• Man From Laramie, The

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing:
    Released on: June, 2014.
    Director: Anthony Mann
    Cast: James Stewart, Donald Crisp, Arthur Kennedy, Alex Nicol
    Year: 1955
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Director Anthony Mann has always enjoyed a stellar reputation for his work in the Western genre and rightfully so. A superb visual craftsman with a keen eye for both natural vistas and human character flaws, his films were every inch the equals of the more celebrated John Ford. THE MAN FROM LARAMIE is no exception.

    Will Lockhart (James Stewart) is a throughly decent man looking for answers and maybe a little ethical revenge. Lockhart is a supplies trader and his brother (a cavalry officer) was murdered by a marauding Apache war party at Dutch Creek. Lockhart has traveled to the nearby town of Coronado to trade some goods and look for some answers about his brother's demise. After he spots a repeater rifle for sale in the general store he's dropping off supplies for his suspicions are aroused. Repeaters are not the typical weapons of Indians and some were found burned at the site of his brother's death.

    The town of Coronado is essentially a medieval fiefdom run by the powerful Waggoman clan. Patriarch Alec (Donald Crisp) is a land Baron who lives on a massive spread known as The Bard. His son Dave (Alex Nicol) runs most of the ranch business pertaining to the livestock and management while the father deals with the finances. His main helper and most competent aide is ranch hand Vic Hansbro (Arthur Kennedy) however - a man who's unwavering loyalty is often taken for granted.

    The setup of THE MAN FROM LARAMIE is classic Western. A noble stranger rides into town looking to right an injustice and encounters resistance from the locals. But what makes Mann's film so engrossing is his talent for bringing characters to life in glorious 3D. Lockhart may be almost dull in his stalwartness on one level, but Stewart hints at something a bit darker when his character is tested. In a literal trial by fire, Lockhart is dragged through burning embers in a confrontation with the sadistic Dave Waggoman. Lockhart, told at the general store that some area salt flats can be harvested for free, is accosted by Dave and his large group of ranch bands. Disallowed of providing any form of defense to Dave's charges, Lockhart is called a thief. In one of the film's most harrowing sequences, his mules are brutally shot, his wagons burned and he's roped like a steer. And finally - the fire.

    The American Western has often been misconstrued by many as a usually generally tame affair prone to unrealistic violence and casual racism. While there were quite a few of those films, the Anthony Mann's of the world were operating on a much more vaunted level. This is adult fare all the way. There's a whiff of King Lear in THE MAN FROM LARAMIE. Aside from the purely sadistic Dave Waggoman - the character's here are interesting shades of gray. It's also quite startling to see the level of violence on display. Stewart is roped and dragged through fire and shot through the hand in a rough sequence. Much later, the Italian spaghetti western would expand these elements greatly, but it's worth noting that for a 50's movie THE MAN FROM LARAMIE was pretty extreme.

    The heart of this film revolves around the rivalry between ranch hand Vic (who loves patriarch Alec like a father) and Alec's real son the violent ne'er do well Dave. Alec is also going blind both literally and figuratively. His eyesight is failing and he cannot get past his unwavering love for his son to see what an evil man he is. And while Lockhart is in town to find out the truth about his brother, he can't avoid getting deeply entangled with these people.

    The standout performances here are Arthur Kennedy and Stewart. Kennedy had a fascinating aura as an actor. Tough as nails but tempered with intelligence, his Vic Hansbro is a sympathetic character in many ways. He's backed into corners against his will in defending loose cannon Dave because he wishes to please the patriarch. When things go horribly wrong he retains the status of a victim. Just not an entirely pitiable one. Stewart shows a little more grit than his often "aw shucks" persona. He's pretty badass as he grimaces through a vicious gunshot wound and utterly convincing in two fistfights. When it's later revealed he's an army officer you believe it. This IS walk softly and carry a big stick.

    There are some sketchily inserted romantic subplots too but they really have little bearing on the film's theme. This one is about fathers and sons and family loyalty. And revenge. It's positively Shakespearean.


    Twilight Time have been supplied by Sony with a first rate transfer for the film. The 4K scanned 2.55:1 AVC encoded 1080p image looks gorgeous. Colors are lush and accurate and grain natural and well managed. The stellar work of cinematographer Charles Lang is beautifully presented. Occasionally, because this was a CinemaScope production there is a minor warping effect sometimes visible at the edges of the frame. This is really only seen in a few wide panning shots. By returning the film to its original aspect ratio for Blu ray this was inevitable. Otherwise, expect to see natural fresh tones, nice inky black levels and zero DNR. Since this is one of TT's newer transfers (along with THE BLUE MAX), results are among the strongest in the label's catalog.

    Audio is provided by a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is a repurposing of the film's original 4-track stereo. There is some nice surround activity on display in the track. Shots crack sharply, the horses sound feisty and the ambient sound field is very well rendered. Dialog is centered and clear. The lovely score is well presented. The less said about the awful theme song however? The better.

    The only extras are a one minute teaser and the film's two minute theatrical trailer and an isolated music and effects track ( in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.). The trailers are a little underwhelming but score fans should be pleased with the isolated score. It's solid. An insert booklet contains liner notes from Julie Kirgo.

    The Final Word:

    Intelligently written and superbly acted and beautifully shot, there's very little not to love here. THE MAN FROM LARAMIE is first rate stuff. Stewart and Kennedy shine and genuine pathos is on display. Anthony Mann was one of the very best in this most American genre. Very highly recommended and kudos to Twilight Time for another HD winner.

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

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      That point blank hand shot is still disturbing...brutal as just about anything you'll find in a film from this era and wouldn't be out of place in a spaghetti western. I will be picking this disc up soon. Great review, Horace.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Nice review, Horace. I love this film, though I have a preference for THE NAKED SPUR (would love to see that hit Blu).