Few hauteur directors are more revered and beloved than Oscar "Budd" Boetticher, Jr., who lived a life more amazing than any movie. And few films have been more eagerly-awaited on DVD than the spare, adult westerns he made... more » at Columbia in the late 1950s, all starring Randolph Scott, most written by future director Burt Kennedy, and co-starring such outstanding actors as James Coburn (in his film debut), Richard Boone, Maureen O'Sullivan, Pernell Roberts, Lee Van Cleef, and Craig Stevens. Now, at last, you hold them in your hand: The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone, Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station. Rounding out the set is Bruce Ricker's acclaimed feature-length documentary, A Man Can do That, executive produced Budd's friend Clint Eastwood. Sony Pictures and The Film Foundation are honored to present one of the absolutely essential collections of this or any year.« less
Excellent representation of the "Ranown" westerns...
kar120c | Ridgefield, CT USA | 08/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the late 1950s, the "Adult" western was at its zenith. There were several men responsible for this (James Stewart and Anthony Mann, notable among them), but three men stand out - Budd Boetticher (director), Burt Kennedy (writer) and Randolph Scott (actor). Scott, along with his partner, Harry Joe Brown, produced them through his production company - Ranown Productions. With Scott, Boetticher, and often Kennedy, they made seven westerns - the Ranown Westerns - that stand as the model for the genre, and set the stage for the more realistic (and often more violent) westerns that would come in the 1960s (films like Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch")
Two of these seven Ranown westerns are not actually from Ranown, though they were made with Scott, Beotticher, and Kennedy. Those two - Seven Men From Now (1956) and Westbound (1959) are not in this set. The other five are. I have seen each, and here is my take on them.
"The Tall T" (1957) Ranown starts off with a bang. Perhaps the best of them. Scott was never better. Richard Boone played the heavy - I'd say the best of them in all the Ranown westerns. Henry Silva is also very good as another heavy. Maureen O'Sullivan was perfect in the female lead. A great early story from Elmore Leonard. Boetticher did a great job directing a taut, lean story, scripted by Kennedy. Many say it was the best of the Ranowns. This film includes a horrible way to "dispose of" two people (father and his young son) that is not shown, just described. The horror created by the description is more frightening than anything you could feel if you actually saw it. While there may be one Ranown western that was as good - "Commanche Station" (1960) - none were better.
"Decision at Sundown" (1957) A misfire. Scott again plays the lead, a man who was wronged long ago by the villain. But in this film, he has no one to play off of. John Carroll is ordinary as the man who wronged Scott. Karen Steele, an extraordinary beauty, plays the female lead, but there is little she is asked to do, other than look extraordinarily beautiful. There is very little action, and surprisingly little drama. Altough Boetticher did his best (he himself said it was the weakest of the Ranowns), it is telling that this film is one of the Ranowns that Burt Kennedy did not script. All in all, this film is the most forgettable of the 5 in this set.
"Buchanan Rides Alone" (1958) Getting better. Not great, but good. Also, possibly the funniest of the set. The eulogy that Pecos Hill (LQ Jones) gives for one of his "friends", whom he has just killed to save the life of Scott is simply not to be missed. At the end of it, Scott says the only thing he can say that could top it. While the plot is not too strong - Scott is fine, but there are too may heavies to focus on the classic good vs. evil conflict that is necessary to all good drama. Actually, outside of Craig Stevens, none of the villains were very notable. And there is no female lead to speak of. All in all, this poorly constructed story, albeit with some very amusing quirks, is good, but no more.
"Ride Lonesome" (1958) Very good. Not the best, but very good. Scott plays a wronged man who is now a bounty hunter. He captures an outlaw with a price on his head (a great turn by James Best). By the way, this is a Kennedy script. How do you know? When he captures the outlaw (Best), the outlaw says "whatever they are payin' you...it's not nearly enough". To which Scott replies, "I'd hunt you free". There is another outlaw that figures into this - Best's brother, (a young Lee van Cleef, also great here). Pernell Roberts and James Coburn (his film debut, Scott, the producer, liked him and expanded his part) are also very good, although Roberts is a bit too mannered in his acting of some of his scenes. Karen Steele is the female lead here also, and is given more to do. She is quite good here as well. One more thing: The final scene is perhaps the most memorable image in all the Ranown westerns.
