Zane Grey-Wanderer of the Wasteland/Code of the West (Double Pack 2) (1945)

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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 1945
Running Time 123:49
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5 Directed By Edward Killy
Wallace Grissell
William Berke
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring James Warren
Raymond Burr
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, Mostly Cigars
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    There is a theory that the Western has been replaced in modern cinema by Science Fiction. While this is not strictly true, the number of modern Westerns is certainly dwindling. Both genres cover the same territory - tales of high adventure and exploration of unknown frontiers, the latter of which helps to explain the decline of the Western. While the American West depicted in most Westerns was a purely romantic notion, it was at least close enough to the truth for people to believe it, but as time and technology progressed, that similarity was totally erased. It is now easier to believe in shooting an alien slime with a phaser than a gunslinger with a golden heart battling it out against a corrupt Sheriff. Which brings me to the material presented on this DVD - two Westerns adapted to the screen from novels by Zane Grey. Both movies feature James Warren in the lead roles, while a number of other actors also cross between the two movies. To make matters even more confusing, the only character that is in both movies is played by a different actor in each. The movies on offer are:

    Wanderer Of The Wasteland: Adam Larey's (James Warren) parents were killed by bandits when he was a mere boy. On that day he swore revenge on the man who committed the crime. The movie follows the events that occur when Larey eventually finds the man he has vowed to kill. Matters, however, are complicated by his feelings for the man's nephew. This is a good story that features just about the silliest declaration of love that I've ever seen in a movie.

    Code Of The West: James Warren again takes the lead role here, this time as Bob Wade, a man intent on setting up a ranch in Arizona. Unfortunately for Bob, the local hotelier/financier/sleazebag (career choices were more interesting back in the old West), would prefer to do anything illegally possible to stop him. This is a much sillier movie than Wanderer, where the good guys are dressed in white and the bad guys in black, and the bad guys will do pretty much any thing other than prevent Bob from bringing them down.

    All-in-all, these movies were surprising enjoyable. I have never been the world's biggest fan of Westerns, but I found myself drawn into the stories. Certainly, they won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're looking for a tale of High Adventure in the old West, then these could be just the thing.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer presented here can only be described as hideous, but it is not the fault of the DVD production. Putting these films onto DVD is rather like putting a lawnmower engine into a Porsche chassis - the package is fine but the performance is terrible. About the only positive aspect is that very little in the way of new artefacts were introduced when these movies were transferred to DVD. Unfortunately, the movies themselves look as if the reels were stored in vats of acid for the last fifty years.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This is close enough to the films' original aspect ratios of 1.37:1.

    The sharpness of the transfer is very good given the poor quality of the source material, as there is a good level of definition and clarity when the source gives the transfer a chance. Shadow detail is another matter, with the darker scenes virtually disappearing into sheets of black where it is difficult to make out any characters, let alone which ones they are. The worst example of this occurs between 22:52-23:25 in Wanderer Of The Wasteland where it is all but impossible to see anything. There is no low level noise present in this transfer.

    Both the features presented here are black and white (despite coloured images on the cover of the packaging).

    There is a considerable amount of posterization present in this transfer, although it is not helped by the constant level of grain. It is particularly visible on the faces of characters and over ground. There is no aliasing present in the transfer at all. Considerable wobble is present during the credit sequences, but there is a good chance that this is present in the source material. As for film artefacts, this presentation has the lot. Black and white artefacts, and artefacts of different shapes and sizes (including some that take up a good third of the frame) are constantly present in both features, although Code Of The West is affected to a much lesser degree.

    There are no subtitles present on this disc.

    This disc is a single layer disc, and as such there is no layer transition.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is again limited by the source, leaving a transfer that you certainly won't be using to show off your new surround sound amplifier.

    There is only one audio track for each of these features, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. Interestingly enough, this track has been recorded at the higher bitrate of 224 Kb/s, which really seems quite pointless.

    Dialogue is muffled and often hard to understand thanks to the combination of thick accents and poor sound. There are a number of audio drop-outs that affect dialogue as well. General pops and clicks cover the soundtrack with a similar generality to film artefacts in the video, and these also serve to make dialogue harder to understand.

    Audio sync is also problematic in this transfer, with a large amount of dialogue being out of sync. The level to which the dialogue was out ranged from subtle to obvious, but the age of the features and obvious degradation of both sound and video source may also have played a role here.

    The musical score by Paul Sawtell is typical Western fare, being of the orchestral variety, and featuring soaring violins for the theme, and strong use of horns for the action sequences. The transition from sequences with no score to sequences with score is not anywhere near as subtle as in most modern movies, and the effect can be quite jarring with the music suddenly announcing its presence. Despite this, and despite the overall low quality of the soundtrack, the music was quite effective, and once the shock of its introduction or cessation were overcome, it easily moved into the background.

    Being a mono sound track, there was no surround activity whatsoever.

    The subwoofer was not called into use at all with very little in the way of bass in the soundtrack.

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

Extras

    The only "Extra" on this disc is a short video sequence running through a list of stills for other titles in the the Zane Grey series.

Menu

    The menu is quite nicely done, with sequences of the movie played behind the menu choices to the theme music. The sequences have been altered to look somewhat like charcoal drawings, and this is a nice touch. The menu opens up to a choice of feature, and then the choice to either play the movie or go to the scene list. One amusing side note is that the sub-menu for Wanderer Of The Wasteland contains an audio dropout in the theme music played underneath it.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Actually, this disc is a Region 1 version of this film, as it is coded for every Region except 6, which I assume means that the Chinese don't watch Westerns. It is not available outside of Australia at this point, and with the quality of the source material, I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Summary


    Wanderer Of The Wasteland and Code Of The West are in every sense of the word traditional Westerns, presented on a DVD that tries very hard, but just can't hide the appalling quality of the source material.

    The video quality is bad, being covered in film artefacts and having terrible shadow detail. The only saving grace is that there is little in the way of MPEG artefacts.

    The audio quality is equally bad, if not worse, than the video quality. Dialogue is out of sync and is often hard to understand, and the soundtrack is filled with constant pops and clicks.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Tuesday, July 17, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayRCA 80cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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