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John Huston
Paul Newman, Victoria Principal, Ned Beatty
Writing Credits:
John Milius

In Vinegaroon, Texas, former outlaw Roy Bean appoints himself the judge for the region and dispenses his brand of justice as he sees fit.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 7/17/2018

• Trailer


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The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean [Blu-Ray] (1972)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 24, 2018)

For the first time, Hollywood legends Paul Newman and John Huston joined forces for 1972’s The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean. Set at the end of the 19th century, outlaw Roy Bean (Newman) arrives in remote Vinegarroon Texas.

A realm known for general lawlessness, Bean sets himself up as the local judge. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t renounce his past, so Bean resorts to his own off-beat form of “justice”.

Newman devoted a decent chunk of his career to anti-heroes such as his roles in Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This makes Bean another in that string, one with a pretty obvious nod back toward Sundance.

If you watch the film’s trailer, you’ll probably expect the same kind of romanticized fable found in Sundance, as the promo stretches hard to create similarities. Heck, it even heavily features a sappy pop song that sounds a lot like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” and pairs it with visuals that remind us of the Sundance’s famous bike-ride scene.

From the film’s start, though, Life actively distances itself from the gauzy, friendly tone of Sundance. Its first scene takes us to one of the nastiest saloons committed to celluloid, complete with an obese prostitute who gets a sponge bath in the middle of the room.

Based on this, I got the impression Life would bring us an anti-Western in addition to its anti-hero, and to a decent degree, it does. Much of Life seems like a parody of Westerns, one that accentuates the unreality of the genre.

In addition to the grimy saloon, we get a mix of violent escapades that stretch the bounds of reality. For instance, when Roy shoots an intruder, the dead man winds up with an enormous, exaggerated hole in his midriff. This shot would feel at home in a Sam Raimi movie.

And then there’s the scene that uses “Marmalade, Molasses and Honey”, the aforementioned sappy pop song. In perhaps the movie’s most obvious moment of mockery, it subverts the Sundance bike-ride to show Roy and his mistress (Victoria Principal) as they frolic with a bear.

I could practically hear Huston cackle with glee due to the way this sequence subverts Sundance’s famed musical bit. Add to this a stellar cast that also includes folks like Ned Beatty, Roddy McDowall, Ava Gardner, Anthony Perkins and many others and Life manages to create a movie that’s never worse than watchable.

Unfortunately, all that talent – including Huston and screenwriter John Milius – sets up expectations for something better than what Life can deliver. While interesting in bursts, the movie loses steam due to the general lack of real narrative movement.

Much of Life feels episodic. Though it does follow an overall arc of sorts, the movie doesn’t trace that path in an especially compelling way.

It also takes a big left turn late in the film that I don’t think works. To avoid spoilers, I won’t articulate what happens, but after a fairly languid pace, the last act of Life packs far too much time passage into far too small a space, and it makes the finale less satisfying.

Any film with Paul Newman as a degenerate outlaw can’t be too bad, and Life does work acceptably well most of the time. Still, with the potential involved, it winds up as a mild disappointment.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus D-

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a more than competent presentation.

Sharpness seemed inconsistent but usually solid. Most of the movie displayed positive delineation, but occasional elements appeared somewhat soft.

These usually appeared during wide shots, and some of this felt stylistic, as the project seemed to prefer a slightly gauzy feel. Nonetheless, the majority of the flick boasted fairly good clarity.

No issues with jaggies or moiré effects occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. I detected no signs of digital noise reduction, as the movie maintained a good natural sense of grain. Source flaws were non-existent across this clean presentation.

With its fairly natural palette, Life boasted nice colors. These rarely excelled, but they consistently looked full and rich within the somewhat sandy, arid setting.

Blacks were deep and dense, but shadows could be a bit up and down. Some low-light sequences displayed good clarity, while others seemed a little dense. Despite some drawbacks, I mostly thought the film looked fine.

Given the movie’s scope, you shouldn’t expect much from its DTS-HD monaural soundtrack. Speech became the dominant factor, and that side of the mix sounded fine. Lines occasionally appeared a bit thick, but they usually showed good distinctiveness.

Music offered acceptably good range given the project’s age, and effects seemed reasonably concise and accurate. Nothing here stood out as memorable, so I thought this track was pretty average for its age.

The disc includes the film’s trailer but lacks any other extras.

An odd mix of parody and sincerity, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean gets by on sheer star power alone. As a narrative, though, it tends to feel random and less the coherent. The Blu-ray provides generally good picture with adequate audio and minimal supplements. Life feels watchable but spotty.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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