"Comanche Station" (1960) Perfect. The last of the Ranown westerns, perhaps the best (though some might give that distinction to "The Tall T"). An excellent story (again, a great Kennedy script). The ending is one you will not see coming (kudos to Kennedy and Boetticher). A perfect performance from Scott - a man accepting a task that defies explanation - until you learn why. Claude Akin is excellent as the heavy - not quite as good as Richard Boone in "The Tall T", but close (his smile is pure evil). Richard Rust was also quite good as the young heavy, trying to reform. And the beautiful Nancy Gates is perfect - especially in the scenes where she and Scott are alone - in the female lead. What makes this a great film is the direction by Boetticher, working with another great script by Kennedy. It is filled with great scenes, and there are no weak scenes. Most important, the story is distilled to perfection. Boetticher included only those scenes that were needed to advance the story and cover the themes he wanted to illustrate (courage, determination, and, above all, honor). And he included no scenes that were redundant or otherwise non-essential. This is the mark of a great director. Scott was so good in this that he retired afterwards, only to be talked out of it to make one more film - the classic "Ride the High Country" (1962) with Joel McCrea and directed by a young Sam Peckinpah. Then he retired for good. Even if he did not make that final film, "Commanche Station" would have been a perfect swan song for Randolph Scott.
Seeing these five films, plus two others - "Seven Men From Now' (1956) and the previously mentioned "Ride the High Country" (1962) - will give you an appreciation of why Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher have such a high reputation among a growing number of classic film lovers. "
John Fowler Wyman | urbana, illinois | 08/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The DVD juggernaut has finally gotten around to releasing the Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher westerns. Together, they made seven western films in the fifties. Five are in this box from Columbia.
Their first collaboration, "Seven Men from Now," is already available in a nice package from Paramount with lots of extras. That leaves only "Westbound," produced by Warner Bros, yet to be released. (Also worthy is "Ride the High Country," Randolph Scott's swan song from 1962, directed by Sam Peckinpah)
Together with the five James Stewart/Anthony Mann collaborations ("Winchester '73, Bend of the River, The Naked Spur, The Far Country, and The Man from Laramie" - all are available on DVD), these films defined the adult Western movement of the nineteen-fifties.
OK - I should also include "Hondo" and "The Searchers" (John Wayne/John Farrow/John Ford) in this list. Great movies all."
Budd and Randy
L. Cabos | planet earth | 09/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After the Batjac release of SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, a welcome announcement of the rest of Scott/Boetticher collaborations will be available in one collection. These were small films in their times -- a feature that would probably be less than 90 minutes and play before the main movie. As time has gone along their fame has steadily grown and it is now accepted that several are among the most important westerns following in the wake of the 1950 Stewart/Mann classic, WINCHESTER '73. Infact the Mann/Stewart westerns and the Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher films have a similar sense about them. Scott and Stewart are usually men on a quest, generally involving revenge. I would say that Stewart's characters are for the most part, bitter and cynical. Scott still tend to be moral pillars. The most strikingly different of the lot is DECISION AT SUNDOWN. In this one Scott is tracking the man he feels is responsible for his wife committing suicide. He gives her qualities she never had and ultimately discovers the truth. But, all in all, if you love the western than this collection will make a solid addition to any library. You'll also be treated to a wealth of fine actors: Richard Boone, Henry Silva, James Coburn, Claude Akins, LQ Jones and so many more. Extras include a documentary on Boetticher, intros to the films by Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorcese,and Taylor Hackford. Terrific transfers, you really get the sense of the wide open spaces as Boetticher intended. If you enjoy these films -- impossible not to -- I'd recommend the Stewart/Mann collaborations: WINCHESTER '73, BEND OF THE RIVER, THE NAKED SPUR, THE FAR COUNTRY and THE MAN FROM LARAMIE."
