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Winchester '73

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Anthony Mann's Winchester '73 was one of a tiny handful of vintage Universal titles given special treatment by MCA Home Video on laserdisc back in the 1980s -- it appeared in that format with a secondary audio narration by James Stewart, the movie's star. The 93-minute movie, which delivers enough action, story, color, characterization, and depth for three ordinary films, comes to us on DVD a half-generation later as part of the "Universal Western Collection." The difference between the two editions illustrates ...
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Anthony Mann's Winchester '73 was one of a tiny handful of vintage Universal titles given special treatment by MCA Home Video on laserdisc back in the 1980s -- it appeared in that format with a secondary audio narration by James Stewart, the movie's star. The 93-minute movie, which delivers enough action, story, color, characterization, and depth for three ordinary films, comes to us on DVD a half-generation later as part of the "Universal Western Collection." The difference between the two editions illustrates the advancement in the art of film-to-video transfer over 15 years -- the laserdisc was one of the better looking 12-inch video platters of its period, its major flaws being in the anomalies of the laser format itself. The DVD, by contrast, has pushed the film elements to their very limit: There are flaws in the source print, such as occasional, intermittent staining on certain shots early in the movie and an occasional jump in the frame; there is even some graininess in shots that looked just fine on the laser; and the checked shirts worn by Stephen McNally's villain and by Riker (the frontier bar owner) shimmer in the medium shots in the ultra-clear transfer. On the other hand, the transfer is so beautifully done in the sections that work perfectly (which is 98 percent of the movie) that it's a joy to behold. The tight close-up of the first fight between Stewart's and McNally's characters is lit like a shot out of a classic film noir; the scene at the bar between John McIntire and McNally is so clean and clear that the intended suspense pours off the screen, oozing around every syllable in McIntire's silky smooth reading of his part -- the smoke from the cigarettes looks like it's in the room with you; and the darkening sky around Stewart and Millard Mitchell as they cross the desert is totally enveloping. This reviewer has seen Winchester '73 in every setting from classroom showings in 16 mm to repertory film screenings of newly struck 35 mm prints, and this is close to the latter in all the ways that anything screened in one's home can come. The audio interview with Stewart is in a class by itself -- no other actor of his stature or generation ever participated in a project like this. He was some years past his prime, but still had a good deal of energy, and he was well able to provide insights into the way that both Winchester '73 and Harvey (they were a package) were made, and the era in filmmaking that both movies represented. He is able to tell of the resistance to doing the movie on the part of most of the Hollywood studios, and Universal head Lew Wasserman's unique willingness to make the movie. He never really discusses much on a shot-by-shot basis -- apart from such scenes as the sharpshooting sequence and how it was done -- so much as his approach to character and his career. He does briefly discuss Will Geer, who portrays Wyatt Earp in the movie, in general terms, but never says anything about Geer's subsequent fate (the character actor was blacklisted soon after Winchester '73 for his liberal politics, and represented the ideological opposite of Stewart in Hollywood). He does talk about Anthony Mann a bit, but more often keeps his comments confined to recollections such as practicing for weeks with a rifle, so that when his character picks up his rifle in the shooting contest, every nuance shown that he is 100-percent comfortable with the gun. The movie gets 20 well-chosen and located chapters that break the action down very neatly. The multi-layered menu opens automatically on startup, and the interview is accessible in a second layer, along with the original trailer. French, Spanish, and English subtitles are also included.
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Special Features

Interview with James Stewart; Original theatrical trailer
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
James Stewart's first Western with director Anthony Mann introduced the disturbed Stewart/Mann Western hero and became a hit, helping to re-ignite the genre. Departing from Stewart's nice-guy persona, his Lin McAdam already seems slightly off during the opening Dodge City shooting competition for the title rifle. As the Winchester passes from Stewart to nemesis Stephen McNally and psychotic Dan Duryea, Mann touches on such Western archetypes as Wyatt Earp, the cavalry, Indians (including Rock Hudson), and gold-hearted women, before moving on to the elemental conflict between Stewart and McNally. In this era of genre revision, Stewart's rage against McNally becomes the film's central subject; the final shootout on a treacherous mountainside reveals the insanity masked by civilization. Though the film was not quite as influenced by film noir as Mann's first Western (Devil's Doorway (1950)), the sharp, rugged, black-and-white terrain matches Stewart's inner tumult as he avenges a death in the least honorable way. Winchester '73's popular success resulted in four more Stewart/Mann Westerns, including The Naked Spur (1953), and re-energized the genre; Stewart's unprecedented deal for a profit percentage instead of salary also forever altered the business of stardom.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/6/2003
  • UPC: 025192033025
  • Original Release: 1950
  • Rating:

