Night Passage

( 1 )

Overview

James Neilson's Night Passage (1957) was never released on laserdisc, and hasn't been shown much on television since the 1970's (and never in its original Technirama aspect rati) -- so Universal's 2003 DVD release is the best chance that we've had to see this underrated western in more than 45 years. The studio's video division has made the most of it, unearthing a near-flawless source that has extraordinary sharpness and depth -- the 2.35-to-1 letterboxed image is essential to appreciating this movie, right down...
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Overview

James Neilson's Night Passage (1957) was never released on laserdisc, and hasn't been shown much on television since the 1970's (and never in its original Technirama aspect rati) -- so Universal's 2003 DVD release is the best chance that we've had to see this underrated western in more than 45 years. The studio's video division has made the most of it, unearthing a near-flawless source that has extraordinary sharpness and depth -- the 2.35-to-1 letterboxed image is essential to appreciating this movie, right down to a clever gimmick involving the lettering in the opening credits (which may make modern viewers laugh a bit). As to those with doubts about the movie, based on its relative unfamiliarity, Night Passage is of a piece with James Stewart's more celebrated westerns with director Anthony Mann. It has all of the dark implications of character, the lusty surrounding portrayals, and the kind of hard-as-nails story that Mann specialized in (and the presence of Dan Duryea in the cast doesn't hurt). Where it is lacking is in its visual flaccidness in spots -- the director and the script waste the opening 10 minutes of the movie in a scene at a railway camp that suffers from an excessive reliance on wide master shots, where Mann tended to bring his camera in a bit on his players, focusing on individual characters rather than large set pieces -- it's as though, having arranged for the use of Technirama, the makers were hell-bent on shooting the biggest set-pieces. Finally, 12 minutes in is where the "real" movie starts and Night Passage begins to resemble a Mann film in approach as well as casting and mood. The color cinematography is nicely captured on the disc the sound is also mastered at a reasonably high volume, making this a solid DVD release with lots of intrinsic interest for fans of Stewart or westerns. The 20 chapters are placed nicely and clearly (and cleverly) titled. The disc opens on a simple menu that includes access to an original trailer (that also emphasizes the "scope" aspect ratio) that's in nearly as good shape as the film itself.It makes the movie seem a little less measured in its pacing and more a pure action-oriented western. It gets there, but not before Stewart turns in a nicely dark performance as a hero with a mean edge to go with his good nature. There are no other special features, apart from captions and subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French.
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Special Features

Closed Caption; Original theatrical trailer
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Night Passage has Jimmy Stewart as a stalwart hero of the Old West, and for many fans of the genre, that's really all that's needed. There's no denying that Stewart was one of the most fascinating personalities to star in Westerns (or in any film, for that matter), and there's no doubt that his presence is invaluable to Passage; however, many may feel that the film could have used a bit more help in the screenplay department, even with Stewart and has invaluable contribution. Original director Anthony Mann apparently felt this was the case, as he left the film because the script simply was too familiar -- or, as some might see it, hackneyed. Still, despite its unoriginality, the screenplay is certainly well structured, following the path that it lays out clearly to its logical conclusion. James Neilson, who replaced Mann as director before shooting began, doesn't bring the kind of colorful, questioning style to it that Mann would have, but he does know how to keep the story focused, how to showcase his star and how to let his camera capture some gorgeous settings. In addition to Stewart, the film benefits from the presence of Audie Murphy and, in one of his parented creep roles, Dan Duryea.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/6/2003
  • UPC: 025192277023
  • Original Release: 1957
  • Rating:

  • Source: Universal Studios
  • Region Code: 1
  • Aspect Ratio: Cinemascope (2.35:1)
  • Presentation: Wide Screen
  • Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:31:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 21,652

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
James Stewart Grant McLaine
Audie Murphy The Utica Kid
Dan Duryea Whitey Harbin
Dianne Foster Charlotte Drew
Elaine Stewart Verna Kimball
Brandon de Wilde Joey Adams
Jay C. Flippen Ben Kimball
Herbert Anderson Will Renner
Robert J. Wilke Concho
Hugh Beaumont Jeff Kurth
Jack Elam Shotgun
Tommy Cook Howdy Sladen
Paul Fix Mr. Feeney
Olive Carey Miss Vittles
James Flavin Tim Riley
Donald Curtis Jubilee
Ellen Corby Mrs. Feeney
John Day Latigo
Frank Chase Trinidad
Harold Goodwin Pick Gannon
J. Williams Dusty
Boyd Stockman Torgenson
Henry Wills Pache
Chuck Roberson Bit part
Willard Willingham Click
Polly Burson Bit part
Ted Mapes Bit part
Guy Anderson [Herbert] Will Renner
Kenny Williams O'Brien
H. Tom Hart Shannon
Technical Credits
James Neilson Director
Alexander Golitzen Art Director
Leslie I. Carey Sound/Sound Designer
Borden Chase Screenwriter
Robert Clatworthy Art Director
William H. Daniels Cinematographer
Marshall Green Asst. Director
Wilbur Mosier Asst. Director
Aaron Rosenberg Producer
Clifford Stine Cinematographer
Bill Thomas Costumes/Costume Designer
Dimitri Tiomkin Score Composer, Songwriter
Sherman Todd Editor
Ned Washington Songwriter
Bud Westmore Makeup
Frank H. Wilkinson Sound/Sound Designer
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Main Titles
2. Play Me a Jig
3. Mixin' In
4. Apple Pie and Coffee
5. Train Car Meeting
6. Ridin' the Flat Car
7. Follow the River
8. The Utica Kid & Whitey
9. Train Robbery
10. Where's the Money?
11. End of the Railroad
12. Trouble and Guns
13. Join the Gang
14. Good vs. Evil
15. Play Some More
16. Shootout at the Mine
17. Take Care of the Kid
18. End of Track
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Scenes
   Languages
      Captioned for the Hearing Impaired: English
      Subtitles: Español
      Subtitles: Français
      Subtitles: None
   Theatrical Trailer
   Play
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    The accordion playing tops it all!

    This wasn't one of Stewart's best westerns and left a bad taste in his mouth after his good friend and director Anthony Mann walked out on the project after the first scene was shot. The one thing I enjoy the most in this film is Jimmy Stewart's accordion playing, which isn't seen very often in his films. He was a great actor, great pilot, great husband and father, and a great accordion player!

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews