Friday, August 19, 2016

JEREMIAH JOHNSON: Blu-ray (Sanford Productions/Warner Bros. 1972) Warner Home Video

I have always found ‘fads’ mildly amusing, chiefly because I generally fail to subscribe to them, but also, for their overall tenacity in being able to influence, and on occasion corrupt the thought processes of our contemporary society. A good fad mimics the insidious brainwashing experiments conducted by the Nazis and/or the Soviets during WWII. It takes on a general acceptance as always having been a part of our popular culture when, in fact, the fad has come upon us with all the assaulting strength of a tsunami. The proliferation of excessive body art immediately comes to mind; once deemed as inappropriate outside the ‘fringe’ element, referenced as ‘carnie-trash,’ but now seemingly acceptable for anyone between the ages of nineteen to ninety who equate tattoos, tie-dyed hair and a nipple rings with ‘being young’ again. Oh, I want to throw up! The good news here is that most fads possess the lifespan of the common fruit fly. I can only hope for as much from the latest abomination to hit male machismo from metrosexual to the common city-dwelling stump. I am of course speaking of the ‘mountain man’ craze, ascribed to by those who have neither the inclination, predilection, nor that certain physical robustness to actually carry it off, but think an unkempt beard and otherwise scruffy appearance means they can chop timber with their bare hands and spit nails between their teeth.  
Real mountain men, lest we remind ourselves, were a very rare breed of rugged individualist; beholding to no one for their survival, enduring the harsh realities of a life apart from all but the squirrels and the chestnuts and toiling under the most hellish of survival conditions on their wits, obstinacy, the unwritten law, and, sheer guts; hunting, fishing, avoiding grizzlies and Indians in tandem, to say nothing of narrowly avoiding freezing to death during bleak – and seemingly endless winters. Real mountain men embodied the true and unbridled spirit of adventure; the impression of the ‘go west, young man’ covered wagon settler taken to its absolute extreme. No toasters, WiFi or things that go ‘flush in the night’ for these guys. Now, I have the deepest admiration for this sort of rough-hewn survivalist, but frankly, more than a modicum of contempt for our current batch of twenty-something big dumb males who cannot live without their pick-ups and a fridge full of beer, but think simply because they take weekly sojourns to a modern-day, air-cooled cabin in the woods with their cell phones strapped to their waist, either to hunt/fish or just look at the trees, they somehow hold a valid stake in this rich and vibrant heritage, while possessing the audacity to refer to themselves as (choke!) men of the wilderness. Permit me to set this record straight, boys. Paul Bunyan you are not!
All the more impressive then to discover more than an ounce of striking authenticity in director, Sydney Pollack’s Jeremiah Johnson (1972); a tremendous interpretation of what ‘real mountain men’ are all about, circa 1850; perhaps even most extraordinary as its star, golden boy, Robert Redford, is about as far removed from my idea of the proverbial ‘mountain man’, yet manages, with considerable conviction to give the impression he was always to this mantle of male ruggedness born. Of course, time and again, at least in retrospect, Redford has proven a talent both in front of and behind the camera, infinitely more diverse than those good looks of his youth might have first suggested; a Teflon-coated, blonde-haired/blue-eyed Adonis willing to take creative risks and, more often than not, succeed. The illusion was, perhaps, easier to accept in ’72; despite having steadily appeared in movies and on TV throughout the 1960’s, Redford’s star persona had yet to fully form or become galvanized in the public’s estimation. Redford had, in fact, done ‘butch’ and scruffy before, in George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).  But in Pollack’s film, Redford ratchets up his performance; appearing frowzy and fabulous without ever insisting on the proverbial ‘star treatment’ to make his performance stick. We have all born witness to the ‘other kind’ of movie-land tough guy; who rides into town with chaps and a buckskin newly oiled from the tanners, whose hair has been plucked and plied with enough gel from Central Casting to keep it immaculate during even the most raucous barroom brawl; the very same guy who can take a tumble into a creek one minute, then emerge from its muddy bottom seconds later looking as though swill suits him; heroic glamour shot ‘impression’ of the man’s man with the actor playing it glib and unafraid to get into a scrape because he already knows the punches are thrown and the last scene has him walking away, fresh as a daisy, with the best-looking gal in town. Hooray for Hollywood’s he-men!
