Bravo 4K (1959/Warner 4K
Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Tom Mix:
Sky High (1922) + Big
(1929/Undercrank Productions Blu-ray)
Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: X/B Sound: B-/C+ Extras:
C+/D Films: B/C+
it is a dead genre, yet you still see them get made and though most
are really bad and beyond formulaic, such stories did not arrive as a
genre instantly. Before John Ford's Stagecoach (1939) firmly
established them cinematically, such tales were either serial chapter
plays or B-movies, going way back to the beginning of the silent era.
The Great Train Robbery (1905) is often sited as one of the
first and the first-ever narrative film. What you should know is The
genre peaked in the 1950s and ended in all kinds of ways with Michael
Cimino's Heaven's Gate (1980) with any Western directed by
John Ford or Howard Hawks is an important one.
look at restored versions of a few key films in the genre, starting
with Howard Hawks' Rio
(1959) now upgraded and restored for the 100th Anniversary of Warner
Bros. and here in the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format. Many years ago, I
gave a full review of the film when it was issued in the long-defunct
HD-DVD format at this link:
was not a bad release for its time and was also issued on regular
Blu-ray with the same extras. The film holds up enough and has aged
about as expected, with Angie Dickinson the only major surviving
member of the cast. Wayne, controversial as ever, remains very
popular and the market is still huge for new product like this 4K
disc and memorabilia that keeps climbing in value.
on the technical upgrades below, but because Warner had not included
a regular Blu-ray copy in this case, the Richard Schickel/John
Carpenter audio commentary is the only extra here.
1939, most of those B-movie Westerns were usually built around hero
figures, the stars who played them and/or a certain character they
might play. One such actor was Tom Mix, very popular even among
Western fans today. Thanks to lack of preservation, most of his
silent films from 1918 to 1928 are gone forever, barring a few
miraculous discoveries at some point. Two that have survived are
here in solid 2K restorations and worth catching.
(1922, 50 minutes) was key enough to be put into the U.S. National
Film Registry and has Mix's hero battling jewelry smugglers, whose
greed and thieving ways drive them to kidnap the daughter of the man
secretly funding their operations. Having gone too far, a reckoning
is soon due. Great Grand Canyon location shooting and some good
fights, with solid stuntwork for the time make this one worth seeing.
Big Diamond Robbery
(1929, 67 minutes) has the daughter of another rich man living it up
on the family money, but when an expensive necklace is stolen, a
skilled recovery guy (Mix) is called in to get the wealth back and
stop the bad guys. This was his last silent film, luckily survived,
has not been seen for decades and is not bad at all.
course, both have dated 'Hollywood Indians' here and there, but when
they don't show up, both films are a real pleasure to watch.
are sadly no extras, but you can read about Mix's later hit sound
movie serial The
(1935) at this link and hopefully, it will get the same restoration
treatment these shorts got:
for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.85 X 1, HDR (10;
Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Rio
looks really good and though the older Blu-ray/HD-DVD master was not
bad in capturing the
dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor versions of the film as you
would see them in a great 35mm (or even 16mm) print, the advances in
technology bring the film more to life. Yes, I wish this were in
Dolby Vision as there is color and definition still in the original,
surviving camera materials, but this is the best I have ever seen the
film. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix surprised
me by offering some more warmth, a little more detail and more
naturalism than the lossy track on the old HD-DVD. Sadly not a
stereo film in its time, this is as good as this film will ever
1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white with tinting, digital High
Definition image transfers on both Tom
films can show the age of the materials used, but the 2K scans are
impressive and the materials are fortunately in better shape than
even I expected. In some shots, these look great! We also get two
new music scores by Ben Model in
lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and the music is solid, as usual for
his heartfelt work, but I just wish the sound was lossless.
Otherwise, a fine double feature worth a look.