Unforgiven

Unforgiven

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Director: John Huston

Cast: Burt Lancaster, Audrey Hepburn, Audie Murphy

     
 

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John Huston's offbeat, idiosyncratic, and totally engrossing 1960 western drama The Unforgiven comes to DVD in a stripped-down but nicely made letterboxed edition, as part of MGM/UA Home Video's "Western Legends" series. The 121 minute movie appeared on laserdisc in the last 1980's in a letterboxed edition that didn't look half as good as the transfer here --See more details below

Overview

John Huston's offbeat, idiosyncratic, and totally engrossing 1960 western drama The Unforgiven comes to DVD in a stripped-down but nicely made letterboxed edition, as part of MGM/UA Home Video's "Western Legends" series. The 121 minute movie appeared on laserdisc in the last 1980's in a letterboxed edition that didn't look half as good as the transfer here -- even the night shots reveal a vast range of useful and usable image in their subdued, silky lighting, and the whole transfer goes the laserdisc one degree better in sharpness, resolution, and lighting; the bright exteriors of Rachel Zachary's ride in the opening scene give way to the dark interior showing her hair being fixed by Lillian Gish's matriarch, and tease the eye with details across the entire range of lighting. The DVD is letterboxed to the 2.35-to-1 Panavision aspect ratio, and the vast landscapes and big-sky frontier scenes all look glorious, and are the kind of images that sell big-screen monitors, but are just as impressive on, say, a 21-inch screen; the resolution is pushed so hard, that the image shimmers on some close-up shots of foliage or fabric; and a storm scene comes off so vivid that you can almost feel the dust cutting across the prairie -- and when Burt Lancaster's Ben Zachary defies the Kiowa who wishes to buy Rachel, the blue in his eyes flashes as bright as any color in the landscape behind him. The audio is mastered at a decent volume level, and that goes double for Dimitri Tiomkin's score -- Tiomkin was never known for his love themes, but the audio here brings out the sonorousness of his string writing accompanying the scene 14 minutes into the film, in which Audrey Hepburn's Rachel greets Burt Lancaster's Ben Zachary bathing in a creek, to a point where their passions sing big and deep enough to fill the plains and the screen in a way that they haven't since the original theatrical run of the movie. There's no insert or annotation, but the chaptering is generous, 24 in all. The major bonus is a four-and-a-half minute trailer without narration that assembles most of the more suspenseful scenes together; it is accessible directly through a two-layer menu that pops up automatically on start-up.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
John Huston's The Unforgiven is essentially John Ford's The Searchers with the plot reversed -- instead of a white family seeking to recover a young member kidnapped by Native Americans, it tells of Native Americans trying to get back a member of their tribe, taken and adopted years earlier by a white family. The parallels are no accident, since both films were based on books by the same author, Alan LeMay, and the similarities don't end there. Both movies tell tales of families seeking to restore their wholeness or to protect it, led by defiant quasi-outsiders who are fully capable of violating any law, social bond, or moral taboo in defense of those families. Burt Lancaster's Ben Zachary is one of the actor's towering portrayals and a bracing performance, as a bold, powerful, lusty male presence, almost the embodiment of the gradually civilized frontier -- Audie Murphy gives a similarly impressive performance in one of his most difficult roles, as the embittered, racist brother of the would-be hero, torn between the love of his family and his disgust for the Kiowa and anything to do with them; and Doug McClure, at the outset of his career, gives one of the best portrayals of his career as the callow youngest Zachary son, a wild but good-natured boy who could go the way of either of his two brothers. Played against them is Audrey Hepburn's Rachel, who is like a frontier version of Cathy from Wuthering Heights, irresistable in her portrayal of a vibrant, coltishly innocent girl blossoming into womanhood. Those performances are enhanced by the boldness of the overall shoot, which contains barely a false note anywhere in its 121 minutes. Huston brought the same verisimilitude to The Unforgiven, including the dust storm, the vast open spaces with their promise and threat, and the siege of the homestead, that he utilized in movies like The African Queen and The Roots Of Heaven. The overall effect is a spellbinding western drama, filled with boldly constructed shots, powerful, charismatic performances, and spread along a beautifully devised story arc, embodying the mythos of the west and such fiercely topical issues as racism. And binding the whole package together in the actual viewing was Dimitri Tiomkin's score, perhaps the most passionate and romantic of his career, recalling elements of Duel In The Sun but possessing greater sophistication.

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Product Details

Release Date:
05/20/2003
UPC:
0027616885869
Original Release:
1960
Rating:
NR
Source:
Mgm (Video & Dvd)
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[Dolby Digital]
Time:
2:01:00

Special Features

Original thratrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Burt Lancaster Ben Zachary
Audrey Hepburn Rachel Zachary
Audie Murphy Cash Zachary
John Saxon Johnny Portugal
Charles Bickford Zeb Rawlins
Lillian Gish Matilda Zachary
Albert Salmi Charlie Rawlins
Joseph Wiseman Abe Kelsey
June Walker Hagar Rawlins
Kipp Hamilton Georgia Rawlins
Arnold Merritt Jude Rawlins
Carlos Rivas Lost Bird
Doug McClure Andy Zachary

Technical Credits
John Huston Director
Stephen B. Grimes Art Director
James Hill Producer
Russell Lloyd Editor
Ben Maddow Screenwriter
Frank McCoy Makeup
Franz Planer Cinematographer
Dimitri Tiomkin Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Main Title/Credits [:09]
2. The Wild Ones [1:51]
3. The Sword of God [:46]
4. Big Strong Brother Ben [2:36]
5. Be Fruitful and Multiply [4:05]
6. Fighting Blind [:28]
7. Taming the Wild [7:27]
8. Brotherly Love [:13]
9. Savege Calling Card [7:18]
10. The Word is Out [1:40]
11. Charlie Comes Courting [5:25]
12. Crazy With Grief [:19]
13. A Real Horse Chase [7:10]
14. Meeting His Maker [3:19]
15. Leave Her Be! [4:07]
16. A History on Cowhide [5:16]
17. A Family Divided [1:14]
18. More Than Siblings [3:18]
19. A Night of Guns and Music [1:47]
20. Running Low on Ammo [3:03]
21. Dreams of Wichita [1:10]
22. A Matriarch Dies [3:47]
23. Surrounded! [2:13]
24. A Family Still Stands [3:05]

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