Refreshingly, there is none of this artifice in Jeremiah Johnson; the picture’s strengths, undeniably, Pollack’s direction, an impeccable even-paced screenplay by Edward Anhalt and John Milius, and, Duke Callaghan’s truly exquisite cinematography, effectively transforming the barren landscapes of Utah’s Mount Timpanogos, Ashley National Forest, Leeds, Snow Canyon State Park, St. George, Sundance Resort, Uinta National Forest, Wasatch-Cache National Forest, and Zion National Park into vast Panavision portraitures as sensuously naturalistic and ruggedly regal as anything achieved in oils by Remington, Charles Marion Russell or George Catlin; all this achieved on a relatively small budget of $3.1 million. The project ultimately to become Jeremiah Johnson, was begun in earnest in April 1968 when independent producer, Sidney Beckerman acquired the rights to co-authors, Raymond W. Thorp Jr. and Robert Bunker semi-biographical tale - Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson. By May 1970, these rights had been sold to Warner Bros.; John Milius hired for a paltry $5000 to iron out the details in script form. Eager to work, Milius would eventually draw his inspiration from both this book and another source; Vardis Fisher’s Mountain Man: A Novel of Male and Female in the Early American West. And although the studio would later hand off the script to writers, Edward Anhalt and David Rayfiel for polishing, Milius would come out on top when, dissatisfied with Anhalt and Rayfiel’s results, he repeatedly came back for more rewrites, ultimately earning $80,000. An expert at dialogue, Milius would later claim he borrowed his colloquialisms from a healthy blend of Carl Sandburg and Charles Portis, whose novel True Grit had been turned into one of John Wayne’s more memorable latter day westerns in 1969.   
Sydney Pollack’s participation on the picture seemed unlikely at the outset; Warner Bros. hoping to coax either Lee Marvin or Clint Eastwood to partake of a new project to be helmed by Sam Peckinpah. During these preliminary stages, both Eastwood and Peckinpah shared a mutual interest in Jeremiah Johnson. Alas, they quite simply could not stand each other; Peckinpah’s increasingly erratic behavior forcing him to bow out, while Eastwood quietly elected to make Dirty Harry instead. With considerable cash invested in a project that appeared to be dead in the water, Warner Bros. expediently sent a copy of Milius’ screenplay over to Robert Redford. Interested, though without committing himself, Redford’s inquiry as to who would direct the picture was met with a sort of nervous hesitation. No one was attached. No one was even considered, the studio hoping to lure a big name on Redford’s drawing power alone. So, Redford, who knew and respected Sydney Pollack ever since their fruitful collaboration on 1966’s This Property is Condemned, coaxed Pollack into at least considering the director’s chair. Determined to keep tight reins on the budget, the studio hoped to offset Redford’s $200,000 advance by shooting Jeremiah Johnson quick and dirty on the back lot, a decision that left both Redford and Pollack cold. The pair then came up with an alternative suggestion: to make the picture on location in Utah for the same cost.   