  • Source: Universal Studios
  • Region Code: 1
  • Aspect Ratio: Pre-1954 Standard (1.33.1)
  • Presentation: Black & White
  • Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:39:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 4,916

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
James Stewart Lin McAdam
Shelley Winters Lola Manners
Dan Duryea Waco Johnny Dean, the Kansas Kid
Stephen McNally Dutch Henry Brown
Charles Drake Steve Miller
Rock Hudson Young Bull
Millard Mitchell Johnny "High Spade" Williams
Tony Curtis Doan
John McIntire Joe Lamont
Jay C. Flippen Sgt. Wilkes
John Alexander Jack Riker
Steve Brodie Wesley
James Millican Wheeler
Abner Biberman Latigo Means
James Best Crator
Mel Archer Bartender
Will Geer Wyatt Earp
Tim Hawkins Boy at Rifle Shoot
Ted Mapes Bartender
Gregg Martell Mossman
Virginia Mullen Mrs. Jameson
Chuck Roberson Long Tom
Tony Taylor Boy
Bill McKenzie Boy at Rifle Shoot
Bob Anderson Basset
Ray Bennett Charles Bender
Frank Chase Cavalryman
Edmund Cobb Target watcher
Frank Conlan Clerk
Steven Darrell Bat Masterson
John Doucette Roan Daley
Bonnie Kay Eddy Betty Jameson
Carol Henry Dudeen
Ethan Laidlaw Station master
Bud Osborne Man
Forrest Taylor Target Clerk
Ray Teal Marshal Noonan
John War Eagle Indian interpreter
Guy Wilkerson Virgil
Chief Yowlachie Indian
Larry Olsen Boy at Rifle Shoot
Technical Credits
Anthony Mann Director
Leslie I. Carey Sound/Sound Designer
Borden Chase Screenwriter
Edward A. Curtiss Editor
William H. Daniels Cinematographer
Richard DeWeese Sound/Sound Designer
Roland A. Fields Art Director
Russell A. Gausman Art Director, Set Decoration/Design
Joseph E. Gershenson Score Composer
Bernard Herzbrun Art Director
Nathan Juran Art Director
Robert L. Richards Screenwriter
Aaron Rosenberg Producer
Bud Westmore Makeup
Yvonne Wood Costumes/Costume Designer
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Main Titles [1:38]
2. Dodge City [4:04]
3. Dutch Henry Brown [2:13]
4. The Shooting Contest [8:23]
5. The Winner [2:49]
6. The New Gun's Owner [2:46]
7. The Indian Trader [8:10]
8. The Winning Hand [3:11]
9. A Gun for Young Bull [4:11]
10. Indian Raiders [4:50]
11. Shelter for the Night [10:42]
12. Young Bull Attacks [4:51]
13. The Chief's Gun [4:11]
14. Waco Johnny Dean [9:32]
15. Johnny's Gift [5:50]
16. Tension in Tascosa [5:09]
17. The Bank Robbery [1:47]
18. Brother Against Brother [6:27]
19. The Rightful Owner [1:06]
20. Cast of Characters [:18]
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Side #1 --
      Spoken Language: English
      Captioned for the Hearing Impaired: English
      Subtitles: Español
      Subtitles: Français
      Subtitles: None
      Interview With Jimmy Stewart
      Theatrical Trailer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Great Stewart vehicle!

    James Stewart made a great choice to make this film. Many thought he would be out of his element, as he was the all-american guy-next-door in his early pre-WW2 films. He wanted to prove everyone wrong creating a much more hard-nosed roughened up character from his experiences in the war. He came back a different man and a different actor, and this change proved a successful one. The film has a great cast, story, and director.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A Seminal Western

    This is one of the great westerns, and I think, James Stewart's best. Stewart displays a hardness which he had not hitherto shown. The scene in the bar where he jams Dan Duryea's face into it while twisting his arm, shows us a man who it is best not to trifle with. This may be Duryea's best performance also. Millard Mitchell, as Stewart's sidekick, is supurb. Anthony Mann's direction of his great cast is a primer of how to pace the action and the drama so that his audience never loses interest. The prize rifle of the title is like a leitmotiv from a Wagner music drama. Its journey from hand-to-hand is the thread that ties the story together. One of those hands is young Rock Hudson as the indian chief. I saw this western when it was first released and it remains, along with Red River, Shane and perhaps a dozen others, as indespensible to any western lover's library.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews