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