Including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in the ongoing Paramount Presents series (#31, for those keeping count) is a no-brainer. Not only a big hit, it’s arguably the last great film directed by the legendary John Ford and pairs two Hollywood legends for the first time.
This release is also noteworthy for being the first Paramount Presents 4K UHD offering (along with a Blu-ray version). As such, the film looks and sounds good, though to be honest, I didn’t notice a huge difference between the Blu-ray and 4K discs. The overall image of the Blu-ray might even be more consistent. Still, both are an improvement over previous releases.
As for the film itself, I’m gonna commit potential blasphemy by saying The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance has always been a bit overpraised. That’s not to say the film isn’t terrific entertainment. Anchored by one of the more compelling stories Ford has ever worked with, it’s loaded with great moments, from Lee Marvin’s ferocious performance as the hateful sadistic titular villain to the complex vulnerability Stewart instills in Ransom Stoddard, subjected to the brunt of Valance’s reign of terror until their classic stand-off.
|"Dine 'n' Dash? Who me?"
Finally, the story goes on way longer than it needs to. Without providing spoilers, the primary conflict is resolved a full 20 minutes before the credits roll, then ties-up loose ends with a meandering coda. Granted, it’s to set-up a major plot revelation, but that could’ve been accomplished more concisely. In fact, a single shot recounting what really happened during the climactic gunfight might have had more dramatic impact, as opposed to Tom taking Ransom - and the viewer - aside to explain it all.
But that’s just me. For the most part, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance remains an entertaining late-career milestone for both Stewart and Wayne, while Ford reminds us he didn’t need color, big sets or the “wide open spaces” to put together a dark, compelling western (for budgetary reasons, it was filmed entirely on soundstages). This 2-disc set also includes more extensive bonus features than the usual Paramount Presents release, as well as outstanding packaging.
“THE SIZE OF LEGENDS: THE SOUL OF MYTH” - An excellent multi-chapter documentary.
“FILMMAKER FOCUS” - A regular feature in the Paramount Presents series, critic/historian Leonard Maltin discusses the film.
AUDIO COMMENTARY - Mostly by director Peter Bogdanovich, but also features archival comments by director John Ford and actor James Stewart.
SELECTED SCENE COMMENTARY - Intro by Dan Ford. Features archival interviews with director John Ford, actors James Stewart & Lee Marvin.
4K, BLU-RAY & DIGITAL COPIES