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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
A Man Called Sledge (1971)

You know, gold gives off a scent; its like an animal, or a man. Paper money don't throw off a scent. Paper money don't whisper to you like gold does, through six inches of steel.
- Old Man (John Marley)

Review By: Joy Howe and Mark Zimmer   
Published: March 30, 2004

Stars: James Garner, Dennis Weaver, Claude Akins, John Marley
Other Stars: Laura Antonelli, Wayde Preston, Ken Clark, Alan Jones, Tony Young
Director: Vic Morrow

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, implied rape)
Run Time: 01h:31m:46s
Release Date: March 30, 2004
UPC: 043396011618
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B+C- D

DVD Review

The Spaghetti Western has a reputation for being grim and bloody, with angst and soul-searching to spare amongst the violence. But when you put James Garner into the mix, the result can hardly help but be a bit more lighthearted, and that's the case in this Italian oater directed by Vic Morrow.

Luther Sledge (Garner) and his buddy Mallory (Tony Young) are outlaws on the lam who run into a fellow called the Old Man (John Marley), who holds the secret to the way to get hold of a shipment of gold dust. Sledge concocts a scheme to get the gold through deception, and the balance of the film is devoted to what happens to spoil their solidarity, who is left standing at the end, and the price of it all.

In contrast to other Spaghetti Westerns of the time, this movie is refreshingly bright and straighforward. The scenery is lovely and colorful, full of attractive horses, evocative snow storms and grassy valleys. There is very little of the gritty unpleasant scenery in the usual shot-in-Spain stand-in for the West. Sledge is a straightforward heroic gunslinger whose motivations are always obvious. The action is interesting and the dynamics between the heist partners is developed in an intriguing way. Although the ending might easily be guessed by genre fans, it's still just plain fun to watch it develop. The pacing is good and there are no long pauses where the viewer has to wonder what sort of psychological torment the character is pondering. There's a refreshing absence of long arty shots with no dialogue. There's nothing but good straight action.

The music is particularly bright and fun. There's a somewhat silly theme song about man's destruction by gold, but it's played over some very droll poker scenes, with a collage of overlays contrasting the jubilance of a winner with the anger of a loser. Chortling over gold has seldom been so well portrayed, excepting Disney's Uncle Scrooge cavorting in his money bin. There are other scenes with a particularly nice player piano effect.

Although there are obligatory violent scenes as any Western must have, including an implied rape, the actual violence is downplayed and not particularly hard to watch. The viewer is not left feeling somewhat dirty, as one does after watching, say, High Plains Drifter and its confusing moral world. This is a really fun and entertaining film. It may not reach the dramatic level and complexity of High Noon or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but it's a perfectly worthy entertainment. There are enough plot turns that the viewer will not mind watching and rewatching it.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen picture generally looks pretty attractive. It tends to be rather grainy, but the grain is well rendered for the most part and doesn't have a sparkly quality. There's little to complain about with regard to color or texture, and black levels are deep and solid. Speckling is the only problem with the source material, and it's really only an issue during the first reel. Excessive edge enhancement is the main issue with the transfer and most of the time it's tolerable.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono English track isn't anything too exciting, but considering the Italian origins it's probably as good as it's likely to be. The main title music is thin and shrill, lacking in bass and rather distorted in the louder segments. The dialogue betrays its looped origins, with a reedy thin quality that is a bit annoying. Hiss is prominent throughout as well.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Once Upon a Time in Mexico, El Mariachi, Silverado
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Other than a couple trailers (with DVD ad overlay on some of them) for random Westerns, there's nothing at all additional. Heck, there are only 12 chapters, down from the standard 28 stops one finds on a Columbia disc.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

If you like your Westerns straightforward, this film would make a worthy addition to your DVD shelf. The transfer's decent but there's nothing at all for extras.


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