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John Ford
John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles
Writing Credits:
James Warner Bellah, Willis Goldbeck

A senator returns to a western town for the funeral of an old friend and tells the story of his origins.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Dolby Vision
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English Dolby Monaural
French Dolby Monaural
German Dolby Monaural
Latin Spanish Dolby Monaural
Spanish Dolby Monaural
Italian Dolby Monaural
Japanese Dolby Monaural
Latin Spanish
Simplified Chinese
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 5/17/2022

• Audio Commentary with Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich
• Selected Scene Commentary
• “The Size of Legends, The Soul of Myth” Documentary
• “Filmmaker Focus” Featurettte
• Trailer
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Paramount Presents Edition) [4K UHD] (1962)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 11, 2022)

Two screen legends united for the first time in 1962’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. This flick paired John Wayne and James Stewart, and threw in director John Ford and other notables to boot.

Set in the 19th century, Senator Ransom Stoddard (Stewart) returns to the frontier town of Shinbone along with his wife Hallie (Vera Miles). Both Senator and Mrs. Stoddard used to live in Shinbone, and they come back for the funeral of their old friend Tom Doniphon (Wayne).

When the local newspapermen demand to know what makes Doniphon’s funeral worthy of a senator’s attention, Stoddard launches into a flashback story and we learn how he came to the town as a young lawyer. Local outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) robs the coach on which Stoddard rides, and when the neophyte barrister protests, Valance nearly beats Stoddard to death.

This incident sets Stoddard on an unusual quest for revenge. He doesn’t want to kill Valance; he wants to jail his assailant.

Stoddard pursues this goal and also becomes close to Doniphon, the man who helps him the most as he tries to halt the menace known as Liberty Valance.

Although both Stewart and Wayne never worked together prior to this flick, it’s interesting to note that Shot was one of two 1962 films in which both appeared. The actors also showed up in How the West Was Won, though they never acted together in that one. West’s story spanned many decades, so the paths of the Wayne and Stewart characters never crossed.

Not only does Shot actively mix Stewart and Wayne, but also it proves more satisfying than the lush but dramatically flat West. The only minor negative I find here comes from the age of a few actors.

While the film never specifies how old its characters are, it seems likely that Stoddard and Hallie are supposed to be in their twenties. Both the 32-year-old Miles and especially the 53-year-old Stewart just seem awfully old for the roles.

That factor requires a bit more suspension of disbelief than one would like. Then-54-year-old Wayne was also too old for his part, but since we don’t see him as an older man and the movie doesn’t make much of his status, the issue becomes less noticeable.

Nonetheless, I’m willing to make that kind of leap for a quality Western like Shot. Regardless of age, the presence of so many talented actors helps make this a strong effort.

I especially like the chemistry between Wayne and Stewart. Both men seem to come from different schools of acting, as the swaggering authority of Wayne and the stammering sputter of Stewart don’t feel like much of a match.

However, the two combine well, and I don’t know if Wayne was ever better. Never the most three-dimensional performer, Wayne seems exceedingly relaxed and comfortable here.

There’s a certain easy charm to his performance that makes him feel more believable than usual. His lack of pomp creates a good connection with Stewart.

Unlike Wayne, we don’t automatically connect Stewart with Westerns. He made quite a few, but the actor’s name doesn’t evoke the genre in the same way Wayne’s does.

Stewart’s Stoddard creates a contrast with Wayne’s Doniphon, as Stewart provides the broader performance of the two. That doesn’t mean he makes Stoddard a cartoon, though, as Stewart tones down the role when necessary, and he gives the part a good sense of everyman humanity.

In the way it neatly combines drama, comedy, action and pathos, Shot reminds me of an earlier John Ford flick: 1939’s classic Stagecoach. That flick was more in the vein of escapist Western fare, though, while Shot comes with a deeper message.

I don’t mean that as criticism of Stagecoach, of course. Indeed, it might be the greatest Western ever made.

