10 June 2011

"True Grit" (1969) Blu-ray Disc

True Grit
Starring: John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby
Co-Starring: Jeremy Slate, Robert Duvall, Strother Martin
Screenplay by Marguerite Roberts
From the Novel by Charles Portis
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Blu-ray Disc Release Date: 14 December 2010
List Price: $24.99
Cinescopes Personality Types: Passionate Maverick, Destined Hunter
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This had been on my To See list for ages, and fortunately for me last year's remake occasioned this Blu-ray Disc release of the 1969 film adaptation.  The premise is simple enough: Mattie (Darby) hires U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Wayne) to track down the man who killed her father and bring him to justice.  Mattie is a headstrong young woman, Rooster is a deeply flawed ornery old codger.  They are reluctantly joined by La Boef (Campbell), a young buck out of Texas hired by another party to also track down the fugitive.  The Duke famously won his Best Actor Oscar for this performance.  Darby holds her own on the screen with the venerable cowboy legend.  Campbell feels out of place, not sounding terribly comfortable delivering his lines, but he's not a liability for the film.

The Blu-ray is gorgeous, and is a love letter to Colorado (where the majority of the film was shot on location).    There are a handful of supplemental features.  "True Writing" explores the work of screenwriter Marguerite Roberts, a known communist and how surprising it was that John Wayne was even willing to look at her script.  "Working with the Duke" is a nice fluff piece about Wayne; nothing revelatory here, but fans will smile and nod.  "Aspen Gold: Locations of True Grit" is a nice travelogue of the areas in Colorado where the film was shot, interviewing locals who recall the production and point out specific places.  "The Law and the Lawless" features a handful of Western historians discussing the nature of law during the Old West.  I personally wish this piece had been more expansive.  Sadly, the only feature presented in HD is the original trailer which, in true trailer fashion, shows entirely too much.

The gem really is the commentary track by Jeb Rosebrook, Bob Boze Bell and J. Stuart Rosebrook.  The trio share insights into the story, the production and the history of the era depicted on screen.  They're very well informed on all three topics and the conversation is engaging and lively.  I'm always leery of commentary tracks with more than two participants, but this one is terrific.  They ask one another questions, prompting a litany of anecdotes and observations.  Easily one of the most enjoyable commentary tracks I've ever heard, and highly recommended for enthusiasts.

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