Unconvinced, but nevertheless willing to allow Pollack and Redford their creative freedom – up to a point – the studio allowed the film’s art director, Ted Haworth, to scout over 26,000 miles of rugged terrain; some of it so remote, the publicity department could later trumpet the fact no other film company had ever shot there. Miraculously, almost all of Haworth’s first pick locations were used in the final film; 100 all told, with Pollack and Redford applying a sort of ‘commando’ logic to the shoot; rehearsing a scene first and rarely shooting more than a single take for each scene, working tirelessly from sun up to sundown until the last available ray of natural light had been used up. Still, it was a hellish schedule, and one to prove wholly impractical as cast and crew faced repeat delays due to inclement weather. To shore up his reputation with the studio, and keep his job, Pollock quietly took out a second mortgage on his home, using the funds to plug up the ever-widening holes in the budget. But the shoot was plagued by horrendous blizzards. “The snows in St. George were terrible,” Pollack would later recall, “We were using Cinemobiles as the lifelines. There was no way I was going to let it overrun, and Bob was a superb partner in keeping us tight. In the end it was the greatest way to learn production, because I was playing with my own money.”  If the toll proved considerable on Pollack and his crew, Redford took it all in stride, humorously adding, “We had seven cases of frostbite, four cases of strep throat, two cases pneumonia - and only three cases of Napoleon brandy! The thermometer didn't get up to zero. Even the horses balked at coming out of their stalls. Sydney wondered where it was all going to end. I had a good idea, because I live there all year round, and know how tough a Utah winter can be. The weather couldn't have been rougher for the crew…but terrific for the finished film.”
As location work wrapped, Sydney Pollack acknowledged he faced perhaps an even more daunting task in post-production. Jeremiah Johnson is practically a silent movie; a story set in the isolated valleys, plains and mountain ranges of a wilderness seemingly untouched by the hand of man, with only sporadic vignettes peppered throughout, allowing for Redford’s title character to engage in conversation – and even then, rather fragmented, often inaudible and/or one-sided. As such, the editing process required an acute investment of skill and seven month to reshape this raw material into cohesive storytelling. “I don’t think I’ve made another picture where its success was based as much on the editing as on what we shot,” Pollack would later reminisce, “If you sat there during the dailies, most people would fall asleep. It was a snore…Redford doing bits of business, chopping wood, walking alone and fishing by himself. Bob and I loved it, these master shots of a guy trudging his horse through the snow…but I knew it all depended on how it was cut together. There was no narrative arc. Not even a narrative form. No story but what we saw in it. Instead, it was a picture made out of beats, rhythms, moods and some wonderful performances that I had to make real for the audience. I had to keep them entertained as much as Bob did.”
Jeremiah Johnson opens with a sweeping orchestral overture and a surprisingly intimate ballad (later to be interpolated throughout the piece); both composed by Tim McIntire (whose chronic addiction to alcohol and pills, coupled with ongoing struggles with his weight, led to his premature death at the age of 41 in 1988) and John Rubinstein (who, despite working steadily throughout the mid-sixties right on through to the present, will likely forever be associated as the foppish, button-down conservative lawyer opposite Jack Warden’s crusty P.I. on TV’s charming – if short-lived - detective/comedy series, Crazy Like A Fox, 1984-86); the pair, so described by Pollack as ‘just kids who auditioned with a tape’, and, in fact, were – and would remain – primarily known for their respective careers as actors. Our story concerns a jaded veteran of the Mexican War, Jeremiah Johnson, who desires nothing more after several years of needless bloodshed, than to distance himself from his fellow man by living obscurely in the relative solace of the as yet ‘undiscovered’ American West. There’s just one problem with Jeremiah’s plan. He knows virtually nothing about the life he has chosen and quickly discovers the breadth of his ineptitude during his first harsh winter in mountain country; suffering cruelly at the hands of Mother Nature, narrowly freezing to death and wading through a bitterly frozen ravine to attempt catching fresh fish with his bare hands. This latter act is amusedly observed with stern curiosity by Chief Paints-His-Shirt-Red (Joaquin Martinez), whose Crow tribe roams the land.
