How the West Was Won (1962) (NTSC)

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Released 30-Jul-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1962
Running Time 164:27 (Case: 155)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (89:88) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By John Ford
Henry Hathaway
George Marshall
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Carroll Baker
Lee J. Cobb
Henry Fonda
Carolyn Jones
Karl Malden
Gregory Peck
George Peppard
Debbie Reynolds
James Stewart
Eli Wallach
John Wayne
Richard Widmark
Robert Preston
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Alfred Newman
Ken Darby


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.70:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Spanish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Here we are yet again with another NTSC disk. This unfortunately is a situation that is becoming more prevalent of late. If you don't have an NTSC capable display device or a DVD player capable of NTSC to PAL conversion then you might just as well stop reading here as you won't be able to watch this disc.

    This is one of relatively few movies that were shot using the Cinerama process before this process was overtaken by simpler widescreen processes such as Panavision. Cinerama films were shot using 3 cameras arranged horizontally to capture a panoramic image and the resulting 3 films strips were then projected onto a large curved screen to reproduce the complete image. I believe there are still a couple of cinemas operating that are capable of projecting such films in their original format. The main drawback of this approach is that there are noticeable seams where the 3 projected images meet. These are quite naturally very evident on the DVD, although you do have to admire the filmmakers who certainly did their best, where possible, to hide the seams with dark coloured objects such as trees or posts or anything else that was suitable.

    How The West Was Won is really 5 stories which are loosely connected: "The River", "The Plains" and "The Outlaws" all directed by Henry Hathaway, "The Civil War" directed by John Ford, and "The Railroad" directed by George Marshall. The cast is an all-star effort and features: James Stewart as Linus Rawlings the mountain man, Henry Fonda as Jethro Stewart the plainsman, the settlers are Karl Malden, Agnes Moorehead, Carroll Baker and Debbie Reynolds as Zebulon, Rebecca, Eve and Lillith Prescott, Walter Brennan is the river pirate, Eli Wallach as Charlie Grant the outlaw, Lee J. Cobb as Marshall Lou Ramsey, Gregory Peck as Cleeve Van Valen the gambler, the soldiers are John Wayne as General Sherman and Henry Morgan as Ulysses S. Grant, George Peppard as Sheriff Zeb Rawlings, Richard Widmark as Mike King the railway man and many, many more.

    This is quite a long movie with a running time of  164:27 so you may be happy to know that there's an Intermission at 84:15 in case you need to make a cuppa or have a toilet break.

    How The West Was Won was nominated for 8 Academy Awards in 1962 and proceeded to win those for Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen. Not surprising there were no nominations for the cast as this is very much an ensemble piece which effectively prevents any particular actor standing out.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Unfortunately, the quality of this transfer is a long way from where it could have been. This is partly due to the lack of 16x9 enhancement but to be fair it is also due to the state of the source materials which are crying out for restoration.

    This transfer has been presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and it is unfortunately not 16x9 enhanced. This is pretty close to its theatrical ratio of 2.59:1

    As expected, the reduced resolution of the NTSC picture compared to PAL, as well as the lack of 16x9 enhancement all contributes to a picture which is not nearly as sharp as it could have been. In a mistaken attempt to compensate for this, a degree of edge enhancement has been applied. While this is noticeable at times, it thankfully does not reach a distracting level. Shadow detail was acceptable. There was no low level noise.

    Overall, the colour had the dated appearance typical of films of this age. The worst problem here is that there is a noticeable difference in colour between the three film elements that form the complete image. This unfortunately tends to draw your attention to the seams where the film elements meet.

    MPEG artefacts were limited to some occasional posterization. This was most noticeable in the sky at 126:22. Film to video artefacts were limited to some aliasing which was mostly minor. In the area of film artefacts, a significant collection is on display. There are reel change marks at 24:54, 55:33, 84:31, 106:58, 124:51, 143:33 and 161:41. Minor film grain is apparent throughout. There is a continuous smattering of small black and white marks plus occasional larger marks. There are also what appears to be tears in the film elements on three occasions: in the central element at 56:54, at 94:59 in the left element and at 126:13 in the right element. Aside from all this, there are several black blobs which appear to be dirt on the camera lens between 7:48 and 8:24 as well as between 159:36 and 159:44.

    Subtitles are provided in English, French and Spanish. I sampled 10 minutes of the English subtitles, which are displayed in large white characters in the black bar at the bottom of the screen, and found them to be perfectly accurate and well timed.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed just after the Intermission, between Chapters 20 and 21, at 89:88. It is perfectly placed and you'd be very unlikely to notice it.

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

Audio

    The audio quality was quite acceptable although it sounded slightly dated. During the quieter moments, some low level hiss and hum can be heard.

    Two audio tracks are provided in French and English. Both Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded. Naturally, I listened to the English track.

    You won't have any trouble following the story as the dialogue was clear at all times, and I didn't notice any particular issues with the audio sync.

    The music composed by Alfred Newman and performed by Dave Guard and The Whiskey Hill Singers complements the various stories very well and you may well find yourself humming the catchy main theme after the movie has ended.

    The dialogue mostly emantes from the centre speaker although the musical score does fill the front soundstage. The rear channels are used only subtly and don't add greatly to the overall sound field. Given that the original sound used 7 discrete channels, according to Widescreen Review, provided directionalised dialogue, it's a great shame that we didn't get at least a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.

    With bass redirected to the subwoofer you will be rewarded with some noticeable, but not house shaking, bass audio when needed for cannon shots and the like.

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

Extras

    The extras consist of a trailer plus a quite reasonable behind the scenes featurette.

Menu

    The menu is presented in a ratio of 1.33:1 and is therefore not 16x9 enhanced. Neither animation nor audio are provided.

Theatrical Trailer (3:06)

    A standard trailer presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 without 16x9 enhancement. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Featurette - Behind The Scenes - The Making of How The West Was Won (15:29)

    This is quite a reasonable little featurette. There's a good description of the Cinerama filming and projection method as well as the typical behind the scenes type of material including lots of facts and figures pertaining to the production.. The most interesting part was an interview with Loren Janes, one of the stuntman, in which he gives us some detailed insight into the stunts he performed. This is supported with behind the scenes film of the stunts being performed and sometimes going wrong. This extra is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. The audio is Dolby Digital 1.0.

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 and Region 1 discs are identical. Why wouldn't they be? After all, ours is just the Region 1 disc recoded as Region 1 and 4. The Region 1 release was accompanied by an 8 page booklet containing production notes and a look at the making of this classic.

Summary

    How The West Was Won is an epic movie depicting at least partly some of the events which contributed to the settlement of the American West. The lack of 16x9 enhancement and the NTSC format, as well as the condition of the source elements prevent the presentation of this story from being the best it could be.

    The video quality could have been much much better.

    The audio quality was good given its age but also could have been better.

    The extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Peter Cole (Surely you've got something better to do than read my bio)
Friday, September 27, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-995
SpeakersFront L&R - B&W DM603, Centre - B&W LCR6, Rear L&R - B&W DM602, Sub - Yamaha YST-SW300

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