They Came to Cordura
Columbia TriStar's DVD of Robert Rossen's They Came to Cordura (1959) never made it to laserdisc, so this release is the first chance that almost anybody born after 1948 or so will have had to see it properly. A Cinemascope film shot almost entirely out-of-doors, the movie makes extensive use of the extra-wide image in framing all but a relative handful of scenes. Certainly, the letterboxed (2.35:1) image allows one to fully appreciate (and, at last, make full sense of) the foolhardy yet successful mounted cavalry charge that becomes the movie's dramatic jumping-off point, and the opening sequences introducing Gary Cooper's character take on a somewhat different character from the pan-and-scan presentations on television, depicting his sense of isolation from his fellow soldiers. Additionally, although there are individual conflicts between Cooper's Major Thomas Thorn and each of the others in his party (with his fellow officer, played very well by Tab Hunter, proving the most untrustworthy of all), the visual and dramatic emphasis at the end is on the cavalry detail as a unit, and that is lost when the sides of the image are cropped to fit a standard television screen. Columbia Pictures appears to have taken excellent care of the movie, in terms of having fine preservation materials; there are no flaws in the new transfer and, in fact, the richness of the Southwestern locales will also delight those who have only known this movie from television showings in decades past. The movie has been issued as a two-sided disc, with the letterboxed transfer on one side and the other in full-screen (1.33:1); both look very good, though the latter is virtually worthless for serious viewing. The transfer has been done in high-definition, and the quality extends to the audio, which is mastered at a healthy volume with excellent detail, bringing out the full, subtle impact of Elie Siegmeister's score. The 12 chapters provide an adequate if limited breakdown of the 123-minute film.