To a great extent, Jeremiah Johnson is perfectly in keeping with Redford’s un-sentimentalized and clear-eyed ambitions as an actor; one of the last truly iconic ‘fringe’ movie stars; by that, I mean, one who straddles the chasm between ole-time glamour of that ancient flower in Hollywood and the then ‘new’ regime since come to modernize (some would suggest, bastardize), its time-honored principles in film-making. And yet, Redford, who has remained a star ever since, has, at least in retrospect, staunchly refused to sell out his principles simply to maintain that stardom. I suspect there is a quiet lot of Jeremiah Johnson in Redford, an actor who has repeatedly navigated, negotiated and leveraged his career on his own terms, satisfying the Hollywood’s boys while making the kinds of movies that continue to garner the respect of his peers; along the way, tailoring the moody thrust of an unpromising childhood and youth into a varied talent that continues to evolve and be recognized to this day. That aforementioned respect, in should be noted, was hard-won and definitely well-deserved; Redford, famously – if falsely - critiqued by a well-known Fox studio exec as “just another California blonde…throw a stick out any window in Malibu and you’ll hit six of him!”  The allure of acting for Redford was as uneventful as it was categorically not instantaneous. By his own admission, Redford became ‘the campus drunk’ at the University of Colorado, dropping out despite a seemingly ‘easy ride’ on a baseball scholarship.
He took a job as an animator-in-training at Disney, eschewing its assembly line atmosphere to live obscurely as a Bohemian, first in Paris, then Florence. In hindsight, it was a better education soon to inform his calling as an actor. And despite gaining prominence in bit parts on TV, Redford did the unthinkable, turning down a contract to star in Neil Simon’s off-Broadway comedy, Barefoot in the Park; a role he would later reprise for the 1967 movie opposite Jane Fonda. As Hollywood steadily moved away from the more subtly nuanced and sophisticated stories that appealed to Redford (a trend, I might add, that has only worsened since), Redford instead angled the strength of his celebrity to directing, passion projects like the Sundance Film Festival, and, environmental advocacy; a very rugged individualist to the end. Yet, in Jeremiah Johnson, Redford’s inexperienced ‘hermit/hero’ begins his sojourn from greenhorn to mountain man, using a .30 caliber Hawken rifle; a much prized gun that nevertheless is woefully under-powered. It is perhaps kismet that at the outset of his journey – nee, metamorphosis - Johnson should stumble upon the frozen remains of Hatchet Jack (a more established mountain man who, nevertheless, was no match for a fighting mad grizzly bear). As Jeremiah Johnson is based on a true story, one of the more popular surviving legends is that Hatchet Jack was actually the husband of Crazy Woman (Allyn Ann McLerie); a settler driven out of her mind after her children were slaughtered by the Blackfeet Indians, and, her husband made their captive, later scalped.
In the movie, Johnson encounters Crazy Woman sometime later and agrees, with considerable trepidation, to look after her only surviving child, Caleb (Josh Albee). But first, he pries the .50 caliber Hawken from Hatchet Jack’s frozen hands, also a note that helps explain the dead man’s life and purpose; also, to provide Redford with his first real opportunity to exercise his acting chops with some sparse exposition. Herein, a pause is necessary to point out that acting without the benefit of dialogue, particularly this far into the sound era where its luxury is not only apparent but, frankly, expected by the audience as part in parcel of their movie-going experience, is not only a formidable dare, but rife with the deadliest of pitfalls for a lesser actor to simply degrade his performance into a cheap sort of unconvincing pantomime. Yet, Redford steadily maintains the character’s authenticity through body language and rivets our attention with the subtlest of physical nuances; the slop of his exhausted shoulders, his piercing blue eyes caught in telescopic concentration. There is a sort of musicality to the way he holds himself in a wind storm or reaches to pry the rifle from the cold dead hands of his predecessor. It works on a sincere level because Redford is not just going through the motions – what gets his character from points ‘A’ to ‘B’ in the connective tissue of the screenplay – but rather, feeling his way through each and every situation as a novice to the wilderness surely might under similar conditions.