BRILLIANT MASTERPIECES -- FORGOTTEN GEMS
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 11/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Budd Boetticher's classic westerns finally arrive as a set in nice clean transfers. They are long overdue in a digital format and have been highly anticipated by film buffs as well those who treasure a view of Americana that includes honor, duty, horses and the landscape -- the majestic canvas on which we play out our lives.
The films have been detailed elsewhere. My favorites are "RIDE LONESOME," "COMANCHE STATION" and the "THE TALL T." They all feature Randolph Scott's as a consistent hero with different names. A hero in a changing world who still operates under a moral code that seems quaint.
On a side note: What or who is the "tall T"? It is never mentioned in the film. I can't recall if it is mentioned in Elmore Leonard's story "The Captives." Personally, I think the "T" is part of the architecture of the ranch where Scott rides a bull. It is prominent in one particular shot. And it is tall. Why this is the title of the film is a puzzle unless it is here where the story is set in motion. Or perhaps it is a physical body gesture that Scott makes at a place in the story that is a turning point. It is a human crucifix position as well. Perhaps that is the reference -- like John Wayne's crossing his arms at the end of "The Searchers," about which there is much speculation (some think it's an homage and tribute to his friend Harry Carey).
There's a clean, sun-baked look to these morality tales that sort of frames the simmering tensions that are usually played out in an explosive climax. Often in a natural "arena" setting. Boetticher was very enamored of, and comfortable in, a bull ring.
The underrated Randolph Scott is perfect as a taciturn, leathery-faced loner. He was a big star in his hey day -- but he has never been better than in these minimalist westerns. He's always a man of few words who often has a tragic back story that propel his risky, usually altruistic, actions. Scott is a rivetting screen presence. His graceful, economic physicality, the way he uses his voice, rides a horse, and especially his moments of silence and stillness are always compelling. There are no wasted actions. Hard to take your eyes off him. In many ways, I think Scott was Boetticher's on-screen avitar.
Boetticher's recurring elements: a lone figure seeking vengeance or justice, figures adrift amidst an untamed landscape, tight places where moral imperatives explode. And always in Boetticher's westerns, there are unexpected moments where the camera holds on the physical beauty of a place or dotes on the sensuous image of a horse being groomed or running.
Boetticher, a cult director who continues to grows in stature, makes the most of his deceptively minimalist stories inhabited by complex characters. But it's not really the story that matters for Boetticher as much as the characters, how they move, and what they don't say, and of course the ever-present broad landscapes that offer unexpected moments of challenge or transcendence as the moral imperative of the protagonist is actualized.
It seems to me that Boetticher's westerns are about coping with antiquated notions of honor and justice while traveling a path where fate, destiny and free-will intersect. I guess that's why they linger in the mind. There's an undeniable Old Testament feel to the stories yet the main character is often saddled with a sense of existential angst. Maybe that is the definition of living in the post modern world.
For movie buffs and film scholars alike, the late Budd Boetticher is a giant, widely praised for the seven low-budget westerns he made starring Randolph Scott between 1956 and 1960. What's even more amazing is that these B movies were crafted with such loving care and precision. As in other art, overlooked at first, but now recognized as unique and authentic perhaps because they seem effortless and pure even to the naive viewer.
While working on the Columbia Pictures lot on Gower St, I got to know Boetticher quite well. He liked a script I wrote and invited me to ride one of his fine horses, Peropo, a spirited, unscarred veteran from the Spanish bullring. I apparently passed my test and this led to trips to Mexico where we scouted locations and Boetticher put on astonishing displays of how to fight bulls from horseback. During this time, I understood how much of Boetticher the man was in his westerns. Always the outsider who won't compromise, Boetticher was the real deal. Enthusiastic, witty, optimistic, artistic and a great horseman -- he relished being alive. He was also aware of a self-destructive side to his personality that was always a battle.
