• Two Rode Together



    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: May, 2013.
    Director: John Ford
    Cast: James Stewart, Richard Widmark, Shirley Jones
    Year: 1961
    Purchase From Screen Archives Entertainment

    The Movie:

    I came to Richard Widmark late in life. He was one of those faces that I'd seen in a number of classic films but never paid proper attention to. Then I saw Edward Dmtryk's WARLOCK with Widmark and Henry Fonda. It's a brilliant and politically subversive western with a wonderful performance by Widmark. After that I made it a point to track down as much of his work as possible. I discovered something quickly - Widmark had a natural affinity for the Western genre. He looked right and sounded right and moved right playing cowboys and ranch hands and bandits and period military men.

    Which brings us to John Ford's TWO RODE TOGETHER. This was a very troubled film on multiple levels. Ford was going through a serious personal depression due to a friend's death. He hated the original script and corralled his trusted associate Frank S. Nugent to overhaul Will Cook's original draft. Casting wise Ford had less problems however - he secured Widmark and James Stewart. Unfortunately both actors were a minimum of ten years too old for their parts as written.

    The story centers around Stewart as Marshall Guthrie McCabe, a lazy and greedy man who gets his job done with the barest amount of effort possible. He's achieved a level of notoriety in the community that allows him to bark some orders and keep things in line. He likes it that way. He makes his money off of a skim of 10% from the local businesses - including one owned by his sort-of girlfriend. Into this picture rides his old army buddy Lt. Jim Gary (Widmark), accompanied by a group of soldiers. They have been mandated to bring McCabe to meet with one Major Frazer (John McIntire). This is initially too much work for McCabe's constitution until he realizes the girlfriend might be trying to get him to marry her. At that point he's good to go.

    The secret that's been kept from McCabe until he gets face to face with the Major is that the military wants to use McCabe's strong knowledge of the local Comanche Indians to help return some captured Whites. This angers McCabe mightily. He isn't interested in running a rescue mission - even with his pal Jim Gary tagging along.

    What McCabe IS interested in though is money. So he promptly starts collecting ransom bounties from the distraught families of those captured. He's pretty cold about it too - making no guarantees and letting everyone know that even if he does bring children and adults back they'll probably be "more Comanche than white".

    The biggest issues with the film aren't even the casual and persuasive racism (look, it's a 60's Western, deal with it) - they are the characters and their inherent nature. McCabe is a profiteer and lazy. His buddy Jim is manifestly spineless. And they aren't all that competent either. After returning with a measly two rescued captives (a beautiful Latin girl and a boy now named Running Wolf) McCabe and Jim have only managed to create MORE problems. Neither former Comanche captive can assimilate nor be accepted as they now are by the "white" society they once belonged to. It all ends in some fairly predictable ways with some tragedy and violence.

    Ford dumps some odd comedy elements into the film as well. Your mileage may vary on this material. I found some of the meandering chitchat between the two leads oddly fascinating but it sure doesn't aid the pacing of this. The film looks amazing however - but that's to be expected with a John Ford Western. TWO RODE TOGETHER ultimately rests in history as an interesting curio.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Twilight Time's Sony derived 1080p transfer framed at 1.85:1. looks pretty dandy. This is a nicely detailed and organic piece of work. Grain is healthy and properly accounted for but never storms the image field. Ford and his DP utilized a sort of brown-centric color palette on the film so colors don't really pop but that's the way TWO RODE TOGETHER is supposed to look. Significant print damage and the dreaded DNR gremlin are nowhere in evidence. Twilight Time continue their winning streak with Blu ray here.

    Audio is an unremarkably efficient DTS-HD Master Audio mono track. We really do try at RSP! HQ to make these tech report cards interesting but sometimes we run out of ways to state the basic. This track sounds good, has properly centered basic audio elements like dialog and ambient sound and is free from pops and significant damage. It's only failings in range and fidelity are related to its age. How's that?

    Extras consist of the usual isolated score track that Twilight Time specialize in (dished out in excellent quality DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.) and a trailer. Definitely watch the trailer for a crash course in the wildly un-PC ways of the Hollywood of yore where Indians were known as "redskins" when folks were being polite.

    The Final Word:

    One of Ford's weaker efforts gets a very nice HD presentation from the good folks at Twilight Time. One's affection for Ford and the classic American Western should be the deciding factor on this one. The presentation here cannot be faulted. The film itself however is substantially flawed as drama while still interesting.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!