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Buy from Amazon

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Warner Home Video presents
Tom Selleck Western Collection (1997-2003)

"You can't have no idea how little I care."
- Monte Walsh (Tom Selleck)

Review By: Matt Serafini   
Published: May 19, 2008

Stars: Tom Selleck, Virginia Madsen, Mark Harmon, William Devane
Other Stars: David Carradine, Keith Carradine, Haley Joel Osment
Director: Simon Wincer, Dick Lowry

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for violence
Run Time: 05h:06m:00s
Release Date: May 20, 2008
UPC: 883929013340
Genre: western


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ A-A-A- F

DVD Review

As a child of the 1980s, it was easy to grow up a fan of Tom Selleckís if you were an avid film or TV buff as I was. His eight-season stint as title character Magnum P.I. quickly became a showcase for the actorís charming everyman quality, while his concurrent feature film roles (Runaway, Lassiter, and Three Men and a Baby) helped to establish the actorís versatility in vastly different roles. That said, Warnerís boxed collection of three TNT original westerns (each previously available separately) managed to increase my appreciation of the actor. Not only does Selleck carry each of the three titles, he does so with three very different and appealing characterizations.

Last Stand at Sable River (1997)
1h:34m:37s
Director: Dick Lowry

Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, Last Stand at Sable River works with one of the western genreís most defining themes, struggling with the evils of oneís past, and serves up a suspenseful and exciting adventure.

Selleck plays Paul Cable, a former Confederate solider who returns home from battle hoping to put the horrors of the Civil War behind him. Instead, he discovers a new battle looming as he and his family must contend with a cadre of Union sympathizers (headed by David and Keith Carradine) whoíve taken residence on his land. Things are further complicated by a growing estrangement between Cable and his wife, Suzy Amis. She feels heís returned home from the war a changed man, so much so that she no longer recognizes him.

Considering this is a made-for-TV film clocking in at only 94 minutes, Last Stand at Sable River packs in a surprising amount of characterization into the running time without skimping on the action. Selleckís Paul Cable is a traditional Western hero in the moral sense, but heís not above wading through some murky waters, either. As Cableís wife, Suzy Amis suffers from an underwritten character, but makes up for it with a layered performance. Even if there isnít a clear motivation in place for her, Amis keeps the character human and believable. David and Keith Carradine steal the show as villains full of surprises (and humanity).

Sable River smacks of authenticity in nearly every regard. From its locales, costumes, solid action set-pieces, and terrific performances across the board, there isnít a misstep to be found. Director Dick Lowry keeps things lively with an interesting visual palette. This may be a TV movie, but it never looks cheap or compromised.

If thereís any fault with the film, itís in the plotting. Some events are brought on without sufficient development, and others are simply resolved much too quickly. And though most of the characters are given sufficient development, itís simply not consistent. When one of the characters becomes the main antagonist, itís not necessarily surprising, but weíre never given enough insight into why things suddenly had to happen the way they did.

Thatís not to infer that Last Stand at Sable River isnít worth a look, though. It is. Spearheaded by a fantastic performance by Tom Selleck and complimented by a reliable supporting cast, it would be hard to imagine this film coming up short for any fan of the genre.

Style: B
Substance: B

Crossfire Trail (2001)
1h:35m:34s
Director: Simon Wincer

Of the three films included in this box, Crossfire Trail is probably the closest to a Western in the traditional sense. That is to say, this is a film with all the trappings: smarmy villains, badass gunfighters, tried and true heroes, cowardly townspeople, a code of honor, etc. In this film, itís all here.

When Rafe Covington (Selleck) promises a dying friend that heíll watch over his ranch and wife (Virginia Madsen), he inherits a wealth of problems stemming from smarmy businessman Bruce Barkow (Mark Harmon), who has his eyes set on both. Rafe sets up residence on the now abandoned ranch, but Barkow hires a deadly killer to ensure his stay is short-lived.

Not unlike Sable River, the biggest issue with Crossfire Trail stems from Virginia Madsenís character, Anne. Madsen has always been a good actress, and while she makes for a sympathetic widower here, there isnít much else to hold onto. Sheís instantly suspicious of Rafeís proclamation that heís there to watch over her (and perhaps rightfully so), but her characterís revelation later on literally comes out of nowhere and makes little sense. Another problem is that the script links her to the filmís villain in a somewhat romantic way, and while it's easy to understand that a woman may not have had much of a choice to refuse courtship back then, it makes her character seem all the weaker.