Inheriting Jack’s rifle by default, Jeremiah next encounters the curmudgeonly, and slightly off-kilter ‘Bear Claw’, a.k.a. Chris Lapp (Will Greer). Their inauspicious ‘cute meet’ does no go so well – Lapp commenting, “I know who you are; you're the same dumb pilgrim I've been hearin' for twenty days and smellin' for three!” Still, the wiry coot is a skilled hunter and proves it by luring a hungry grizzly into his cabin, instructing Jeremiah to prove his worth by killing it. This first test of skill and endurance accomplished, Lapp proves a benevolent sort, educating Jeremiah in the ways of the high country. It is a harsh life, but a clean and honest one; removed from civilization, but at the mercy of the ever-changing climate. In the spring, Jeremiah leaves this mentorship behind to forge out on his own. Jeremiah’s first solo test comes when he stumbles upon Crazy Woman’s isolated homestead; the taciturn and shell-shocked female allowing him to help her bury the dead, victims of a Blackfoot attack. Jeremiah has plans to take both the woman and her mute son, whom he names Caleb, on his trek higher into the mountains. But Crazy Woman will not budge from this spot, though she entrusts Caleb’s safety to Jeremiah. Shortly thereafter, the man and his ward move on.
Jeremiah and Caleb stumble upon Del Gue (Stefan Gierasch), a bald-headed mountain man robbed, buried up to his neck in a pool of wet sand and left for dead by the Blackfeet.  Recanting them with his tale, Gue persuades Jeremiah to help him recover his stolen goods. And although Johnson agrees, he equally counsels Gue against violence. Under the cover of night, the pair discovers the Blackfoot encampment. It is Jeremiah’s intent to merely take back the confiscated goods without a struggle before skulking off into the woods. However, unable to control his bloodlust, Gue opens fire with his pistol, forcing Jeremiah to partake of the ambush and subsequent bloody slaughter, merely to save his own life. As retribution, Gue takes several of the tribe’s horses and scalps. Disgusted by this needless carnage, Jeremiah informs Gue if ever he should pursue such a policy of extreme annihilation again, he will have to defend his actions alone. Not long thereafter, Jeremiah, Gue and Caleb are themselves surprised by a small contingent of Christianized Flathead Indians. Startled by the confiscation of the Blackfoot’s scalps and horses, the Flathead – who are mortal enemies of the Blackfoot – elect to peaceably escort Jeremiah and his friends to their camp as ‘guests of honor’ for their ‘brave deed’. Unschooled in the ways of the Flathead, Jeremiah inadvertently ‘dishonors’ their Chief, Two-Tongues Lebeaux (Richard Angarola) by offering the scalps and horses as a gift. Unable to ‘match’ this formidable offering, Lebeaux presents his only daughter, Swan (Delle Bolton) in marriage to Jeremiah instead. To resist now would surely add insult to injury. So, Jeremiah and Swan are married in a fractured ‘wedding ceremony’; part ritual American Indian/part Catholic. Del Gue elects to go off on his own, leaving Jeremiah, Caleb and Swan to journey even deeper into the wilderness.
