HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
HTS Overall Score:78
I have a huge soft spot for westerns. I’ll watch the good old classics starring Eastwood, Wayne, Van Cleef, Marvin and the rest, but I also really enjoy many modern westerns. The myth and legends of the old west are just as invigorating and inspiring as the human desire for adventures in the great beyond. It used to be that the old west WAS like outer space. A whole new area, full of adventures and mystery ripe for the picking. Cowboys and Indians, rough and ready outlaws and the thrill of being a town hero, all in the rusty, dusty west. “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” happens to be one of the finest John Wayne and John Ford productions, and is probably one of THE best westerns ever made as well. Tightly contained in a couple of locations, it tells story of corruption, greed, fear and mutual respect for one another in a soft spoken sort of way. The Blu-ray itself looks and sounds fantastic, but still can’t eclipse the wonders of a new perfect western.
The movie beings with the end of the movie. Senator Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) and his wife, Hallie Stoddard (Vera Miles) come riding into the quiet little town of Shinbone for the funeral of one Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). Harangued by the local news editor, Senator Stoddard tells the tale of how he came to now Tom Doniphon and became the man who was known as the man who shot Liberty Valance.
Years ago, Ransom came to Shinbone with nothing but a few bucks and the clothes on his back. Just outside of the town, he was assaulted and robbed, along with several other passengers, by the outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Found unconscious by Tom Doniphon, the bruised and battered young lawyer earns his medical care by working for the local bed and breakfast, run by his soon to be wife, Hallie. It doesn’t take 5 minutes before we see that Tom and Ransom are complete opposites. Ransom is a dude lawyer, bent on bringing in Liberty Valance for the crime’s he’s committed, while Doniphon just chuckles at the man’s naiveté, and leaves him to his stewing.
Ransom’s desire to bring Valance to justice seems to be halted by the inactivity of the fat, lazy sheriff Appleyard (voiced by Andy Devince, who you may recognize as the voice of Friar Tuck in Disney’s animated “Robin Hood”). Stuck watching Liberty Valance come in and harass the good people of Shinbone, Ransom’s passivity and nonviolent attitude finally comes to an end. He’s tried every avenue and sometimes it seems that violence has to be used to subdue violence. Meeting Liberty in a duel in the street, the outclassed lawyer is just about dispatched to the afterlife, when Valance makes a stupid mistake and Ransom Stoddard’s lucky bullet finds its mark.
Now that the town of Shinbone is free of Liberty Valance, Ransom is a hero, and the last remnants of resistance from Hallie is worn down, leaving her head over heels in love with the dude. This shatters Tom Doniphon, who has stood in the background, pining over Hallie these long years. Burning his home done, and trying to end his one life, the only thing that saves him is the man who destroyed his dreams of marriage. Ransom soon leaves to become a representative for the upcoming statehood of the territory, which leaves us coming back full circle to the beginning of our tale.
“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is a masterpiece. A film about two opposing ideologues whose different ideals meet in a clash of morals and emotions. Ransom is a an idealistic lawyer, unskilled in the rough ways of the west, hoping to change the place with only the law. His final acquiescence to the rules and laws of a different culture are met with a heavy heart, taking no joy in the killing that he has to do in order to free the town. Doniphon is cynical in the ways of the west, but idealistic and hopeful in that Hallie is bound to be his wife. He’s happy, glowing and confident in that fact, until this all comes crashing down around him, leaving him with some serious soul searching to do. Despite this opposition of views, their painful experiences leave the two men with an uncanny bond. The two men, who literally HATED each other at the beginning, has taken some life lessons from the other, and adapted, changing into who they needed to be rather than who they were.
John Ford’s masterful directing is one of the best parts of the film. There is no wasted time, even at a full 2 hour and 3 minute run time. Every minute of characterization is needed to fulfill the end goal, and the film speeds by at a breakneck pace, despite the slower parts of the film. Before you know it we’re back full circle, with the end of the movie meeting the beginning as the surviving members of the experience band together to show respect to a part of their own.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=55746[/img]“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is another one instance of Warner taking the international disc already released and just putting it in American packaging. Thankfully that is a good thing, as the International release of “Liberty Valance” is simply fantastic. Clean and clear of artifacts, it shows a nice thin layer of grain, over a beautiful black and white image. Shades of grey and black are immaculate, showing off fantastic detail in all scenes. You can even see the wig that Jimmy Stewart wears at the beginning of the film and the individual combed hairs that make it up with the utmost clarity. There are no signs of debris, damage or other signs of wear and tear, leading me to believe that there was some sort of restoration that went on behind the scenes and out of the public eye. At the very least a new master was struck sometime in the last handful of years before the release. “Liberty Valance” has always looked rather good, but this Blu-ray knocks the DVD straight out of the water in all aspects.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=55754[/img]As with the foreign release, there is a plethora of audio options to enjoy in several languages, with the main two being a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track as well as lossy Dolby Digital Mono track containing the original mix. The mono and 5.1 both have their advantages, especially among the purists, but I really enjoyed the TrueHD 5.1 experience. It has a full and rich tone to it, with some great blending of the audio into the surrounds. Ambient noises filter in through the back of the room, and there is even a few moments of solid LFE. Vocals are crisp and clean, but I did notice some slight background hiss or noise in some of the outdoor sequences, most likely associated with the recording style used. While I would have loved to see the Mono track in lossless to preserve the original audio, the mono track is almost as excellent as the 5.1 track, with solid effects and good vocal localization. You really can’t go wrong with either if you so choose.
“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is probably one of the greatest westerns ever made, and easily one of the very best that John Ford has ever directed. The blending of Wayne and Stewart is flawless, and the storyline is relevant even in today’s society, decades later. Audio and video are both great to excellent, but the lack of extras is a tad disappointing. It’s not a deal breaker considering how great the audio and video are and the low price, but a few would have been nice. Highly recommended.
Starring: John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Vera Miles
Directed by: John Ford
Written by: James Warner Bellah, Willis Goldbeck
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English Mono (original audio) DD 1.0, French, German, Italian, Spanish DD 2.0
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 123 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 13th 2015
Buy The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
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