The Outlaw Josey Wales appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the image excelled.
Sharpness appeared solid, as the movie was consistently distinct and accurate. The slightest hint of softness affected some wider shots, but those instances seemed very minor. Mostly the movie came across as tight and well defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and I also witnessed no signs of edge enhancement. Print flaws stayed similarly unobtrusive. I noticed a speck or two but that was it, as the movie seemed nicely free from defects.
Wales provided a rather natural palette – with a mild sepia feel - and the Blu-ray replicated these tones nicely. The colors often seemed to be somewhat subdued within that range, but they always looked accurate and rich. Black levels also appeared deep and dense, and shadow detail generally came across as appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. Across the board, I felt pleased with this presentation.
I felt the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 also seemed terrific – surprisingly so, since the audio came from monaural sources. I’m disappointed the Blu-ray omits the original mono track, but I must admit I feel quite pleased with this remix, especially since it seems so organic; it’s hard to believe the movie didn’t always boast multi-channel audio, as the sound appears so smooth and well-integrated.
The soundfield showed a forward emphasis but it offered a pretty well rounded affair in any case. The front spectrum provided a nicely broad and engaging display. Sounds were placed accurately in the environment, and they moved cleanly and smoothly across channels. The score also featured very good stereo separation.
The surrounds mainly reinforced the forward spectrum. Some more distinctive effects also came from the surrounds, though these instances were more limited. Nonetheless, the movie’s louder sequences demonstrated an involving and active presence from all five channels, and they helped bring those scenes to life.
Audio quality also appeared to be positive. Dialogue consistently sounded warm and natural, and I discerned no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. The music showed solid fidelity. Highs seemed to be clear and bright, while the bass response appeared deep and rich.
Effects also benefited from better than expected dynamics. They came across as clean and realistic, and very little distortion occurred. Overall, I found the soundtrack of Wales to provide a satisfying and exciting affair; it’s hard to believe this immersive, high-quality track came from a 35-year-old monaural source.
A few extras flesh out the set. First comes an audio commentary with film critic/historian Richard Schickel. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at the source novel’s adaptation and the film’s development, cast and performances, story and characters, themes and interpretation, and reflections on Clint Eastwood and his career.
Like virtually all Schickel commentaries, this one mixes insights with frustration. At his best, Schickel gives us a good take on the movie and Eastwood, and he throws in a few production notes along the way. But only a few; Schickel’s commentaries don’t tend to be heavy on facts and figures.
I would be fine with that if Schickel didn’t let the discussion sag so much. He lapses into quite a few silences and also simply narrates the movie at times. You will learn something from this track, but you’ll not get a consistent discussion, so you may find its ups and downs bothersome.
Two documentaries follow. Clint Eastwood’s West lasts 29 minutes, three seconds and provides remarks from Eastwood, filmmakers John Lee Hancock, Kevin Costner, Frank Darabont and James Mangold, film historian Sir Christopher Frayling, actor Morgan Freeman, producer David Valdes, author Neal King, editor Joel Cox, and writers George Gallo and David Webb Peoples. The show looks at Eastwood’s career in westerns, with a particular emphasis on his directorial efforts. “West” delivers an engaging examination of Eastwood and his work.
From 1999, Hell Hath No Fury: The Making of The Outlaw Josey Wales goes for 30 minutes, 29 seconds and features Eastwood, Cox.and actors Bill McKinney, Sam Bottoms, John Vernon, and Geraldine Keams. “Fury” examines the source novel and its adaptation for the screen, cast, characters and performances, visual design and locations, Eastwood’s work as director, music, and the film’s reception/legacy. Expect a nice overview here, as “Fury” provides a good recap of the production.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we disc finishes with a vintage 1976 featurette called Eastwood in Action. It goes for seven minutes, 55 seconds and offers notes from Eastwood about the shoot. This is generally promotional material, but it includes some nice shots from the set and enough decent info to keep us with it for its short running time.
For this release, the package comes in a hardcover book. It includes essays called “A Look Back” and “Clint Eastwood and the Western”, a biography for Eastwood, trivia, and photos. The book delivers some nice elements.
No one will ever accuse me of being a big westerns guy, but if I saw more movies as good as The Outlaw Josey Wales, I could be converted. The film offers a neat combination of drama, action, comedy and heart to become a solid package. The Blu-ray boasts simply terrific picture and audio along with a generally positive set of supplements. This is a gorgeous release for a fine movie.