After some hesitation, Swan surrenders to her husband and Jeremiah realizes he will have to establish a more permanent home for his newly amalgamated ‘family’. Deciding on a small parcel of land near a stream, Jeremiah sets about building a log cabin. Swan’s cooking leaves much to be desired. But Jeremiah comes to admire her work ethic and her physical strength: assets that ably assist in the establishment of their modest home. Alas, marital bliss is not to be; Jeremiah confronted by a troop of U.S. Cavalry and ordered by Lieutenant Mulvey (Jack Colvin) and the accompanying Reverend Lindquist (Paul Benedict) to act as a guide and lead them into the snowy mountains where a stranded wagon party is desperately awaiting rescue. Jeremiah forewarns Mulvey they must circumvent a sacred Crow burial ground. As time is of the essence, Mulvey ignores this danger and cuts right through the ancient cemetery; an abuse that cause the Crow to double back to Jeremiah’s homestead while he is away and slaughter both Swan and Caleb as retribution. On his return through the burial grounds alone, Jeremiah takes notice of Swan’s favorite blue trinkets adorning several of the markers. Hurrying home too late, he discovers both Swan and Caleb’s mutilated remains next to the burnt out shell of the cabin they once called home. Resolute to avenge their murders, Jeremiah now sets off on a bloody massacre. One by one, he picks off the Crow responsible; sparing only the life of a single brave who will likely spread the word of Jeremiah’s avenging spirit to the rest of the tribe. The blood feud continues as the Crow nation pits their most proficient warriors against Jeremiah. But the tribe has underestimated Jeremiah’s level of pure rage; also, his cunning and expertise. As such, Jeremiah is repeatedly victorious against even the Crow’s most skilled combatants; with each subsequent kill, his reputation elevated to near mythical status. Gue, now sporting a full head of hair, is reunited with Jeremiah. Unaware of what has become of Swan and Caleb, Gue informs Jeremiah of his status amongst the Crow as a great warrior.
Returning to Crazy Woman’s cabin, Jeremiah discovers the woman has since died, the homestead settled by a new owner, Qualen (Matt Clark) and his daughter (Tanya Tucker). Not far from the cabin, the Crow have erected a shrine to Jeremiah’s fighting prowess, periodically leaving trinkets and symbolic talismans as part of their tribute. Journeying onward, Jeremiah’s solitary trek is interrupted by an unanticipated reunion with Bear Claw, who takes a certain modicum of pride in Jeremiah’s accomplishments. The men regard one another with world-weariness and some sparse conversation over a roasted rabbit. Sensing his old novice’s physical and mental exhaustion, Bear Claw offers a few words of encouragement that resonate true to Jeremiah. They are the last words spoken in the movie. A short while later, Jeremiah encounters Paints-His-Shirt-Red on the open plains. Ever since the ambush, these two have come to regard one another as sworn enemies. But now, as Jeremiah prepares to draw his rifle, Paints-His-Shirt-Red instead raises an open palm as a respectful gesture in truce. Unwilling to perpetuate the blood feud any longer, Jeremiah returns the gesture; the men regarding one another for a long moment before going their separate ways. Jeremiah has at last attained the respect of these First Nations brethren. He is a bona fide mountain man.
In a career populated by discriminating movie gems, Jeremiah Johnson remains one of director, Sydney Pollack’s finest achievements; albeit, one that takes certain artistic liberties with retelling the tall tale of its title character. Nevertheless, this film shed light on a nearly forgotten man, his mythology and a history unexplored up until then on celluloid. The real trapper, John ‘Liver Eatin’ Johnson, so nicknamed because it is rumored he ate the internal organs of the Crow Indians he slaughtered, had, in fact, come to the land a peaceful settler along with his wife, who was pregnant at the time. Mrs. Johnson’s brutal death during a random assault by a Blackfoot raiding party proved the catalyst for Johnson’s hard-hearted revenge. And despite the insinuation perpetuated in the movie, Jeremiah Johnson as a one-man war party, the real John Johnson actually recruited Flatheads and other mountain men to help wage his private war. Robert Redford, a life-long conservationist and resident of Utah, was elated to be shooting so close to home. Pollack was less enthusiastic and grew to be more so as temperatures dipped well below freezing. Nevertheless, Pollack and Redford got on famously throughout the making of this movie; Pollack later describing Redford as a ‘true original’ and someone who ‘truly believed in the material’: “I don’t think that picture could have been made two or three years later…because Redford became such a huge star and after that happens, it’s hard for someone to break out of that mold.”
