A senator returns to a western town for the funeral of an old friend and tells the story of his origins. (from IMDb)
In what has always seemed like Paramount's own answer to the high end collectors' series Criterion Collection, the Paramount Presents line is now taking its first steps into the wonderful world of 4K viewing. First up is 1962's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a classic western that stars screen legends Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. In all honesty, the care I've seen Paramount give each title when I've reviewed these Paramount Presents releases is really remarkable. As you can expect, they handled The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance no differently. From the opening logos, I found my jaw dropping. The picture is crystal clear, with minimal film grain, and the contrast is solid. This is a black-and-white movie, and it looks gorgeous in 4K. I was actually surprised to discover that when some characters are wounded, the blood on their faces isn't just splashed on there, there is make-up on their faces for cuts and gashes. Lower resolutions wouldn't show that, but this transfer shows everything as clear as day.
The movie itself is obviously a classic -- even just for its stellar cast. Despite my love for old movies, somehow I hadn't seen this movie before this release. It's more than just your typical western as it follows Stewart's elderly Ransom Stoddard back to the town of Shinbone where he relays the story of the movie to a member of the press. Stoddard had come to Shinbone as a student of law when outlaw Liberty Valance raided the stage coach he rode in on and beat him. Stoddard then insists of finding a way to bring law and education to the good people of Shinbone. While there, he meets a local cowboy named Tom Doniphon, played by Wayne, who scoffs at the ideals that Stoddard champions and holds dear. Stoddard represents progress and growth coming to the Old West, ushering in a new age, while Doniphon and Valance largely represent the old ways.
For the most part, directed by John Ford, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a solid classic. The movie was at its strongest when it focused on the main characters, but there are few times it seems to get a little side-tracked or lost in the political nature of things -- especially near the movie's finale. These scenes tend to grind the film's momentum to a halt. I found myself anxious for resolution regarding the atrocities of Liberty Valance, and the movie takes its sweet old time getting there. Still, it's a really good story with wonderful performances; it's no wonder it's considered a classic.
The content for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a little violent at times, but it isn't very graphic. However, as I said before, the clarity of the 4K transfer does show more details; after the two scenes where a character has been beaten off screen with a whip-like weapon, we see blood and cuts on the victims. The movie is black-and-white, so blood just shows up as very dark gray, but it's enough to get the idea. There's another scene where a man is shot in the arm and we see blood running down their arm (again, it's in black and white). People smoke a lot and drink frequently, with characters appearing drunk quite often. Language is pretty clean, with just one "h*ll" (said as "sure as h*ll") and one "d*mn." There's also no sexual content of any kind.
If you're a fan of westerns or any of the central cast, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is definitely a movie to see. Again, this 4K UHD transfer is beautiful, so I highly recommend it. I love seeing older films get restored like this, and I'm excited to see more from Paramount Presents.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 5/15/22)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance comes in a collectible slip cover packaging with two discs -- the movie in 4K UHD and in standard Blu-Ray. There is also a digital copy code included with this set. There are no special features on the 4K disc, but the Blu-Ray disc offers the following features:
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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