But it doesn’t present much of a social message, while Shot clearly comes with an underlying theme. That said, it can become a little tricky to pin down what message the film really wants to convey, especially when we view Shot as part of its era.

With the civil rights era in full swing, one could easily see Stoddard as a Martin Luther King character at first – until he gets so fed up with Valance’s outlaw ways that he goes the Malcolm X route.

Therein lies the mixed message. On one hand, Shot follows a progressive path as the educated Stoddard does so much to embolden and empower the benighted citizens of Shinbone.

However, for all his education and liberal ways, the most important change – Valance’s death – only occurs when Stoddard abandons his quest to jail the outlaw and he takes up arms.

Given earlier Ford/Wayne efforts, the goals of Shot become even more intriguing to explore. 1956’s Searchers came with a somewhat similar message that explored the futility of violence while it also detailed how necessary violence can sometimes be. Both follow their themes in very different ways, but they dig into similar topics.

Of the two, I must say I prefer Shot. For all its plaudits, Searchers has yet to really move me.

On the other hand, I think Shot provides a more engaging exploration of its subject. It also turns into a darned entertaining Western melodrama.

Trivia footnote: most impersonations of Wayne feature his use of the word “pilgrim”. Shot is the flick that originated that signature term for Wayne – and it may well be the only place he used it.

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

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. The Dolby Vision presentation seemed inconsistent and often problematic.

The scan suffered from a few issues, foremost the apparent use of noise reduction to eliminate grain. That would be bad enough, but then those behind this version added artificial grain instead.

Sometimes, as grain levels became oddly erratic. Sometimes the movie lacked any signs of grain at all – despite situations that normally would appear grainy – whereas others came with tons of grain.

And awkward, blobby grain at that. The clunky execution of the artificial grain made its inconsistent usage even more of a distraction.

The noise reduction also dented definition at times. While many shots displayed pretty good delineation, fine detail tended to appear diminished, so the film could seem a bit on the soft side at times. This became another erratic area, as the movie varied from fairly accurate to semi-mushy.

At least I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects. Edge haloes remained absent and no print flaws marred the presentation.

Blacks tended to appear too dark, which left skintones as so dense that it occasionally looked like actors wore blackface. HDR made lighter elements too bright. For instance, slightly sweaty foreheads turned oddly shiny, though contrast generally seemed satisfactory.

Did the 4K Shot become unwatchable? No, and it could sometimes seem fairly attractive.

However, the image often simply didn’t feel like film, as the processed involved could make Shot resemble video with fake grain added. I gave the result a “C” because it remained tolerable, but it disappointed nonetheless.

In addition to the original monaural audio, Shot came with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 remix. As a fan, I’d rather stick with the theatrical audio, but I thought the expanded track worked well.

The soundscape didn’t go crazy with various elements, so it felt like a moderate expansion of the mono mix. Music showed decent stereo spread, and effects broadened to the sides in a convincing manner.

Much of the audio remained focused in the center, but some elements like coaches moved across the front speakers in a nice manner.

The 5.1 remix of Shot didn’t do much with the surrounds. At best, the track used the back speakers to reinforce the music and effects.

I never became aware of anything more active from the rear channels, and that was fine with me. I didn’t think the movie required any more auditory expansion than it boasted.

Audio quality aged well. Though speech occasionally appeared a little thick, the lines usually sounded pretty natural and concise.

Music was reasonably engaging, and effects showed good clarity and definition. Nothing here really impressed, but the results were more than acceptable given the age of the material.

Shot appeared on Blu-ray in 2015, but I never viewed that release. This 4K package includes a newly authored Blu-ray that seems to use the same scan as the 2015 disc, but because I can’t confirm that myself, I can’t say for sure.

As I write this, the 2022 Blu-ray appears only to exist as part of this 4K package, for I see no indications Paramount has it on their release schedule independently. If/when it gets a solo issue, I will review it.

