The Way West
Andrew V. McLaglen's The Way West has never enjoyed a reputation equal to that of any of its three stars -- Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, or Richard Widmark -- or its ambitious scale. And in keeping with that relative neglect, the movie has been given a good, bright transfer on the MGM/UA DVD with no special features whatsoever(apart from Spanish and French audio in mono and close captioning...). One would think that, based on its being one of the last major American-made westerns in the United Artists library not to have shown up on DVD, and the presence of those stars, some consideration might've been given to doing an audio-track or a making-of featurette -- McLaglen is still around, as is Sally Field, who got special billing in this, her first film appearance, and even co-star Lola Albright is still with us. At least the 2.35-to-1 letterboxed image is clean and sharp, though one heartily wishes that more time had been spent on the audio mastering. The soundtrack should have been mastered at a much higher volume level -- this was Branislaw Kaper's swansong as a composer and some of his best work as well, with a big, lush Copland-esque (or Tiomkin-like) tune at the center of the score that deserved robust treatment here. It is clean and pumps up okay, but the audio here ought boom out at the listener, and it just doesn't. And when one considers that it's the Serendipity Singers on the soundtrack singing the title song, the music just demands a bigger profile than it gets, along with the whole audio track. The 28 chapters are generous enough, representing most of the key parts of the 122 minute movie, but one heartily wishes there were at least a trailer, or something to go with the film. The disc opens automatically to a simple three-selection/two-layer menu with the "play" option in the default position.