At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (Warner Archives)

By • Jun 30th, 2016 •

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BluRay review by Roy Frumkes

I have never been a fan of this film. I found it plodding, pedantic, fueled by relationships I could care less about, and dramatically distanced, almost like a late ‘40s early 50s police procedural. This last part, I’m certain, was director John Ford’s intent.

However, two things have changed the way I look at “SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON,” both for the good

What accounts for my shift in attitude from disliking the film to liking it? Well, first there’s the essential balance between the film’s stand-offish tone, emphasized by an abundance of long shots, countered by Winton Hoch’s lush Technicolor cinematography, for which he won the Academy Award. Never has it been more important for the color saturation of a film to compensate for the emotional distance of its narrative elements. And previous releases, from 16mm prints to laserdisc to DVDs, failed to recapture that balance. But Warner’s Archive team have, and so, finally, for likely the first time since its theatrical release in ’49, we can sit back and luxuriate like a floating otter in the rich palate of the Western terrain, as well as the deep navy blue hue of the soldiers’ uniforms, which absolutely pop on the new BluRay.

The other change? The Duke. I saw this film back in the day on a theater screen, and I knew that Wayne was still a young man. The moustache and graying hair didn’t fool me into believing he was an aging Cavalry Captain on the cusp of retirement. Worse, it distanced me from the story. No longer. Time has passed. Wayne is gone. My students at The School of Visual Arts don’t even know who he was. So seeing him in late middle-age makeup no longer stretches one’s willing suspicion of disbelief.

If you like Ford, or/and Wayne, and enjoy a solid, watchable Western, pick it up. It’s a lovely disc. The subtext of the two young soldiers and their rivalry concerning a woman at the fort (Joanne Dru), which is where the film’s title comes into play, is now the only weak element. I dislike all three of them, and Ford has done this to me before. But Wayne is quite good, and Victor McLaglen is colorful in a role he would enlarge on (probably based on how well it went over here) in THE QUIET MAN (1952). Ben Johnson as Sgt. Tyree is quietly effective as a young but seasoned and intuitive military advisor. And Jester Hairston, who served as Choral Director, later co-starred in Wayne’s THE ALAMO.

In 1956, THE SEARCHERS’ cinematography would blow this film’s away. But they had VistaVision by then (emphasis on ‘Vista’), and looking at those Monument Valley mesas in that process was almost hallucinatory. No IMAX or 3D needed. David Lean watched THE SEARCHERS several times before he embarked on LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, studying how Ford balanced foreground characterization against background locale. He was right to do so.

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One Response »

  1. Like a fine wine, I personally felt this movie got better with age. Now this new transfer will only enhance a radiant taste!!

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