Immersed in Blu-ray/DVD

It’s Western week with Criterion offering 3:10 to Yuma and Jubal from Delmer Daves on Blu-ray and A Big Hand for the Little Lady coming to DVD from the Warner Archive Collection.

3:10 to Yuma/Jubal (The Criterion Collection)

The psychological Western kicked off with Pursued in 1947 and progressed with the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart cycle beginning with Winchester ’73. In the middle of this noirification was Delmer Daves’ collaboration with Glenn Ford. Ford brilliantly played against type in Yuma as a cool and calculating baddie taken prisoner for a stagecoach holdup and guarded by rancher Van Heflin, who’s desperate for money during a drought. As French critic/director Bertrand Tavernier noted, Yuma is “a magnificent parable of liberty.” Both men possess a certain decency, but Ford has been driven over the edge to a darker place with supreme confidence and tries to drag the haunted Heflin down to his level by bribing him. He witnesses Heflin’s disintegrating marriage and yet there’s an emotional void in his life. Their kinship is fascinating amid the claustrophobic black-and-white surroundings.  The loneliness is palpable and transcendent, according to Kent Jones’ intelligent essay, Curious Distances. The 4K digital master is gorgeous.

By contrast, the earlier Jubal, shot in beautiful color and CinemaScope, features Ford as the haunted hero: “a lost soul looking for spiritual solace.” Ford finds a kindred spirit in rancher Ernest Borgnine but is at odds with Rod Steiger’s Iago-like ranch hand, who boils over with rage. Yet as Daves’ wrote to Tavernier, he was fascinated by the “simplicity” of these people, embodied by Ford, who “face their problems with a certain soberness, which also allows them to endure storms, blizzards, and stampedes.” This existential tranquility is constantly in conflict with the vastness of nature. In Ford, Daves, found a great alter-ego. Another striking 4K digital master.

A Big Hand for the Little Lady (Warner Archive Collection)

I’ve always had a fondness for this lighthearted, feminist Western from 1966, produced and directed by Fielder Cook. A yearly high-stakes poker game in a small Texas town is disrupted by outsider Henry Fonda, a reformed gambler and homesteader who loses his $4,000 startup stake, but is left with “a winning hand”  that must be played by his determined wife, Joanne Woodward, who knows nothing about poker. It’s fun watching her turn the cynical Jason Robards and Charles Bickford into emotional mush. Looks better than ever. Manufactured on demand and ordered through Warner Archive Collection.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Blu-ray, Clips, Home Entertainment, Movies

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