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“Stagecoach” - {Blu-ray}
Taylor Carlson
Studio: Criterion
Release Date:
Special Features:

Commentary, Bucking Broadway silent film, John Ford interview, Peter Bogdanovich featurette, Dreaming of Jeanie, John Ford Home Movies, True West, Yakima Canutt, Screen Director's Playhouse, Trailer, Bookley


Stagecoach is directed by John Ford and stars John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Thomas Mitchell, John Carradine, Andy Devine, and George Bancroft. ***

Stagecoach features a group of diverse characters heading west for one reason or another. The passengers on the coach include a greedy banker, an alcoholic doctor, a whiskey salesman, an ex-gambler who has changed his ways, a call girl, and a pregnant woman seeking her soldier husband. The town sheriff comes along for the ride, seeking the Ringo Kid, an outlaw who recently escaped from prison - and who has his own score to settle. Along the way the Ringo Kid is found and becomes a passenger on the journey, but a group of savage Indians is lurking in the area, threatening to make it anything but a peaceful trip. ***

Stagecoach was the first collaboration between John Wayne and John Ford. Both of them had made films in the Western genre before - MANY of them, in fact, but this is the first time they worked together. The end result is what many consider the precursor to the Westerns that would dominate Hollywood for years to come. ***

Stagecoach tackles issues and stories that had been seen in Westerns before, but this is the movie that brought everything together - and managed to do so without feeling overloaded. The cast of characters is diverse, and it is what really brings the movie to life. Even at his young age (early 30s when the movie came out), John Wayne still plays a superb gunslinger. The rest of the cast is equally impressive, including names such as John Carradine and Andy Devine (who would appear in numerous later Wayne and Ford films.) ***

Stagecoach is a terrific film, no questions asked, however it does feel dated in a number of respects. First and foremost, it is a very “talky” film compared to most other Westerns. In fact, fans of Westerns who watch them for gun slinging and action will be disappointed to discover that there are only 2 real scenes of “action” in the entire movie - although the former of the 2 is amazing and stands the test of time. Another flaw is that the Ringo Kid's back story and score to settle feels “tacked on”, and the resolution of this part of the story feels like it was slapped on to the movie at the last minute. But these are MINOR complaints, and should in no way stop you from seeing what has been hailed as one of the greatest Westerns of all time. ---

Image And Sound:

The film is presented in its original Academy Radio format. Criterion has done a superb job cleaning up the movie, although a fair amount of print damage remains. The picture quality tends to be a bit soft throughout, but this is most likely due to the way the movie was filmed to begin with. All things considered, though, the movie looks damn good throughout. I doubt it will ever look better than this - and honestly, that's fine by me. ***

A mono audio track is included, and given the age of the movie, the audio isn't half bad. Everything comes across nicely - dialogue, sound effects, music… you get the idea. I doubt any fan will be unimpressed with the audio on this release.

Special Features:

As always, leave it to Criterion to pull out all the stops when it comes to bonus material. They have left no stone unturned here, giving us a ton of interview and archival footage, along with a commentary track. Hell, there is even a radio adaptation of the movie and an old John Ford silent film from 1917! If you're a fan of the movie, this material is going to satisfy you - and then some.

Final Words:

Stagecoach is a fine Western, and it is great to have it in a high-def format at long last. Whenever John Wayne movies hit Blu-Ray, I am always first in line to pick them up - this was no exception and I do not in any way regret my decision. Criterion's disc features a great transfer and bonus features galore, and comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


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