I compared the 2022 Blu-ray with the 4K, and even though they seemed to stem from the same scan, I found the BD to feel more satisfying. The 4K’s flaws seemed less obvious on the Blu-ray, and the absence of HDR gave the BD a more natural feel.

The Blu-ray lacked the shiny foreheads and overly dense blacks of the 4K. The fake grain also stood out less clearly since the Blu-ray lacked the amplified whites of the 4K.

Given that it probably came from the same source, the 2022 Blu-ray doesn’t offer a perfect product. Nonetheless, it feels more satisfying than the 4K since it lacks the HDR that magnifies the scan’s problems.

No extras appear on the 4K disc, but we get some on that included Blu-ray copy. We start with an audio commentary. It combines a running, screen-specific chat from filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich.

This track also includes archival recordings from director John Ford and actor James Stewart. The commentary covers cast and performances, sets and locations, music and visual styles, and elements of the story.

When you look at my thoughts about prior Bogdanovich commentaries, you’ll see that they’re generally not positive. Does the filmmaker improve on that weak track record here?

Unfortunately, no. Bogdanovich presents a presence so low-key that he threatens to vanish into the ether. He rarely shows any spirit as he sleepwalks through the movie.

At least the remarks from Stewart and Ford prove more effective, as those offer some interesting stories and thoughts. Unfortunately, they don’t pop up with great frequency, so we’re usually left with Bogdanovich – when he bothers to talk, since we suffer through more than a few dead spots.

You’ll learn a smattering of decent facts from the chat, so I don’t want to paint it as a disaster. However, it never becomes better than average, and it often seems dull and flat.

More archival material appears during a selected scene commentary. This includes an intro from director’s grandson Dan Ford and provides notes from John Ford, Stewart, and actor Lee Marvin. This collection runs a total of 24 minutes, 14 seconds.

We learn that the younger Ford conducted these interviews in the early 1970s as research for a book. The clips cover cast and performances as well as various aspects of the production and the careers of the participants.

Expect a lot of interesting notes here, though to my surprise, we don’t get a ton of info from John Ford. Since his grandson led these interviews for a book about the director, I thought he’d dominate.

Instead the clips from the actors take up most of the time. All three provide interesting insights, though Marvin’s are probably the best of the bunch.

Next we find a seven-part documentary entitled The Size of Legends, The Soul of Myth. Viewed as a whole, this show runs 51 minutes, 34 seconds as it presents notes from Bogdanovich, Dan Ford, film critic/historian Richard Schickel, John Ford biographer Scott Eyman, Paramount Picture producer AC Lyles, film historian Michael Blake, Lee Marvin’s widow Pamela, and film critic/author Molly Haskell. We also hear from John Ford, James Stewart and Lee Marvin via archival elements.

The program looks at the status of Hollywood in the early 1960s and how these factors affected Shot. We also examine the source story and its adaptation, the flick’s development and John Wayne’s involvement, John Ford’s approach to the subject matter, themes and interpretation, cast and performances, and the flick’s reception.

“Size” gives us a somewhat disjointed look at Shot. While it digs into some interesting subjects, it doesn’t follow a particularly logical and concise path.

It repeats a fair amount of information heard elsewhere, and it doesn’t feel like an especially dynamic take on the material. Oh, it still allows us to learn a reasonable amount about the film, but it never really brings the subject matter to life.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a circa 2022 featurette called Filmmaker Focus. It goes for seven minutes, 37 seconds and includes notes from critic/historian Leonard Maltin.

“Focus” looks at the career of John Ford as well as aspects of the production. Maltin gives us an efficient overview of the movie.

With John Ford behind the camera and both James Stewart and John Wayne in front of it, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance presents a meeting of cinematic giants. Even with all that such a combination promises, Shot lives up to expectations, as it offers a dynamic, dramatic western. The 4K UHD presents good audio along with an inconsistent but acceptably informative set of supplements and erratic visuals. I like the movie but the 4K ends up as a flawed product.

To rate this film visit the John Wayne Collection review of THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main