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The Man from Laramie: The Limited Edition Series Blu-ray Review

The Man from Laramie (1955) movie poster The Man from Laramie

Theatrical Release: August 31, 1955 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Anthony Mann / Writers: Philip Yordan, Frank Burt (screenplay); Thomas T. Flynn (Saturday Evening Post story)

Cast: James Stewart (Will Lockhart), Arthur Kennedy (Vic Hansbro), Donald Crisp (Alec Waggoman), Cathy O'Donnell (Barbara Waggoman), Alex Nicol (Dave Waggoman), Aline MacMahon (Kate Canady), Wallace Ford (Charley O'Leary), Jack Elam (Chris Boldt), John War Eagle (Frank Darrah), James Millican (Tom Quigby), Gregg Barton (Fritz), Boyd Stockman (Spud Oxton), Frank DeKova (Padre)

Buy The Man from Laramie on Blu-ray exclusively at Screen Archives

At a time when it wasn't considered important or necessary, James Stewart believed in variety. In his nearly forty years as a leading man, the actor starred in a wide array of motion pictures: comedies and dramas for Frank Capra,
thrillers for Alfred Hitchcock, romance, war, and action movies for many other filmmakers.

For director Anthony Mann, Stewart primarily made Westerns. Five of their eight shared credits belonged to that genre. With the possible exception of Winchester '73, their first collaboration, the films are not among the best-known or most-loved works in Stewart's filmography, although that is testament to him boasting perhaps the strongest résumé of any film actor, not his Mann films being subpar. All but two of them reside in the respectable 7-8 range by average user rating on IMDb.

The Man from Laramie, the eighth and final partnership of the actor and director, is a 1955 western that recently made its Blu-ray premiere from Twilight Time. The film stars Stewart as Will Lockhart, a retired captain of the U.S. Cavalry who now makes his living in freight transport. As the title indicates, Lockhart hails from Laramie, though he doesn't consider that or anywhere else his home. He rides into the desert town of Coronado, New Mexico to deliver three wagons worth of goods to Miss Barbara Waggoman (Cathy O'Donnell), a shopkeeper who's itching to leave Coronado.

In "The Man from Laramie", Will Lockhart (James Stewart) arrives in Coronado, New Mexico, prepared to bring the man responsible for his brother's death to justice.

Barbara is the niece of Alec Waggoman (Donald Crisp), the aging, powerful land owner of the massive Barb Ranch. Will gets acquainted with the Barb when he is confronted for gathering salt from a lagoon that Barbara has told him is free for the taking. Though Will is willing to pay for what he has acquired, Alec's hot-headed son Dave (Alex Nicol) instead orders that his wagons are turned over and burned and his mules killed, a seemingly extreme punishment for trespassing.

Upon learning of the incident, Alec offers to pay Will $600 to cover his losses. Still, Alec and his men make it abundantly clear that they want Will to leave town as soon as possible. The only Coronado resident showing Will any hospitality is Kate Canady (Aline MacMahon), an old cattle rancher who has been butting heads with Alec for 28 years. She would like to hire Will to take over her ranch, one of the few that haven't been swallowed up by the Barb.

Alec's reasons for wanting Will to leave are personal. He's been haunted by a frequently recurring dream of a tall, lean man like Will killing his son. Will would seem to have a motive after Dave draws on Will, gets his hand shot and has his men hold Will to return the favor. But Dave is not the real threat, the man that Will has come to Coronado to kill. That would be the person who armed the fierce Apache Indians with repeating rifles and led to the massacre of twelve U.S. cavalrymen including Will's own younger brother.

Landowner Alec Waggoman (Donald Crisp) intends to pay Will for his troubles and send him on his way. Will Lockhart (Jimmy Stewart) gets a taste of Coronado justice in the form of "a hand for a hand."

The Man from Laramie employs the very wide 2.55:1 aspect ratio of CinemaScope, a product of Hollywood's mid-'50s shift
from the squarish Academy Ratio to wider dimensions. Its compositions have their appeal as does the period production design, but the film isn't too interested in dazzling you visually. Its top priority is to engage you with its narrative, a mystery it solves at its end, long after it has allowed you to know the truth.

Like most of Stewart's characters, Will Lockhart is inherently good. So good, that when he finally aims to make good on the film's tagline -- "He came a thousand miles to kill a man he'd never seen" -- you doubt that he has what it takes to dole out that kind of justice, even in brotherly vengeance. Stewart is the cast's standout, his wholesome values distinguishing him as an outsider in this unwelcoming West where in mere days he is twice suspected of murder.

Another asset to the cast is Crisp as the salty old man whose eyes are failing him and whose life of land accumulation leaves him fearing for his family. The other actors supply the notes needed, but nothing more. They include Arthur Kennedy as Barbara's beau and Alec's trusted second in command and the wild-eyed Jack Elam in a brief, ambiguous part.

