BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Dec 11th, 2017 •

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2D & 3D Review by David Rosler

GUN FURY is a 3D technicolor western from 1953 which is about as deep in context as the title is poetic. However, Kino has nevertheless made a wise choice in delivering this all-but-forgotten motion picture to the public in current-technology 3D.

Directed by Hollywood vet Raoul Walsh, it stars Rock Hudson,and Donna Reed, with a young Lee Marvin doing in a small role what Lee Marvin ultimately did best in starring roles; look hard as stone with bagfuls of tough love and glint of sadistic arrogance. It was filmed in the Red Rocks area of Sedona, Arizona, and while the scenery is unarguably impressive, it tends to overshadow a sometimes clumsy script and a cast which does not quite gel on-screen, a problem one must attribute to Walsh, whose job it was as director, as it is for all directors, to see to it that the actors blend harmoniously in the narrative.

The central point of interest among the male characters is Donna Reed, who while attractive, leaves one bewildered why everyone is making quite so much of a fuss about her supposed ravaging beauty; so much so that a stagecoach robber leader would risk even the mutiny of his own outlaw band, to keep Reed after kidnapping her. If anything, it gives one the impression that the west was indeed rugged if the tough guys are ready to kill each other over pleasantly common Donna Reed as though she were a scandalously flirtatious Bridget Bardot. As is always true when paired against any actress, gay Rock Hudson utterly fails to convince in his love for Reed, but makes for a reliable western mannequin rolled through the scenes as he fights to regain Reed from the clutches of the villain. Phillip Carey, however, is quite good as Reed-obsessed gang leader Frank Slayton, but again, the villains’ objectified regard for Reed make them seem so indiscriminate about women that they come across as the Harvey Weinsteins of the wild west. In it’s final form, GUN FURY demands a little patience and a healthy suspension of disbelief.

All is not lost, however. Kino has done a terrific job of restoration and if you are a lover of the saturated reds and greens of the three-strip Technicolor process as I am, there is much eye candy to keep you from suffering through the silliness. The print for 1953 is quite beautiful and admittedly, Walsh stages enough action to just about keep one engaged for the length of this guilty semi-pleasure.

Generally, that’s the review of the 2D version. Now here’s the 3D version. The 3D takes a rather tepid and forgettable western and transforms it into a quite interesting one. Kino made a wise choice in delivering this all-but-forgotten motion picture to the public in 3D. Walsh, another blind-in-one-eye 3D director does a nice job of creating a sense of place juxtaposing foreground and background elements and one really gets a feel for the time and setting in 3D which is much less powerful in the 2D version.

For 3d techno-geeks, it must be stated that out of nowhere, particularly in the 2D watching, shots get incredibly contrasty and grainy much to the detriment of the moment; it’s noticeable and my GUESS is that 3D is the culprit. It seems likely that some shots simply fell outside of the acceptable degree of left-right convergence/divergence. To correct such a problem, the producers would have had to go into the optical printer with the offending shots, blow them up to give them enough image x axis (side-to-side) latitude to align the left and right views so the subjects of each shot on the right and left were closer together. This would appear to be the case because in many of those shots, while the foreground subjects are okay, the background divergence is extreme. This would explain why the grain is not only worse, but many times larger in the offending shots; there is clearly some old-fashioned optical zoom work at play.

For the above scenario to be likely, it suggests that Columbia might have used two cameras instead of a custom 3D camera. I have no historical knowledge to back this up, but GUN FURY was plainly already an apparently expensive effort for Columbia, which had nowhere near what Universal and Warner Brothers had going for them in the early 1950’s. One assumes that a custom 6-strip 3D camera, if it was true technicolor (and not just technicolor using the Eastman process and using the Technicolor name), would have been a very big deal indeed for Columbia. To have a unit like that on location in Arizona, besides, strikes me as a bit much for little Columbia. Even a black and white two-strip 3D unit would likely have been too much for Columbia on location.

So, 3D-philes, my guess as to why certain shots appear to have huge amounts of grain and contrast reduces down to this: Two 3-strip technicolor color cameras on location, occasionally too deeply out-of-registration, requiring correction in the optical printer with optical zooms to re-align the right and left, blowing up the three-strip grain, made presently intolerable by contemporary oversharpening for the blue ray market. I feel this is a pretty reliable guess since as I watched the film in 3D, the grain was much, much less objectionable, due undoubtedly to the fact that the grain would not have been uniform on the left and right views, and therefore on each side the intensity of the optically-enlarged image grain was lessened because the grain arrangement on each view would be different and therefore the image contrast, which makes the enlarged grain so objectionable, is softened by half when the two are superimposed together in 3D.

In the final analysis, GUN FURY more or less delivers what is promised for the die-hard aficionados: Die-hard western fans; die-hard, Rock Hudson fans; die-hard Donna Reed fans; and like myself, die-hard 3D appreciators. No, GUN FURY isn’t great, that’s for sure. But if your life is not pressed for time, GUN FURY is a nice little enjoyable popcorn movie in 3D, and while I disagree, apparently some people love it in 2D as well.

Kudos to Kino for restoring these old works; preserving and making available otherwise lost moments of motion picture heritage.  GUN FURY will not change the world, but Kino’s preservation/restoration work in the collective, particularly in the area of 3D, is extremely important to the history of cinema.

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