A reformed outlaw becomes stranded after an aborted train robbery with two other passengers and is forced to rejoin his old outlaw band.
Under the direction of Anthony Mann, best known for the five westerns he made with Jimmy Stewart in the early '50s, and from a screenplay by Reginald Rose ('12 Angry Men') based on the novel "The Border Jumpers" by Will C. Brown, 'Man of the West' stars Gary Cooper as a man unable to escape his past when fate reunites him with his uncle Dock Tobin's (Lee J. Cobb) ruthless outlaw gang. Although the theme is familiar, the film is engaging thanks to a well-plotted script and a cast that creates compelling characters.
Cooper plays Link Jones, but the first two times he meets other characters, he introduces himself with different names. The reason he is doing this could be because he is carrying a lot of money to pay for a schoolteacher to come work in the small town of Good Hope where he resides. His nervousness even seems to manifests itself through his discomfort on his first ever train ride. It's amusing to see a man as big as Cooper, who has won Oscars for his portrayals of heroic characters Sergeant York and Will Kane ('High Noon'), behave so skittish and uncomfortable as the train starts to leave the station.
Three men rob the train, and as a result, Link is knocked out and his money stolen. When he comes to, he finds the train gone and he, con man Sam Beasley (Arthur O'Connell), and saloon singer Billie Ellis (Julie London) 100 miles from nearest town. They come upon an old farmhouse, where it turns out Dock's gang, who hit the train, is hiding. Link has been gone over five years, but in order for the trio to survive, he convinces Dock he wants back in with the gang.
When the gang starts eyeing Billie, Link claims she belongs to him, but that doesn't stop his cousin Coaley (Jack Lord) from forcing her to take off her clothes, which she does because there's a knife at Link's throat. Before things get to far, Dock puts a stop to it. However, the cousins' mutual resentment grows, leading to what is quite possibly the strangest film fight I have ever seen, which is filled with homoerotic overtones. With Link's return to their ranks, Dock decides it's time to rob a big bank in the town of Lassoo, putting Link in the position to try and stop them.
The plot offers a great twist as events out of their control alter Dock's plan and each side must improvise. The script also creates intriguing characters whose actions and motivations are authentic and believable. Mann's direction is very smart, especially the staging and camera framing during the impressive finale, and there's a great shot where two injured men are separated by floorboards. For those who don’t know the film, "Man of the West' is a western well worth watching.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents 'Man of the West' on a 25GB Region A Blu-ray disc in a standard blue case. The discs boot up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements.
The video for 'Man of the West' has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC that is displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The image has a natural grain that increases when set against the sky. There are strong hues, as seen in Billie's pink dress. Blacks are inky and the majority of the time there's outstanding separation, such as in Dock's cabin when a black jacket stands out from the darkness, but later in the cabin Link's hat is swallowed up by it.
There's good depth on display in shots along the town's streets and when the train pulls in from the distance. Great details can be seen from the beginning, such as the creases in Link's tan vest can been seen. Objects also have fine edges that help them stand out. The picture looks clean throughout.
Unfortunately, there are some minor issues with the video. A brief flicker occurs during a dissolve cut. Some long shots are out of focus on the edges of the frame. After Claude shows up, they have a talk about Link, and sunlight appearing over Dock causes a bit of the image to get blown out. As they all pull out of from the farmhouse, there's a brief moment of both flicker and jitter. Also, as train pulls out, a bad edit on the cut from interior to exterior occurs as a result of some lost frames.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English. The track sounds clean, free from wear and defect, but shows its nearly 60-year age with the limited performance from the music and effects. Leigh Harline's sounds compressed, and the gunfire is merely satisfactory as both play within a narrow dynamic range. The dialogue is clear and understandable.
Under the direction of Anthony Mann, 'Man of the West' stars Gary Cooper as a man unable to escape his past. Although the theme is familiar, the film is engaging thanks to a well-plotted script and a cast that creates compelling characters.While the A/V aspects aren't ideal for high definition and the lack of extras are disappointing, I am recommending 'Man of the West' based on the quality of the film alone.