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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Comedy > Satire > Spoof > Musical > War > Drama > WWII > Cat Ballou (1965/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949/RKO)/They Were Expendable (1945/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-rays)

Cat Ballou (1965/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949/RKO)/They Were Expendable (1945/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-rays)

Picture: B/B/B- Sound: B/B-/C+ Extras: B+/C/C- Films: C+

PLEASE NOTE: The Cat Ballou Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last, while She Wore A Yellow Ribbon and They Were Expendable are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Sometimes you can have genres of film you are not a fan of despite being a big fan film. In the case of this writer, westerns and war pictures were never my favorites, but I still have a few I like in each. However, it takes a good bit for me to really like one in either or one that mixes both. These next three films, despite the exclusive way they are being released, are considered key works in their genres, but I think they all have their limits and a little can go a long way in all cases.

Elliott Silverstein's Cat Ballou (1965) is a standout because it was one of the first feature films to handle the western as a comedy. Sure, there was comedy in 'singing cowboy' films and many child-aimed B-movies and Saturday morning serials, but not in serious feature film releases. With the professional western heading towards its peak, comedy as not far behind. From the sending-up of the Columbia Pictures logo in the opening of the film to the colorful, animated opening credits, a pre-controversial Jane Fonda is the title character whose about to shake up a world that is about to have some loopiness of its own.

Lee Marvin has breakthrough work here in dual roles he handles with rare distinction and the supporting cast (Dwayne Hickman, Michael Callan, John Marley, Bruce Cabot, Jay C. Flippen, Arthur Hunnicut, Reginald Denny, et all) get caught up in her scheme to avenge her father's murderers (train company builders) by getting a gang of professionals to avenge him with her leading the charge. Instead, a fiasco follows, including twists, turns and deconstructive comedy with little precedent (TV's hit Maverick being one of the few) including Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole dueting and breaking the fourth wall to sing to the audience comical songs that forward the narrative.

Needless to say, all that is enough to make it worth a look, but if you are not a westerns fan, you might find it trying your patience at times, so make sure you're in the mood for it. This Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray is also loaded with extras, but more on that below.

John Ford's She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) is part of his Calvary Trilogy that includes Fort Apache and Rio Grande, though its kinship to The Searchers is important, offering a superior use of color and takes place around the Centennial of the U.S. itself, battling a 'dangerous Indian tribe' as the last days of his service in the U.S. Calvary wind down, but maybe not as down or easy as he might have hoped for. Having survived the Civil War days, he is a bit bitter (Wayne wore aging make up that worked enough here) and the title refers to his love interest (Joanna Dru) wearing the title item in her hair... for another man who is a mystery to all.

Set in the middle of nowhere, the film is a character study about loyalty, aging and professionalism, though some might argue the latter is an excuse for 'following orders' even when it might not be the best or most legal thing to do. Nevertheless, it is one of Ford and Wayne's more famous films and has a mix of optimism and pessimism that would soon be supplanted by more pessimism in Ford's later films. It looks good and the cast including Ben Johnson, John Agar, Victor McLaughlen, George O'Brien, Arthur Shields, Mildred Natwick, Michael Dugan, Tom Nardini, Chief John Big Tree, Tom Tyler, George Sky Eagle and Harry Carey Jr. is obviously formidable as well as solid casting. However, the screenplay was always my problem with this film, more interested in its narrow narrative than character study, making it one of Ford's oddest films as far as I'm concerned. Nice this superior Blu-ray delivers it all so well so you can judge clearly for yourself.

John Ford's They Were Expendable (1945) is more of an outright pro-American propaganda drama meant to ideologically smash the Axis Powers' drive to victory, playing like a documentary at times battling in the Philippines not long after the horror of the Pearl Harbor attack, can the PT crew of John Wayne, Robert Montgomery, Jack Holt and Ward Bond (et al) pull off an early victory? Donna Reed is the female lead in this obvious gung-ho drama that serves mostly as a time capsule that is sometimes rough to watch (and not just because the copy here is a bit rough) because it is part of a cycle of Hollywood WWII propaganda releases of the time that are in a class of their own, though this is still definitely a war flick.

You also get more than your share of stock footage here, but that's fine too, model work or life-sized props or the real thing no problem. I have to say at 135 minutes, it is a bit long in the tooth, but it is worth a look for historical reasons if nothing else.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Cat and 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image on Ribbon are both originally 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor theatrical releases and the restored copies used for these Blu-ray discs show that off often with few flaws and more than a few demo shot. Director of Photography Winton C. Hoch won the Best Color Cinematography for Ribbon and westerns & TV veteran Jack A. Marta (later on Spielberg's Duel and the last 2 Billy Jack films) more than holds his own on Cat.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on They can show the age of the materials used as expected and can be rough viewing, but this is the best I've seen the film in any form and don't expect it to look much better than on this disc.

All 3 films were theatrical monophonic releases, but Cat was recorded in stereo on the set (the music was stereo in the recording studio, more common at the time) yet (like the Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service, for instance), has been mostly available in mono over the years. The new Blu-ray offers the film in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo lossless mixes that definitely are the best performers here and debut the original sound in the highest possible fidelity. Ribbon and They are offered only in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless presentations that are also about as good as they'll ever sound. With Ribbon originally being an RKO Picture, it means another victory in Warner's massive work to upgrade and save that studio's priceless catalog. Nice!

Extras on all three releases are their respective Original Theatrical Trailers, but Cat adds an Isolated Score Track of music by Frank DeVol, two feature length audio commentary tracks (one with actors/co-stars Michael Callan and Dwayne Hickman, the other equally fine by film historians Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer & Paul Scrabo and two older featurettes: Lee and Pamela: A Romance biographical piece and The Legend of Cat Ballou. Ribbon adds John Ford Home Movies.

To order the Cat Ballou limited edition Blu-ray, buy it and other great exclusives while supplies last at these links:




...and to order either of the Warner Archive Blu-rays, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon and They Were Expendable, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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