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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > TV > Crime > Melodrama > Character Study > Nostalgia > Colt 45: The Complete Series (1957 - 1960/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/McCabe & Mrs. Miller 4K (1971/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/The Shootist (1976/Paramount/MVD/Arrow Blu-ray)

Colt 45: The Complete Series (1957 - 1960/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/McCabe & Mrs. Miller 4K (1971/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/The Shootist (1976/Paramount/MVD/Arrow Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B Sound: C+/C+ & C/B- Extras: D/B/B- Main Programs: C+/A-/B-

PLEASE NOTE: The Colt 45: The Complete Series Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

The Western as a genre finally saw its original end by the end of the 1970s. Here are three releases that show us how and why...

Colt 45: The Complete Series (1957 - 1960) is one of dozens of Western TV series that thrived for years as TV reached a broader audience and lasted into the color TV era enough, but so many were in black and white and this was one of them. Wayde Preston is Christopher Colt, who sports and uses the gun of the title, which is faster, slicker and does not need pre-preparation to open fire with. No wadding or gunpowder needed, but many apparently do not know this yet.

Loosely based on the movie of the same name, Colt works for the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps, going to different towns and encountering all kinds of people, good, bad and very bad. They are not bad, consistent and some future names turn up as guest stars including Adam West, Troy Donahue, Leonard Nimoy, Dan Blocker, Robert Conrad, Angie Dickinson, Alan Hale Jr. and even baseball legend Sandy Colfax. Each run about a half-hour and the teleplays are efficient enough and this was at a time before all dramas were an hour an episode.

By Season Three, Preston left the show and Donald May stepped in to play his cousin Sam Colt Jr., much the way Roger Moore landed up showing up a Beau Maverick, the cousin of James Garner's wildly successful title character on that show. The shows still looked good and played about as well, but the show soon folded.

There are sadly no extras.

Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller 4K (1971) is one of the most brutal, honest, graphic, vivid westerns ever made, produced in the face of the renaissance Sergio Leone's 'spaghetti westerns' caused and the explosion of Professional Westerns had given audiences, this was a film determined to be as period-accurate and goes a step further than similar classics like Johnny Guitar and its spiritual cousin Once Upon A Time In The West to expose myths of the Old West.

Warren Beatty is McCabe, a great gunslinger and gambler who things that the church town he has arrived in also wants a gambling casino/bar/brothel that can make him a fortune and set him for life while enjoying it to the full. Julie Christie is high class 'lady of the night' Mrs. Miller who meets McCabe and thinks they can form a winning business relationship. She can bring in more women like her to his new business and they can really cash in, even if the local church objects.

However, instead of strong resistance from any organized church people, but form a big mining company who already has more money and wants even more. At this point, the duo's new business is thriving, so much so that when they make an offer, McCabe turns them down. As we've seen in more recent history, the big company does not take no for an answer and happier than he has been in a long time in his life and maybe the happiest under the circumstances and the world he has lived in for decades, he decides to go for broke and resist no matter what. The result is an amazing all-around character study of the title characters, country, The West and everyone around them.

This makes him yet another one of the genius director Altman's great anti-heroes, a far from perfect guy who lands up in a situation that is greater than he can control but one that he will not allow to change him under any circumstances. Incredible then and more powerful than ever now, it remains one of the greatest films in the history of the now-dead genre and like Altman's best films, which is most of them, it is a true classic. Christie is more than his equal and the supporting cast including William Devane, Rene Auberjonois, John Schuck, Shelley Duvall, Bert Remsen, Michael Murphy, Keith Carradine and an uncredited Terence Hill among so many who impress here, watching McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a real experience like all the great classic films and you just do not watch it, you live it, like you are going back in time, like you are experiencing the dirt and mortality yourself, like seeing through a time portal into the past, so palpable and realistic it is. Versus the so-phony pseudo-Westerns we have been suffering through since the 1980s and especially the last few decades, it is a remedy to all of them.

Altman was on a roll at this point, logging in eight classics in a row before returning to the West in his comedy Buffalo Bill and The Indians (1976) to attack and expose myths of The West in a different way, I guess he was finishing what he started here, even if only so successfully. McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a must-see for all serious film fans and now in 4K totally restored, this is the best way to see it since three-strip Technicolor print were struck for its original release back in 1971. See it!!!

Extras include a paper pullout that has some illustrations, tech info an an essay by novelist and critic Nathaniel Rich, while the discs add...

