• Yellowstone Kelly

    Released by: Warner Brothers
    Released on: 2010-8-04
    Director: Gordon Douglas
    Cast: Clint Walker, Edward Byrnes, John Russell, Ray Danton, Claude Akins, Rhodes Reason, Andra Martin

    Year: 1959

    The Movie:

    Directed by Gordon Douglas, 1959’s Yellowstone Kelly stars tough guy Clint Walker as a military scout and trapper working for the then fledgling U.S. military named Luther ‘Yellowstone’ Kelly, doing his best to avoid getting into trouble with the Sioux Indians who live in the area and are none too keen on having their way of life disrupted. Since he once saved a Sioux chief, he and his assistant, Anse (Edward Byrnes), are allowed to trap animals in their territory so long as he more or less stays out of their way.

    Kelly gets unwittingly drawn into the problems that exist between the government and the Sioux tribe when he bravely saves the life of a beautiful native girl named Wahleeah (Andra Martin) who is from a different tribe and who is held captive by the Sioux. When she escapes, he man’s up and offers her kindness, completely unaware that his actions will have a domino effect and cause a whole lot of problems for him and for her, particularly when the Sioux chief (John Russell) comes to take her back from him.

    Clint Walker is strong as the lead here. He looks the part of a tough mountain man and has enough charm and charisma that you can see how Wahleeah would soon fall for him. On the flip side of that coin, Andra Martin is quite fetching and you can see why he’d be interested in her – so on that level, at least the inevitable romantic subplot that creeps into Yellowstone Kelly is more believable than most westerns made around the same time. Look for a supporting role from a young Warren Oates as a U.S. army corporal. The rest of the cast are pretty decent, with Edward Byrnes playing Kelly’s assistant with the right amount of enthusiasm and John Russell making a fairly intimidating if not entirely believable Sioux Chief.

    Shot in and around the Arizona wilderness by cinematographer Carl E. Guthrie, the film always looks great and makes the most out of the natural scenery that the state can provide, with plenty of long distance shots showing off the area’s beauty. This makes for a pretty appropriate backdrop for the action and melodrama to play off of, and director Gordon Douglas makes the most of it. The film does deal in some expected, if unfortunate, stereotypes (as many westerns of the era tend to do) but never to the point that it should be seen as offensive. The action sequences that pepper that later half of the film are dramatic and exciting with some tense shoot outs and nice fight choreography that works well in the picture’s favor.

    If Yellowstone Kelly isn’t an unsung classic of the genre, it’s a pretty decent time killer with a solid performance and a lot of great camerawork. The cast make this one work, and though the direction is fine and the cinematography quite nice, the script is fairly predictable, leaving the actors to do all of the heavy lifting. Thankfully, more often than not they succeed.


    Despite the ‘Remastered Edition’ tag at the top of the packaging, the 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this release isn’t going to make a lot of new friends. The darker scenes are pretty murky, at times almost discernibly so. Lighter and out of doors scenes fair considerably better but detail is still soft, looking like this has been mastered off of an existing video master rather than from a film source, which is a shame as the movie is quite nicely shot and has some great exterior locations working in its favor.

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono track is on par with the video in that it won’t floor you, but it certainly sounds pretty good. Dialogue is easy to understand and follow and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. There are a few scenes that are a bit flat sounding, but otherwise there are no problems to report.

    Aside from very basic menus and chapter selection, this release is barebones.

    The Final Word:

    A marginally enjoyable western, Yellowstone Kelly is now available for those who want it but the Warner Archive burn on demand release is far from stellar, even if it does present the film in its original aspect ratio. Probably a release best suited for established fans of the film, rather than just the curious.

    Want more info? Hit the Warner Brothers website by clicking here.