Originally, Sydney Pollack wanted to shoot a finale depicting Jeremiah Johnson slowly freezing to death in the mountains, thereby drawing a parallel between Johnson’s fate and that of Hatchet Jack; in effect bringing the story 360 degrees back to where the fictional Jeremiah’s real journey had begun. In their only artistic dispute, Redford resisted this idea, the story concluding instead on a rather ambiguous note as Johnson is shown venturing higher and higher into the snowy mountains from which his legacy will ultimately endure, but the man himself would never be heard from again. In reality, this is exactly what happened to the real John Johnson, and, after the film’s world premiere, Pollack rather magnanimously offered that Redford’s creative decision had been the right one all along. Prior to the theatrical release of Jeremiah Johnson, the real John Johnson’s remains were interred at Los Angeles’ Veteran’s Cemetery. Afterward, his body was relocated to Old Trail Town in Cody, Wyoming, with Redford invited to partake as one of the pallbearers during a ceremony attended by 2000 people. Viewed today, Jeremiah Johnson is unquestionably a testament to both Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford – a thoroughly unique and unimpeachable master class in making movies both on a shoestring budget and under the most inhospitable of working conditions. In retrospect, few Hollywood westerns look the part. Most are prone to a sort of superficial gloss.
Pollack’s movie is most startling for its deep focus textures, the way cinematographer, Duke Callaghan manages to paint a moment in time using natural light as though it were as carefully orchestrated as the klieg’s shining down from a ceiling onto a sound stage. There is no artifice to Callaghan’s technique, but a sort of David-Lean-styled grandeur that unearths only the transparent robustness of these nature splendors, ripe for the plucking, and, unfurled with an unobtrusive hawk-eyed camera precision, a stately flair for seeing the genuine beauty without ever embellishing it. From start to finish, Jeremiah Johnson is a movie of such intense visualizations. You could literally freeze frame any shot from the movie and possess a superior canvass of fine art, worthy of a frame, to be hung on walls inside any of the premium national galleries around the world. No other western comes to mind for achieving this consistently high level of verisimilitude. In hindsight, one must also give a nod and a cheer to and for Robert Redford’s formidable, if oft overlooked, performance. Redford just seems to be able to find the essence of the man at his own core. With but a handful of lines to cue his character’s motivations, Redford instead relies on inflections in body language to give us the impressions of a man come into his own as a moralist, stricken by fate to serve a lesser power, though ultimately meant to achieve immortality as a legendary figure of the western experience. And Redford gives us all the pathos, heroism, fear and elation of this tenuous existence, fraught with imminent dangers aplenty. Without saying a word he holds our attention completely, wrestles it to the ground, drawing on an inner clarity from the very depths of his own internalized interpretations of this mountain man. It is, I think, one of the best things Redford has ever done, and easily, among the top ten greatest performances of all time; championed for its economy and capacity to handover raw human emotions without ever succumbing to cheap palaver.   
Warner Home Video’s Blu-ray is a masterpiece of engineering; a first rate, sumptuous visual feast for the eye and ear, capturing Duke Callaghan’s subtly nuanced hues and fine detail. Colors are fully saturated, with bang on accurate flesh tones and superbly rendered contrast. Film grain looks indigenous to its source. Truly, no complaints here. You are going to love – LOVE – this disc. The DTS 5.1 audio is as impressive; the score, dialogue and effects, all delivering a vibrant aural listening experience, sure to please. The one monumental regret herein: we get only an audio commentary from the late Sydney Pollack – a holdover from the DVD, and a very brief, vintage featurette: the usually superficial ‘here’s our movie…come and see it’ junket material. Ho-hum, and yawn. There is also a theatrical trailer. Bottom line: a winner, through and through. Buy today. Treasure forever.
FILM RATING (out of 5 – 5 being the best)

1 comment:

Christopher Wilson said...

This is one of my fathers favourite films and its been a regular watch in my life as a result. Its a lost classic, its rare i come across people who have actually seen it and over the years ive told numerous people to watch it all have like it.
It is a fantastic movie and one you never forget, like you say one of Redfords and Pollacks best, i never knew the details on the production history, budget and filming so this was a great read many thanks.
I encourage anyone who reads this and hasnt seen it to track it down, its well worth it.