The Man from Laramie suffers from some methodical pacing. It checks in at 102 minutes, but feels much longer with the way it plods along. The film's 1950s sensibilities ensure it doesn't age as well as what today stands as the genre's benchmarks, Sergio Leone's captivating 1960s spaghetti westerns. On the other hand, Laramie can withstand comparisons to John Wayne fare from the same era, though Wayne's westerns were a much bigger draw at the time.

Adapted from Thomas T. Flynn's popular story in a 1954 issue of The Saturday Morning Post (novelized shortly after), Columbia Pictures' Laramie grossed $3.3 million in theaters, which placed it 29th among 1955 releases. It received no accolades, but did nothing to slow down Stewart, who was soon to reteam with Hitchcock on two additional hits and to collaborate fruitfully with the likes of Billy Wilder and Otto Preminger.

As usual, Twilight Time has produced 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray, which it makes available exclusively at ScreenArchives.com.

The Man from Laramie: The Limited Edition Series Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Screen Archives Blu-ray Disc Details

2.55:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English), 2.0 DTS-HD MA (Effects and Music)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: June 10, 2014
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
List Price: $29.95
Blue Keepcase
Still available on DVD ($14.99 SRP; February 8, 2000) and on Amazon Instant Video
Previously released on VHS (June 28, 1994)

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Man from Laramie is presented in 2.55:1, which according to the packaging is the first time that has happened since its original theatrical release (Sony's 2000 DVD apparently cropped it to the more commonplace 2.35:1). As it typically is on Twilight Time Blu-rays, the picture quality is very good. The video is clean, sharp, and vibrant throughout. Scenes that should be dark, like those in which characters are in shadows, are. Momentary lapses occur in transition shots, as dissolves lack the clarity of the shots on either side of them. A few other shots also show some imperfections, like grain standing out in the sky once or twice. On the whole, though, for a nearly 60-year-old film, this looks great and undoubtedly better than what standard definition afforded it.

The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack also satisfies. Probably a minor upgrade from the DVD's Dolby 4.0 surround track, the remix keeps dialogue crisp and effects lively without offering much in the way of directionality. English SDH subtitles are gladly included.

Jimmy Stewart addresses the camera at the beginning of The Man from Laramie's original theatrical trailer. The Man from Laramie's basic Blu-ray menu is adapted from the cover art.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Man from Laramie is accompanied by two original previews, each presented in HD.

A teaser (0:58) provides a basic premise, while the full trailer (2:16) is initially hosted by Stewart, whose past triumphs (and not just the ones you'd expect) it celebrates.

The other bonus feature is a standard Twilight Time inclusion: an isolated music and effects track. Presented in 2.0 DTS-HD master audio, this alternate soundtrack gives us everything but the dialogue, which is already pretty scarce much of the time. It's probably not something you'd listen to in full, but who can object to having the option to do that?

Another standard for the label is the inclusion of a navigable Twilight Time catalogue, which provides covers, release dates, and availability for all of the company's Blu-rays released over the past three years. If you page through it slowly enough to not get accidentally kicked back to the top menu, you may be driven mad by the swish and drum sound effects that accompany your every move.

That static, silent top menu recycles the cover art. While the Blu-ray doesn't let you set bookmarks, it more importantly does allow you to resume unfinished playback.

The final extra is found within the otherwise standard blue keepcase. It's an 8-page staple-bound booklet consisting primarily of an essay from resident film historian Julie Kirgo which sees Shakespeare in the film's narrative and celebrates the characterizations and scenery.

Is Will Lockhart really prepared to kill Vic Hansbro (Arthur Kennedy) at the conclusion of "The Man from Laramie"?

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Man from Laramie is a serviceable but not quite spectacular western which benefits from having Jimmy Stewart as its leading man. Twilight Time's Blu-ray delivers a sturdy feature presentation and a few appreciated touches. It's not quite a dream come true for fans, but it undoubtedly stands as this 1950s movie's best disc to date.

Buy The Man from Laramie exclusively at screenarchives.com

Related Reviews:
Westerns on Blu-ray: McLintock! • Hondo • 3:10 to Yuma • Once Upon a Time in the West • My Name Is Nobody
Jimmy Stewart: Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation • It's a Wonderful Life | Arthur Kennedy: Fantastic Voyage • Lawrence of Arabia
Donald Crisp: The Uninvited • Pollyanna • Greyfriars Bobby | Cathy O'Donnell: The Best Years of Our Lives
1950s: Cinerama Holiday • All That Heaven Allows • From Here to Eternity • To Catch a Thief • The Killing

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Reviewed June 18, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1955 Columbia Pictures and 2014 Twilight Time.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.