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Case Number 27542: Small Claims Court

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The Man from Laramie (1955) (Blu-ray)

Twilight Time // 1955 // 104 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 3rd, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Naugle is a rootin' tootin' man from Palatine.

Editor's Note

Our review of The Man From Laramie, published February 8th, 2000, is also available.

The Charge

He came a thousand miles…to kill a man he's never seen!

The Case

When Will Lockhart (James Stewart, It's a Wonderful Life) rides into the small town of Coronado towing a wagon filled with supplies, he finds more than he bargained for in the form of the Waggoman clan, a wealthy family who seem to have their hand in every facet of the small town. Lockhart stirs the ire of Dave (Alec Nicol, The Screaming Skull), a mean young man who burns down Lockhart's wagons for taking salt from a mine Lockhart didn't realize the family owns. After his brush-up with Dave, Lockhart eventually tussles with Vic (Arthur Kennedy, A Summer Place), the foreman of the Waggoman's business, and eventually irritates the patriarch, Alec (Donald Crisp, Birth of a Nation), a business baron who is slowly losing his eyesight. Lockhart is in Coronado not only with supplies but an ulterior motive, one that will eventually be exposed and linked to the Waggoman family in a harrowing climax of bullets, blood, and spiteful vengeance.

James Stewart had that unique ability to portray an everyman even thought he was a big Hollywood star. That's why he became so famous; Stewart wasn't ruggedly handsome but down to earth and normal. Stewart seemed to understand that what audiences responded to isn't someone put up on a pedestal but a man who we could all relate to—a guy on our level. When Stewart passed away 1997 he left behind a body of work that was unparalleled: from the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life to Hitchcock's masterpiece Vertigo, Stewart's legacy was a litany of movies and performances that audiences still love to this day. Stewart was known for many roles, including a slew of films directed by frequent collaborator Anthony Mann.

Stewart and Mann worked together often, creating five classic westerns in the 1950s: Winchester '73 (1950), Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953), The Far Country (1954), and their final film together, 1955's The Man from Laramie. Each of their films was more than just general popcorn pictures for the kiddie crowd. Mann and Stewart's body of work was created for an adult crowd with mature themes running through them. Although these westerns featured many of the standard clichés we've come to know and love (horse chases, gunfights, cattle ranchers, etc.), they also dove deep into the psyche of the characters. Mann's films were not just about good guys and bad guys, cowboys and Indians; these were real people struggling with inner turmoil and frustrations with themselves, their families, and their dusty communities. No doubt, they were heady topics for a genre oft perceived as simplistic and rote.

James Stewart once again gives a masterful performance as Lockhart, a man who breezes into the town of Coronado and finds more trouble that he can seemingly handle. Stewart gives the character just enough of an edge to make him likable but slightly off-balance. Unlike many Stewart roles, Lockhart isn't an 'aw shucks' everyman but a guy who has become world weary and is just looking for justice. The supporting cast is equally as effective, most notably Donald Crisp as the aging businessman who is losing not only his sight but also his grip on his family. Alec Nicol gives a fine turn as Alec's son Dave, a man who is fueled by anger and a need to be seen by his father as something other than a screw-up.

There's a Shakespearian undercurrent to The Man from Laramie which gives the film a bubbling anger that spills over into petty violence and explosive emotional turmoil. Many a comparison has been made to Shakespeare's classic "King Lear", and those comparisons are apt; the film feels like it was crafted as an old fashioned piece of storytelling. The nuts and bolts of the film features Stewart's Lockhart going up against a wealthy family filled with dysfunction. Within a short time Lockhart has found himself on the wrong side of patriarch Alec's patience due to a run in with his biological son, Dave, and Vic, Alec's trusted foreman who sees himself as a second son to Alec. The complexities of these relationships—including Alec's frustration with Dave's impetuous temper, and Vic's desire to be loved by Alec in the same way Alec loves Dave—offer viewers a swirling vortex of emotions that Sigmund Freud would have a field day with. The screenplay by Philip Yordan (King of Kings) and Frank Burt (who wrote many episodes of the Stewart radio drama "The Six Shooter") is dense without being confusing and features a climax that gives some characters a resolute end and others a glimmer of salvation.

Presented in a stunning 2.55:1/1080p HD widescreen transfer, this nearly sixty year old film looks shockingly new, with bright bold colors and deep black levels. It's impressive to see a film like The Man from Laramie given such loving attention from Twilight Time. The soundtrack is a newly re-mastered DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix and does a very fine job of offering up a replica of the original track with a bit of extra oomph behind it. There are a few surround sounds or directional effects to be found here (usually during the moments of gunfire or action), but overall this is a mostly front heavy, dialogue driven mix. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.

Sadly, fans of this film will find the extra features sorely lacking. All we get is a short teaser trailer and theatrical trailer for The Man from Laramie, and an isolated music and effects track.

The Man from Laramie is a superior western and one of James Stewart's meatiest roles. Released by Twilight Time in a limited run of only 3000 units, get 'em while they're still around.

The Verdict

A rootin' tootin' good western. Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 95

Perp Profile

Studio: Twilight Time
Video Formats:
• 2.55:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 1955
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Blu-ray
• Classic
• Western

Distinguishing Marks

• Isolated Score
• Trailers


• IMDb

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