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Category:    Home > Reviews > Westerns > The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance + El Dorado (Paramount Centennial Collection DVD Sets)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance + El Dorado (Paramount Centennial Collection DVD Sets)


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



Paramount continues releasing many of their classic films as part of their “Centennial Collection” to DVD, which we are certainly enjoying, although we do wonder when some of these films will emerge to Blu-ray.  Unlike some titles that get recycled in their ‘special editions’ Paramount has been restoring the films as well, mostly improving the quality by putting the film on a single disc and the supplements on the second disc included, which helps on the compression for both video and audio.  Here we have 1967’s El Dorado starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum as well as 1962’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which also starred John Wayne and a superb James Stewart. 


While “The Duke” is in both of these films, the other cast are so dynamite that it never really feels like a so-called John Wayne Western-fest, which is why both of these films have endured heavily over the past 40+ years and still remain strong genre pictures.  Of course both films contrast each other in many respects as well, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a black & white film directed by John Ford and has many of the stylistic trademarks that are associated with Ford and Wayne, but it’s also a widescreen film and marks not only one of Ford’s last films, certainly one of his best later films, but also his last black and white film.  The pairing of Stewart and Wayne was huge at the time, and the film would garner 4 Academy Awards. 


El Dorado is a color film directed by Howard Hawks and is also one of his last films; in fact he only made one film after this.  The film is just as strong and puts the gritty Robert Mitchum with John Wayne for another terrific casting move that makes this film just as memorable.  While both films are true classics of the genre and have survived incredibly well, it’s also evident that Paramount feels that these films deserve good treatment and that goes beyond just the lame stuff that we typically see being used for supplemental material.


Here we have some great extras, but let’s first talk briefly about the technical aspects on these discs.  Both films have been restored heavily and look good, there is no doubt that they have aged in the 40+ years since their release and much of the grain structure is still left intact, which is a good thing, although the prints do have some minor problems in their overall sharpness, they do seem restored of print damage for the most part and still demonstrate good depth and overall fidelity.  The black and white image on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance presented in a anamorphic 1.85 X 1 framing is consistent throughout and shows excellence contrast and brightness ratings to give the film solid whites and deep blacks.  There are moments where the print seems a bit softer than we had hoped, but this is certainly the best version to date and we can only hope that the Blu-ray will offer a sharper image with less compression than here. 


The same can be said of the color print for El Dorado, which has moments of softness, but color fidelity is good and skin tones look well rendered and natural.  Shots with depth look pretty remarkable all things considered and we would love to see how Blu-ray treatment would go for these two films.  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance receives a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in addition to the 1.0 mono mix, which is the only option for El Dorado and it’s interesting that the older film gets the upgraded 5.1 mix, although both are still very monophonic in nature and thin, we expect this from films of this era, but for the most part the fidelity is good enough and dialogue is clear. 


In addition to the restored picture and sound, the real winner for both of these releases are the commentary tracks.  El Dorado features Peter Bogdanovich on a separate track from the one given by Richard Schickel, both of which are good, Bogdanovich is also features on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance who is joined with archival recordings from John Ford, James Stewart, and some other select scene commentary from other cast members.  That film also contains bonus features on disc two, which contain no less than a 7-part featurette that details the making of the film along with it’s stars and all that was involved, this is a terrific production that really puts a great perspective on how big the Westerns were during the time.  El Dorado also contains a bonus disc with a 7-part featurette as well that is just as in depth and makes these two sets worthy of ownership.  There are also some stills, galleries, and other production items including the trailers added, all of which make for a solid release for both films, even if this is the upgraded version until the Blu-rays arrive.



-   Nate Goss


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