• Showdown (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: March 23rd, 2021.
    Director: George Seaton
    Cast: Rock Hudson, Dean Martin, Susan Clark, Donald Moffat, John McLiam, Ed Begley Jr.
    Year: 1973
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    Showdown – Movie Review:

    The final film directed by George Seaton, 1973’s Showdown introduces us to Billy Massey (Dean Martin) and Chuck Jarvis (Rock Hudson), two middle-aged who grew up together, the best of friends when they were kids. Now as adults, Chuck works as a sheriff while Billy makes his living as a thief and a robber. This split happened when Chuck decided to get married to his lovely wife Kate (Susan Clark), Billy saw the writing on the wall when this happened and decided to split to go do his own thing.

    When the movie opens, Billy stages and succeeds at a daring train robbery and he just so happens to do it in the territory that Chuck is in charge of. As such, Chuck finds himself in the difficult position of having to track down his one-time best friend and bring him in to see that justice is served. It is his job, after all. Billy, obviously, would like to stay away from the long arm of the law, but Chuck isn’t going to get up that easily, intending with every fiber of his being to catch Billy – but is it to bring him in or to help him get away?

    Those going into Seaton’s film expecting a typical western full of gun fights and showdowns might be disappointed, as there really isn’t much action here until the last third of the movie and even then it’s nothing approaching what most typical entries in the genre would offer. That said, if you go into this movie with the proper expectations, it’s a very enjoyable film. First things first – if the setup described in the two paragraphs above sounds old hat, that’s because it is. The basic concept of the script from Theodore Taylor based on the story by Hank Fine is played out. However, as the story evolves over the course of the film, it gets decidedly more interesting. There are some interesting twists and unexpected turns that happens as the story unfolds, and while Showdown may not ultimately delivering on typical ‘good guys versus bad guys’ western thrills, chills and spills, it does succeed in creating interesting character and allowing the audience to understand and appreciate their respective dilemmas. There’s some good depth to the script, with the story exploring the complexities of the relationship that exists between these two men, and that winds up being more interesting than the basics of the plot itself.

    A big part of what makes this movie work, even when it maybe shouldn’t, is the acting. Dean Martin is charming as charming can be in this film and the part he’s been cast in works perfectly with his skill set. He’s occasionally humorous and sometimes a little dangerous but always likeable in the way that Dean Martin had the ability to be. He’s playing a right bastard of a character here in a lot of ways, but you’ll wind up really liking his character thanks to what he’s able to bring the picture. Hudson is also very good here. Although his performance is less charismatic, it almost needs to be. His character is more serious, almost brooding at times, and he handles this well. Susan Clark is also very good as his wife while smaller roles for the likes of Donald Moffat and John McLiam, not to mention a young Ed Begley Jr., are also fine.

    The production values are also strong pretty much all across the board with this picture. The cinematography is excellent, doing a great job of capturing the nice locations used in the film as well as the human drama that plays out during its running time. We also get a strong score and some nice editing as well.

    Showdown – Blu-ray Review:

    Showdown arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taking up 31GBs of space on the 50GB disc. There’s a bit of print damage during the opening credits and present sporadically in certain scenes here and there but overall the picture is pretty clean. Colors look excellent, the greens of the forest really looking quite lush, and black levels are strong. Detail is a step or two away from HD perfection but it’s still pretty strong, and there are no noticeable issues at all with any compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction. The picture looks nice and filmic throughout and overall this looks damn good.

    The only audio option on the disc is a 16-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No issues here, the track is clean and nicely balanced and it does the score justice.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track from film historians Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell. After introducing themselves, their discussion (recorded remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic) talks about how this was the final movie that George Seaton would make and the last western that Dean Martin would make. They cover how the movie is, in many ways, a movie out of time, as well as Seaton's career overall, with a focus on his work at Universal. They cover how and why Dean Martin wound up in this movie as well as a few other westerns in addition to his love of the genre and the quality of his work in this picture. There's talk of how big Rock Hudson was in Hollywood around this time, Seaton's abilities to write and direct in different genres, how they both came to see the movie for the first time, the quality of Earnest Laszlo's widescreen compositions, how the film borrows from Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid as well as Lonely Are The Brave, the quality of Susan Clark's work in the movie, the unusual undertones layered in the film, aspirations that the movie reaches for, the use of language in the film and the dark turn that the movie takes towards the end. It’s a very interesting track that hits the right balance of facts and trivia and criticism and opinion. There’s no dead air here and they remain engaging and fun to listen to throughout.

    Aside from that, the disc also includes the film’s original theatrical, a few bonus trailers (Rough Night In Jericho, Hornet's Nest, Shoot Out and Doc), menus and chapter selection.

    Showdown - The Final Word:

    Showdown is an atypical western to be sure, but it’s also a very interesting one and much more of a character piece than your typical American cowboy movie. Martin, Hudson and Clark all deliver fine work here and are quite good in their respective roles while Seaton keeps things moving at a good pace. It doesn’t always hit what it aims for, but more often than not it is on the mark. Kino’s Blu-ray release isn’t stacked with extras but the commentary is very good as is the presentation. Recommended.

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