Good movie, but disappointing DVD
Kevin K. Sinn | 03/18/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The movie Harry Tracy is one of my favorite Westerns. How unfortunate it is then that the transfer to DVD is so poor!
The picture is blurry and the sound is muffled and somewhat garbled. The quality is so bad that even though I'm a fan of the film, I returned the DVD to the seller."
Steven Hellerstedt | 08/07/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"HARRY TRACY (originally titled HARRY TRACY, DESPERADO) is a 1982 film starring Bruce Dern as the title character and folk-singer Gordon Lightfoot as U.S. Marshal Morrie Nathan, the lawman who, the movie tells us, spent years tracking the desperado down before finally catching up with him in the Pacific Northwest.
HARRY TRACY came pretty late to the game of translating real-life Wild West criminals to celluloid heroes. That doesn't stop it from borrowing heavily from its predecessors, though. The movie opens with a long-john clad Harry Tracy scurrying through the deep snowdrifts of the small town of Aspen, Colorado, making his escape while the pursuing posse is seen in extreme long shot, a la McCabe & Mrs. Miller. When he's captured shortly after a photographer takes his picture along with the newly met but destined to be love of his life, Catherine Tuttle (Helen Shaver.) The Catherine Tuttle character is a whole-cloth creation, although she bears a strong resemblance to Butch and Sundance's Etta Place. The intrusive news photographer, along with the insert shots of dime novels glorifying the deeds of Harry Tracy that will briefly appear later on, are there to tell us this is an end-of-the-west western. This story takes place at the turn of the twentieth century (they did get that right) and Harry Tracy is portrayed as an anachronism, a throwback to days of righteous honor among gallant thieves.
Tracy learns Catherine's name and the fact that she lives in Portland (`That's in Oregon,' sister Judy Tuttle helpfully specifies.) Marshal Lightfoot then hauls Tracy to jail, where Lightfoot benignly torments him long enough for the Tuttles to stumble upon him, still in long-johns, roped to post in the back yard. Mama Tuttle is the widow of a federal judge and she blows enough smoke to make the marshal think twice about freezing his prisoner to death. Unfortunately for the law if you don't freeze them they slip away, and Tracy escapes to his old hole in the wall hideout, only to learn that the old gang is gone and the cabin has been taken over by a star struck painter, David Merrill (Michael Gwynne.)
The real Merrill was a common thug who rode with Tracy for a while until Tracy grew tired of him and shot him in the back. This movie twists it around a bit, making Merrill the treacherous one, and making of Harry Tracy a Robin Hood in chaps and slouch hat. Someone who mourns the loss of his merry men and the encroachment of corrupt civilization by observing that `tin horn politicians and government bootlickers are all that's left.' Another coat of whitewash is applied when Tracy and Merrill heist their first railroad. It's a slapstick scene, accompanied by rinky-tinky background music that ends with fluttering banknotes and frustrated pursuers. In Butch & Sundance it endeared us to the charming co-stars. Here it just highlights the crooks' incompetence.
There are some things to like about HARRY TRACY. The British Columbia locations are very well realized, and the turn-of-the-century town and country is minutely detailed. Dern is a good actor, but he's a bit miscast as a romantic lead. Debonair charm isn't his strength, and his acceptance by the country folk as a crusader against the pernicious railroad and bank interests just doesn't wash. This movie is, mercifully, Gordon Lightfoot's first and only appearance in a dramatic role. A tepid recommendation for this one.
R. Schaller | 06/01/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The original title of this Canadian film when released in the USA was "The Ballad of Harry Tracy." I bought this DVD for the movie's theme song, sung by Gordon Lightfoot (it was never made available any other way). Unfortunately, not much was done to restore this film prior to its release on DVD, and it shows. The sound quality is dismal. Too bad, because the song was one of the best Gordon Lightfoot ever did despite the fact it wasn't his own.
The story roughly follows the last days (at the turn of the 20th Century) of the famous outlaw Harry Tracy but departs from the truth in many ways as filmakers often do. The real Harry wasn't quite the saint he was made out to be in this film, and there was no love story at all in real life.
Still, it is good fiction as filmed, similar in content to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," and Bruce Dern makes the best of what was given him. It was also fun to see Lightfoot's debut as an actor in this film -- not such a great actor perhaps but an interesting role just the same. The original film I would have given a higher rating, but as released on DVD, because of the quality problems which are very noticeable, only 3 stars."