and do it. Oh, and don't expect complex bad guys, either - they are simply greedy: for money, or power, or both That's not to say that I dislike this - I don't mind it, as long as we all accept it as escapist fantasy.

    Force Video is bringing these movies out in double-packs, probably because they're only about an hour long - two in one pack is better value.

    The two movies on this disc are West Of The Pecos (1945 - 66:01 minutes) and Nevada (1944 - 61:47 minutes). Both star Robert Mitchum, although Nevada gives his credit as "Introducing Bob Mitchum". Both are directed by Edward Killy, and feature much the same crew. Robert Mitchum plays pretty much the same character in both (different name, though), with the same side-kick - Chito, who is half-Mexican, half-Irish (don't ask).

    I should say that I found it a bit odd to see Robert Mitchum as the "handsome hero" - he has very little chin, and I'd have cast him as a weak-willed or spineless character. Even so, he does quite a good job.

    West Of The Pecos is the tale of a woman and her father, who come "west of the Pecos river" to take charge of the ranch her grandfather left many years before. They are used to Chicago, and law and order, and they discover that there are no police in Texas. The only pretence of justice is provided by a group of vigilantes, and they aren't quite what they seem. They lay the blame for the murder of a stagecoach guard on Pecos Smith (Mitchum), who has, in the meantime, taken on the job of protecting the woman and her father.

    Nevada follows Mitchum, his sidekick, and a friend, who win $7000 gambling and run for it, chased by the men running the gambling joint. Unfortunately for Mitchum, he is checking a dead body on the trail when a posse turns up and grabs him, thinking he killed the man. Things are made worse when the $7000 is discovered on him - that's the amount the dead man was carrying when killed. Interestingly, they refer to paper money as "yellowbacks" - obviously predecessors to today's "greenbacks". They make it clear that paper money was not widely used, with gold coin being the more common currency.

    These movies are filled with Western clichés - when a posse is in pursuit of someone, the riding is shown sped up, for example. That's not a bad thing - it can be rather pleasant to see the original version so you can better appreciate the parodies. The hero is always falsely accused. Guns are amazingly accurate and inaccurate - a man can be shot with a single bullet from a pistol at a range of over 100m, or he can survive (unscathed!) a fusillade from tens of guns at a distance of a few metres. Some of the stunt work is appalling, and back projection is used extensively to give us close-ups during horse riding or wagon driving. One cliché I could happily have lived without was  the "moral" at the end of the movie. Bear in mind that these movies were made while the US was involved in the last stages of World War II, and the film industry felt a need to justify its existence - having a moral at the end of the movie was probably unavoidable.

    An interesting note - the bad guys in West Of The Pecos are led by the Sawtell brothers, and the music in both movies is by Paul Sawtell - I don't know if that is accidental or deliberate.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is not high art. It was not intended to last this long - it was ephemeral, intended as a minor entertainment before the main feature. I feel kinda privileged to be able to see this material now; considering its age (over 50 years on a medium as fragile as film), and the way it would have been stored, I'm surprised at how well preserved it is.

    These movies are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and are not 16x9 enhanced. That's very close to the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio.

    The image is soft, but there's no visible edge enhancement. There's reasonable shadow detail, particularly given that the contrast between black and white is somewhat limited. There seems to be some low-level noise, I think, but it is difficult to judge because of the film artefacts.

    There are fewer film artefacts than I feared, but there are still plenty to be seen. Most of them are small, transitory, and non-distracting. One or two are quite major - there are points in both movies where it looks like a frame has been singed in a projector. It is quite clear that both films were sourced from display prints - you can see reel-change markings. There are no MPEG artefacts, so it looks like the encoding was done well, despite the quality of the source material.

    Colour? One - grey. These films are in shades of grey, with no true white, and no true black.



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

Audio

    There is a single soundtrack present on this DVD; English in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue is almost always clear and comprehensible - I even understood the sentences in Spanish and French (there's one or two of each). I didn't notice any audio sync glitches, but I have to say that I wasn't looking too hard - I was in a forgiving mood with these movies because I was feeling a bit nostalgic watching them. These movies come from a less complicated time.

    The score is absolutely standard for a Western of this era - you will recognise every clichéd note, every piece of standard phrasing. That's good - we wouldn't want the music to break the mould, now would we?

    This is a mono soundtrack. My subwoofer slept through it. The surrounds stayed silent. We're talking about a central (point source) soundtrack here. 



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

Extras

    There are no extras. At the end of the movie, a brief advertisement for some of the other double-Westerns in the series is presented. That's it.

Menu

    The menu is unusual, and I didn't realise that it was the menu immediately. After a couple of distributor logos, and copyright statements we get to a segment of film that looks like it has been run through one of those PhotoShop filters - the "watercolour" one. The names of the two movies are shown, and this turns out to be the menu where you choose which movie you want to watch. Selecting one leads to a near-duplicate, showing the movie title, and "Scene Selection". Selecting the movie title plays the movie. Not an awful menu system, but not one I'd rate as clear and easy-to-use. 

R4 vs R1

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

    These movies appear to be available in R1 only on VHS. Given that the quality we have on the R4 DVD is no higher than VHS quality, the only clear advantages are that the R4 DVD won't wear out, and doesn't require rewinding... 

Summary

    This is a fair transfer of old source material. Fun to watch, especially if you are interested in the development of movie-making through the years.

    The video quality is adequate, and about as good as it can be without massive restoration of the source material.

    The audio quality is adequate, particularly considering the source material.

    There are no extras, unless you consider one of the films as an extra for the other.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, July 16, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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