His bare-bones westerns usually had a lone, mostly silent, somewhat alienated hero on a journey through a hostile landscape. He crosses paths with a self-serving villain. There are tight places and grand vistas, lyrical moments and pastoral surprises.
Existential and ambiguously emotional, there remains a moral tone that somehow revolves itself around idealized integrity itself. In fact, integrity, grace and fate were Boetticher's cinematic trinity. Burt Kennedy's sometimes ironic, often poignant, and decidedly lean screenplays were a perfect fit for Boetticher's mindset.
The extras in the set are very good. The feature length documentary on Boetticher "A MAN CAN DO THAT" is revealing and rather moving. A portrait of a singular artist and man who lived a full adventurous life that in some ways makes his movies seem tame. There are three commentaries, I especially appreciated the one by Janine Basinger on "THE TALL T." She captured the essence the man as I knew him.
I encourage film buffs to also find Budd Boetticher's classic 1956 western SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (Paramount) which was released earlier on DVD in a clean, restored transfer with significant extras. This should be included along with this set. Here, Randolph Scott, a sheriff haunted by the death of his wife in a robbery, hunts for the seven men responsible. Along the way, he helps a couple from Kansas heading west and is forced to deal with another former outlaw he had once sent to prison. As in some of his other films included in this collection, SEVEN MEN FROM NOW is a tense journey that takes us to a point of stillness, the moment of truth where righteousness of character is all that's left because "there are some things you can't ride around." The esoteric commentary's by James Kitses, author of "Horizons West: Anthony Mann, Budd Boetticher, Sam Peckinpah" and there's a new documentary "Budd Boetticher: An American Original.""
An Outstanding collection
Tim Lasiuta | Red Deer, Alberta | 11/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
Budd Boetticher was a remarkable director. Sony Pictures, in their Collectors Choice set, "The Films of Budd Boettcher", presents five remarkable films that are still powerful today.
Including "The Tall T", "Decision at Sundown", "Buchanan Rides Alone", "Ride Lonesome", and "Commanche Station", this set is visually stunning, highlighting the natural beauty of the Lone Pine area. "Ride Lonesome" and "Comanche Station" resonate a theme central to his films, the lone hero seeking revenge and redemption. Randolph Scott stars in all five films, portraying to perfection the strong, silent hero.
In "Ride Lonesome", Barricade (Scott), goes after a man with a bounty on his head. Behind his apparent cold blooded nature, his real motive of finding the man who hung his wife is exposed in the end, and what was once a case of pure bounty, becomes an act of grace and forgiveness.
Future director Burt Kennedy penned the bulk of these films, honing his craft with a director with an eye for sparse storytelling, and a cast that understood what Boetticher was creating. Scott was essential to the films, adding his reputation and experience to roles that screamed "Randolph scott!". Images of Scott atop his animals, or silhouetted against the desert sky are vintage western iconic symbols. Co-stars James Coburn, Maureen Sullivan, Lee Van Cleef, Pernell Roberts, and Richard Boone contribute good performances to great films.
Watching these films is a pilgrimage experience. The Lone Pine settings, used in hundreds of films since the early 1920's, has been transformed into a more urban setting. When Randolph Scott rides by the familiar rocks of the geological formations, images of other films flood by. Randolph Scott appearing onscreen beckons me to a time when legendary actors rode the silver screen range, and westerns rode tall and proud in cinemas around the country. Principles were fought for and died on. Men of moral standing became outstanding community builders. This is a collection for the collector of great films, though not all are of equal quality. The prints have been restored to brilliant color and sound. Watch these films, but if you have access to a big screen, I mean really big screen, go for the gusto. There is nothing like Randolph Scott riding tall on any screen!