While on the topic on one-dimensionality, Mark Harmonís Barkow wouldnít be a more obvious enemy if he were twirling his moustache. Harmon goes a little over the top with his character, but itís pretty fun to watch after it becomes clear that weíre supposed to revile this guy in every regard.

Director Simon Wincer has crafted a rock solid film with Crossfire Trail. With steadily mounting tension culminating in an exciting (if muted) gunfight that may take a tad longer to arrive than necessary, it remains an entertaining and well-shot genre film.

Style: B+
Sub: B -

Monte Walsh (2003)
1h:58m:57s
Director: Simon Wincer

Director Simon Wincer reteams with Tom Selleck for Monte Walsh, a remake of the 1970 Lee Marvin film and easily the best movie offered in this collection. Whereas Sable River worked with the theme of a hero haunted by sins of the past, Monte Walsh works with another romantic Western theme: being a cowboy in rapidly changing times.

After a brutal winter, two cow-hands, Monte Walsh (Selleck) and Chet Rollins (Keith Carradine), return to town to discover waning demand for their profession. Working through another slow and arduous season, the men come to the realization that theyíre on the verge of extinction. Chet falls in love with the owner of a hardware store while Monte realizes that thereís nothing for him outside of a cowboyís life.

Monte Walsh is less about archetypal heroics and good versus evil action. Its focus is on the character of Monte and his determination to cling to the only lifestyle heís ever known while the world around him changes all too quickly. Selleck is absolutely fantastic here, with immeasurable panic and sadness brimming beneath his stoic exterior. Knowing full well that cowboy life is doomed, Selleckís Walsh would rather die than admit it.

The film reteams Selleck with Keith Carradine (unsurprising, since their chemistry in Sable River was the filmís highpoint) for another rich partnership. These actors work well off each other and we never doubt their many years of friendship as a result. And like the other two films offered in this collection, Monte Walsh offers a sprawling supporting cast of first-class performances. William Devane, James Gammon, Isabella Rossellini, Wallace Shawn, and George Eads all bring memorable contributions to this production and enhance its pedigree.

Simon Wincer makes one of the best films of his career in Monte Walsh. Bringing out the prevalent themes in ways both subtle and pronounced, he creates a rich and layered film that envelopes the viewer in its characters and their dispositions. The cinematography is top-notch as well, capturing the sweeping landscapes and free-forming lifestyle of Monte Walsh.

Benefitting from a leisurely pace (nearly two hours) and brimming with nothing but great performances, Monte Walsh is one of the best Westerns in recent memory, TV movie be damned! It would be a crime to pass this one by.

Style: A
Sub: A+


Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - n/a
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes
Anamorphicyesyes


Image Transfer Review: Of the three films offered in the set, it's Monte Walsh that comes off the best in terms of image quality. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is lush and detailed, with rich blacks and no sign of edge enhancement. The settings are primarily outdoors and the image is always colorful.

Crossfire Trail is nearly as crisp. There's a little bit of grain evident in the nighttime shots, likely an accurate representation of the way it was filmed. But like Monte, this is a pleasing 1.85:1 transfer.

The oldest of the bunch, Sable River is no slouch, although there's some haloing in a few moments along with examples of edge enhancement throughout. That said, like its peers, the colors are good and the image is detailed. This is the one fullscreen presentation of the bunch, but the image looks proper at 1.33:1 and I couldn't find any documentation to suggest otherwise.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Monte Walsh is the only disc to offer a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. The surround channels aren't used in excess, but do become active during the most raucous moments. The audio quality is clear, with subwoofer activity during the action scenes and most stirring musical swells. The action is relegated to the front speakers, primarily, but the track makes for a great way to view the film.

Both Crossfire and Saber are presented in three channel Dolby surround and the tracks aren't all that different from Monte's, really. Action sequences are a little less pronounced, but otherwise these surround tracks enhance viewing experience by giving the audio some texture, something lacking from a standard television viewing experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 84 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring PurgatoryThe Desperate Trail
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: While this set offers three good films with solid audio and video presentations, there aren't any extras worth speaking of. Monte and Crossfire offer cast bios while Saber showcases to meager advertisements for other TNT original Westerns.

Extras Grade: F

 

Final Comments

Warner's Tom Selleck Western Collection offers three very solid films featuring the actor as three very different characters. This is a very reasonably priced set and it's well worth a purchase for Monte Walsh alone. The other films are of merit also, however, and together prove that Selleck is a charming and likeable screen presence who never received his due.

 


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