A Making-Of documentary, featuring members of the cast and crew

A Feature-Length Audio Commentary Track from 2002 featuring director Robert Altman and producer David Foster

Conversation about the film and Altman's career between film historians Cari Beauchamp and Rick Jewell

Featurette from the film's 1970 production

Art Directors Guild Film Society Q&A from 1999 with production designer Leon Ericksen

Excerpts from archival interviews with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond

Gallery of stills from the set by photographer Steve Schapiro

Excerpts from two 1971 episodes of The Dick Cavett Show featuring Altman and film critic Pauline Kael

and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Don Siegel's The Shootist (1976) was the last film in the long, usually western or war genre (or both) career of John Wayne, mirroring his long career and the end of it, using vintage footage of him as he plays a character with a long history like himself and became ironic when James Stewart (playing his doctor) tells him he has cancer. It even became a public service announcement and Wayne would die of cancer only a few years later. It was a big deal at the time.

Lauren Bacall plays his woman from the past, Ron Howard (who is really good here) plays the young guy learning the ropes and capacities of his gun, with a great supporting cast that includes Hugh O'Brian, Richard Boone, Harry Morgan, Gregg Palmer, John Carradine, Sheree North, Scatman Crothers and a young Melanie Scott Thomas as the genre's biggest star was at the end of his road. The genre itself was finished by 1980.

Wayne had already tried to do more contemporary action with Brannigan and McQ, but he is more in his element in this film as it takes on the tone of a revenge western and this does have its moments, even if you are not a fan of him or even his politics. A fitting final film, some of it may be predictable and others will consider that comforting and not necessarily formulaic, but a key film for all involved including veteran director Siegel, who was always an underrated director. Even if you are not a fan of most or anyone here involved, this is a film all serious film fans should see once and see one of the last major works with major figures from Classical Hollywood involved. Nice it has been restored and taken care of so well.

Extras include some limited edition content and (per the press release) it all includes...

  • The Last Day, a new visual essay by film critic David Cairns

  • A NEW Feature-Length Audio Commentary Track by filmmaker and critic Howard S. Berger

  • A Man-Making Moment, a new interview with Western author C. Courtney Joyner

  • Laments of the West, a new appreciation of Elmer Bernstein's score by film historian and composer Neil Brand

  • Contemplating John Wayne: The Death of a Cowboy, a new visual essay by filmmaker and critic Scout Tafoya

  • The Shootist: The Legend Lives On, archival featurette

  • Image gallery

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Juan Esteban Rodriguez

  • Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Juan Esteban Rodriguez

  • Six postcard-sized lobby card reproductions

  • Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing by film critic Philip Kemp

  • and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 2.35 X 1, Ultra High Definition image on McCabe & Mrs. Miller 4K is of a film whose color 35mm camera negative was 'flashed' for almost the entirety of the film, so it does not have or need any HDR, including Dolby Vision. The last 20 minutes have regular color, while the earlier parts are made so the studio could not change the look, plus Altman and Director of Photography Vilmos Zsigmond, A.S.C., came up with a look of the Western in the past realistically which was more than just showing images that had browned. The result is a semi-documentary look and Zsigmond would try this kind of thing one more time with Michael Cimino on Heaven's Gate in 1980, but the results were mixed. The regular 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on the regular Blu-ray is not bad, but you can still see qualities in the 4K intended from the filming that Blu-ray cannot capture.

The lossless PCM 1.0 Mono sound on the 4K is from the original 35mm magnetic monophonic soundmaster and sounds fine, though I wish it were 2.0 Mono. The lossless PCM 1.0 Mono sound on the regular Blu-ray is somehow a little weaker for some reason, so it is less impressive and harder to hear.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on all the Colt 45 episodes are from 4K scans and they all look shockingly good, making it the second-best-looking black and white TV Western next to Have Gun, Will Travel and rarely shows the age of the materials used, so it becomes a real pleasure to watch, even if it very episodic and a little formulaic. Maybe some other monochromatic TV shows in the genre could look as good if they get the same care and treatment, but it will be hard to match this. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes on each show show their age, but sound as good as they pretty much ever will.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on The Shootist is from a solid 4K scan that rarely shows the age of the materials used, making this as good as I have ever seen the film and I never saw it in 35mm. Director of Photography Bruce Surtees, A.S.C., lensed many early films for Clint Eastwood as well as films like The Outfit, Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes, Big Wednesday, Lenny and the first Beverly Hills Cop knew how to handle making impactful images and that helps the film hold up. The lossless PCM 1.0 Mono is good for what it is and its age with everything clear enough including the Elmer Bernstein score, but again, two-channel mono would have been a little better. The combination is fine and will surprise more than a few people.

To order the Colt 45 Warner Archive Blu-ray set, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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