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    Ian Jane

  • Rawhide

    Released by: Kino Studio Classics
    Released on: August 2nd, 2016.
    Director: Henry Hathaway
    Cast: Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward, Jack Elam, Dean Jagger, Hugh Marlowe
    Year: 1951
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    The Movie:

    Rawhide is not a particularly complicated tale, but it sure is a gripping one. The movie stars Tyrone Power as a man named Tom Owens. He comes from good stock - he's a book smart, educated man whose father, a big shot at the Overland Mail Company, is grooming him to take things over for him. It's for this reason that Tom's living out in the middle of nowhere, the lone man in charge of Rawhide Station.

    Tom's sleepy existence is rocked when a gang of escaped convicts, led by Rafe Zimmerman (Hugh Marlowe), is reported to be prowling around the area. It's up to Tom and Tom alone to make sure that Vinnie Holt (Susan Hayward), a passenger on his company's stagecoach travelling with her young daughter, is kept safe from harm. He brings her back to the station for safekeeping but soon enough, Zimmerman and his gang show up at the station and take both Tom and Vinnie hostage. If that weren't bad enough, one of Zimmerman's men, Tevis (Jack Elam), is clearly deranged and just might have a thing for poor Vinnie.

    This one has more in common with something like Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs than most other western films made around the same time. Sure, it's set in the south west and it's got stagecoaches and cowboy hats aplenty, so it counts, but this is more of a home invasion styled thriller as it is your typical 'good guys versus bad guys' in the old west parable. It's an uncomfortable and claustrophobic watch, spending more time inside the station than out in the great wide open. The movie is also very clever in how it sets things up. When it all hits the fan in the last half of the movie and the previously docile Tom has to take control of the situation and lead a fit for survival, all the pieces are already put in place. This means that, avoiding spoilers here, when he does what he does how he does it, it never seems like too much of a stretch. This is quite a grounded picture, one that feels very earnest and despite its old west setting, quite realistic.

    Performances here are strong across the board. It's interesting that Power and Hayward are cast as the 'everyman' leads in this picture, given that both were A-list performers more associated with more glamourous productions than this. But they do great work here. When it comes time for Tom to do what he needs to do, it's interesting to see how Power's character goes from clean shaven nice guy to a man determined to survive no matter the cost. Likewise, Hayward, who is still nothing short of gorgeous in this picture, has an interesting arc to her character as well. Once her young daughter is thrown into the situation, she too finds within her what she needs to fight back. Both leads do very fine work here and are quite believable in their respective roles.

    Not to be outdone, Hugh Marlowe, cast against type as the bad guy here, also delivers very memorable work. As Zimmerman he's more than just an escaped con out to hide from the law. His character is very intelligent, cunning and manipulative and Marlowe makes this part his own. At the same time, Jack Elam absolutely steals every scene he's in. Elam's strange facial expressions and distinctly 'crazy' looking eyes make him a great choice physically to play the part, but in addition to just looking unstable, he gives Tevis plenty of effectively twitchy character quirks to make him a genuinely frightening figure.

    Incredibly well directed by Henry Hathaway (better known for bigger, more epic westerns with the likes of John Wayne in the lead than for smaller pictures like his) and based on a tight, tense and clever script from Dudley Nichols (who penned classics like Scarlet Street and Stagecoach to name only a few), Rawhide is an unorthodox western to be sure. At the same time, it's smart enough to bypass unnecessary melodrama and romance and as such, it's lean, mean and completely gripping.


    Rawhide is presented in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition picture framed in its original 1.33.1 aspect ratio and it looks excellent. This disc offers a very nice upgrade in terms of detail and texture and improved black levels when compared to DVD could have provided. There's a bit more print damage than some might want but it's all very minor stuff. There aren't any really glaring or distracting scratches here nor are there any noticeable splice marks to complain about. Contrast looks quite nice here and we get good black levels too. Compression artifacts are never a problem and the image appears to be free of any heavy noise reduction or edge enhancement.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language LPCM 2.0 Mono track, there are no alternate language tracks or subtitles provided. The clarity is generally fine, though there are bits that sound a little flat, which likely stems back to the source. Minor hiss is present once or twice but if you're not listening for it you probably won't be bothered by it though some of the sound effects demonstrate some noticeable reverb.

    The extras on this disc have all been carried over from the 2007 Fox DVD release and are all presented in standard definition. First up is Susan Hayward: Hollywood's Straight Shooter, a seven minute featurette that gathers together a few film historians to talk about the important of the career of Rawhide's leading lady. It's part brief biography and part career retrospective and it's pretty interesting stuff. The thirteen minute long Shoot In In Lone Pine! featurette features a few more film historians gathered together to talk about the history and significance of the California locations used as the primary backdrop for Rawhide and countless other films.

    Rounding out the extras is a two minute restoration comparison featurette, a trailer for Rawhide and bonus trailers for a few other westerns available from Kino Lorber's Studio Classics line (Yellow Sky, The Ox-Bow Incident, Man Of The West). Static menus and chapter selection are also provided.

    The Final Word:

    Beautifully shot, really well acted, remarkably tense and hard as nails, Rawhide delivers! Kino's Blu-ray doesn't bring anything new to the table in terms of extras but it does give the movie a pretty serious upgrade in both the audio and the video departments. The film itself holds up really well - this is an insanely good movie, highly recommended!

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

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