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Image Entertainment presents
The Old West (1952)

"Saddlerock was one of the most unpeaceful towns either side of the Rockies... A town with no law and a whole lot less order."
- Jeff Bleeker (Louis Jean Heydt)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 03, 2005

Stars: Gene Autry, Pat Buttram, Gail Davis, Lyle Talbot, Louis Jean Heydt
Other Stars: House Peters, Dick Jones, Kathy Johnson, Champion, Pat O'Malley, Snub Pollard
Director: George Archainbaud

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (moderate western violence)
Run Time: 01h:01m:17s
Release Date: January 04, 2005
UPC: 014381248722
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Usually Gene Autry's westerns were an odd mix of the past and the present, with horseback riding and gunplay coexisting with modern cars and businesses. But for a change of pace, this Autry western actually takes place in the past, just as the title suggests.

Gene has a contract to tame wild mustangs to serve as horses for the stagecoach through Saddlerock, a wild and woolly town that secretly is controlled by Doc Lockwood (Lyle Talbot). Doc has eyes on getting that contract for himself. In the meanwhile, stagecoach driver Jeff Bleeker (Louis Jean Heydt) is talented but he's in denial about losing his eyesight. Control of the stage line comes down to a race between Autry and his horses and Lockwood's horses, dangerously driven by Jeff.

Autry again plays himself though he does actually get shot in this picture, which is a rarity. Lyle Talbot, a veteran actor, makes for a reasonably good villain, pretending to be friendly and helpful while stabbing Autry in the back. Unfortunately for him, Talbot was only a year away from the humiliation of starring in Glen or Glenda? for Ed Wood. As usual, Pat Buttram is present for decent comic relief, and Gail Davis gets high billing but barely appears in the picture.

The film features a sizable religious element, as silent star House Peters makes a comeback as an itinerant preacher who takes advantage of Autry's convalescence to instill theology in him. The songs are accordingly gospel-tinged, but there are are only two of them (one is repeated under the end titles): Somebody Bigger Than You and I and Music By the Angels.

Unfortunately, the story is pretty thin, with quite a bit of padding such as horse tricks from Champion and Little Champ to eat running time. There's also a short scene of a bank being blown up that seems to have wandered in from some other picture, since it's never referred to again. As such, it's only a mediocre entry in the long-running series. The climactic stagecoach race is entertaining enough, however.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture is generally acceptable. The source print is in excellent condition but the compression seems a bit excessive. The grain tends to be sparkly and there's some significant aliasing visible at times. If the bitrate were a little higher this could have looked very nice.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: On the other hand, the 2.0 mono audio sounds quite good. The bass has good impact and presence, and dialogue is very clear. Hiss and noise are hardly noticeable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 3 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (closed caption only) with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio show
  2. Still and poster galleries
  3. Presskit
Extras Review: The Gene Autry Collection is never wanting for extras, and this disc is no exception. Gene and Pat reminisce on Melody Ranch Theater (10m:57s) about Lyle Talbot and discuss their religious backgrounds. The Melody Ranch radio show from April 12, 1952, just after the film came out, features Gene singing Here Comes Peter Cottontail, Easter Parade, and Peace in the Valley for his Easter program. A set of notes on Little Champ is accompanied by a still gallery, and bios and filmographies of Davis and Buttram are provided. The theatrical trailer for the feature is included, as is a clip from the Annie Oakley series featuring Gail Davis showing off her trick riding. Galleries of about five dozen stills, eight lobby cards and one insert poster are accompanied by reproductions of the presskit pages, which provide such helpful suggestions as "have the local newspapers interview old-timers about their experiences in the Old West."

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

A slightly-below-average B-western, with not much for tunefulness. A higher bitrate would have helped on the transfer, which sounds pretty good, and the disc contains the usual broad selection of extras.


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