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George Stevens
Alan Ladd, Jack Palance, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon De Wilde
Writing Credits:
A.B. Guthrie Jr., Jack Sher (additional dialogue), Jack Schaefer (based on the novel by)

There's A Score To Settle ... And This Is It!

Acclaimed director George Stevens’ legendary rendition of the quintessential Western myth earned six Academy Award nominations and made Shane one of the classics of the American cinema. The story brings Alan Ladd, a drifter and retired gunfighter, to the assistance of a homestead family terrorized by a wealthy cattleman and his hired gun (Jack Palance). In fighting the last decisive battle, Shane sees the end of his own way of life. Mysterious, moody and atmospheric, the film is enhanced by the intense performances of its splendid cast.

Box Office:
$3.1 million.
Domestic Gross
$9.0 million.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 118 min.
Price: $9.99
Release Date: 8/15/2000

• Audio Commentary with Director’s Son George Stevens, Jr. and Associate Producer Ivan Moffat
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

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Shane (1953)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 2, 2013)

Where would Westerns be without the weary killer who wants to change his ways? From Stagecoach to Unforgiven, the repentant sinner is an absolute staple of the genre, and far be it for Shane to argue with such success.

Although the movie offers nothing new or unusual in the form of its story, it executes the tale very well. Most cinematic success relies on how the story's told more than the plot itself, but Westerns are more dependent on execution than most other formats. That's because a lot of the stories are really quite similar; there's only so much variation that can occur within the natural framework.

Shane sticks to a pretty basic plot in which greedy cattleman Ryker (Emile Meyer) tries to intimidate locals to leave their land so he can use it. Into this terrain steps retired gunfighter Shane (Alan Ladd). He quickly befriends a family composed of Joe (Van Heflin), wife Marian (Jean Arthur) and son little Joe (Brandon De Wilde) and Shane starts to work for them. However, he quickly becomes embroiled in the local nastiness and becomes part of the action as the clashes escalate.

The plot is thin but works because the style fleshes it out nicely. The pacing can be a little slow, especially in the second half, when Shane becomes too much of a background character; I feel he takes too much of a backseat to the events that surround him during that portion. However, the conclusion seems satisfying and worth the wait.

One thing I liked about Shane stems from its relative complexity. Yes, we do encounter a stereotypical bad guy: hired gunslinger Wilson (Walter Jack Palance), a man who clearly enjoys his work a little too much - but the rest of the participants display some nicely subtle emotions. Ryker seems pushy and nasty at times, but he also can be shown as fair and willing to compromise.

Also, although Shane is supposed to be the perfect hero, we clearly see flaws in his character. He seems awfully jittery and strung out from his lifestyle, and we have to wonder what made him so edgy. He appears to be a man with some sins in his past, although they're never spelled out to us, something I consider both a positive and a negative. I like the fact everything isn't spoon-fed to us, but I would like to know more about Shane's history.

Still, I consider Shane to be one of the more interesting Westerns. The genre doesn't do much for me in general, but this film offers a fairly satisfying blend of drama and action and it does so without much of the excessive melodrama typical of its brethren. Shane endures as a classic after more than 60 years simply because it's a well-made movie that provides a strong example of what's good about Westerns.

The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+

Shane appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I’ve seen worse transfers, but I’ve seen better.

Sharpness was one of the many issues. Close-ups demonstrated acceptable clarity, but anything wider than that was mushy and fuzzy. Some of that was semi-intentional – the cinematographer lathered on the soft focus to make then-50-something Jean Arthur’s age less obvious – but most of it came from the transfer, not the source. Blockiness could appear as well.

At least the image lacked any obvious signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes were minimal. Print flaws were more apparent, however. Various spots, marks and scratches showed up throughout the film. These weren’t dominant – I’ve viewed many dirtier images – but they did distract.

Colors seemed faded and bland. Granted, Shane isn't The Wizard Of Oz; it's not the kind of movie that should boast vivid, bright hues, and most of the film stayed with a pretty drab palette that made sense within the dusty landscape. However, even with that consideration I still found the colors to appear awfully flat and pale; they consistently seemed weaker than they should.

Black levels appeared generally decent, with acceptably deep tones, but shadow detail caused some problems. Some of these issues occurred due to "day for night" photography; those scenes were consistently thick and opaque. However, it's not just those parts that looked overly heavy; a number of other interiors - such as in the bar - became excessively thick. Again, this wasn’t a terrible transfer, but it’s definitely flawed and barely scraped out a “C-“.

Don’t expect much from the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Shane. For all intents and purposes, this was a mono mix; sound emitted from the side and rear speakers, but it added virtually nothing. Music showed “broad mono” and lacked any form of stereo presence; the music came from the other channels but failed to deliver unique instrumentation on the sides. Effects remained centered, and any surround usage was minimal at best.

Quality of the audio appeared adequate. Dialogue generally was clear and relatively natural, with a few instances of edginess but no problems with intelligibility. Effects were a bit flat and thin, but they seemed acceptably realistic and they featured a mild level of bass as well.

The score sounded fairly crisp and distinct, with somewhat mushy quality at times but no serious concerns. I noticed a slight layer of background noise throughout the track. Ultimately, this was an adequate mix for a 60-year-old movie, though the decision to expand it from its original mono to ineffective surround made no sense.

When we shift to extras, we get a running, screen-specific audio commentary from production assistant/director’s son George Stevens Jr. and associate producer Ivan Moffat. They discuss story/characters, cast, crew and performances, sets and locations, and other filmmaking elements.

Although it contains a fair number of gaps - particularly during the second third of the film – I find this piece to provide a moderately compelling description of the creation of Shane. Stevens relates some interesting historical documents of his father's, and both participants provide some good anecdotes about the shoot. The gaps can make some stretches of the track frustrating, but it's worth your while to stick with it, as many of the best details don't appear until toward the end. It's not a great commentary, but it merits a listen.

In addition to the commentary, we get a theatrical trailer. This comes from a reissue of the film, as indicated by “A Paramount Re-Release” at the end.

Shane offers a very satisfying Western. It's not my favorite example of the genre - I really loved Stagecoach - but it works well overall and provides a compelling experience. The DVD features mediocre picture and audio along with a generally informative commentary. The movie remains a classic, but the DVD has problems.

To rate this film, visit the Blu-Ray review of SHANE

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