Release Date(s)1961 (May 13, 2014)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: D+
Before they worked on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance together, John Ford and Jimmy Stewart collaborated on a much different western called Two Rode Together. Touted by the film’s trailer as an authentic western, or more accurately “how it really was,” Jimmy Stewart portrays a somewhat gritty U.S. marshal who has settled in a small town, only to be, as he puts it, “dragged” away by his friend to speak with an army major. He finds himself being recruited to hunt down Comanche and save the people whom they’ve been kidnapping for many years... but for a price.
To be honest, I couldn’t help but flash back to The Searchers while watching this film. It’s certainly apparent that it’s neither Stewart’s nor Ford’s best material. It feels a bit tired and seems to be going down territory that’s too familiar to really stand on its own. That’s not to say that there isn’t any merit to it at all. There are plenty of big landscapes, large open vistas, and interesting characters, all of which John Ford was known for and excelled at. Unfortunately, it’s with material that feels like it’s reaching just a little too high. It feels more like a TV version of a much bigger film to me. Not only that, but the overall tone wavers just a little bit too much. At times we’re meant to be into the drama, but at the same time we’re supposed to be enjoying the lighthearted comedy. It can work in certain films, but in this context, it doesn’t really sit well and something feels off the entire time while you’re watching the film.
Despite Two Rode Together lacking a more credible tone, it still has plenty to do with its characters, specifically its three main leads: Jimmy Stewart, Richard Widmark, and Shirley Jones. They all have interesting backgrounds and different ideals, and following them around gives you some richness to sink into. As I mentioned previously, the film is filled with some signature John Ford cinematography. The frame is always interesting to look at, whether it be sky and mountains in the distance, someone ringing a church bell, or two men just sitting by a stream side by side having a chat; everything is framed so perfectly. So even though John Ford may not have liked the film personally, there’s still plenty about it to appreciate. It’s not one of his finest, but it’s certainly not his worst (not that I’d really ever classify any John Ford film as being “the worst”).
For Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release of Two Rode Together, they’ve pulled together another terrific presentation. There’s a beautiful grain structure throughout the film that helps reveal an enormous amount of fine detail. The color palette is also pretty impressive, as it’s very colorful with some strong primaries; it’s certainly one of the more colorful westerns I’ve seen, and the transfer reflects that. Blacks are quite deep, shadow detail is abundant, and both the contrast and the brightness are at acceptable, if not perfect, levels. I didn’t see any real evidence of digital boost or manipulation, and neither did I see very many film artifacts left behind. The film is presented with the original English mono in DTS-HD. It doesn’t have a lot of boom or boost to it, but it does have some good ambience. Dialogue is usually clean and clear, sound effects come through well, although a bit dated, and score fills out the mix nicely. The track is certainly vintage-sounding, but is ultimately clean and effective enough for the film at hand. Overall, a great presentation. There are subtitles in English for those who might need them.
There are very few supplemental features with this release, but you do get an isolated audio track for the film’s score, the original theatrical trailer, a scroll-through of Twilight Time’s current catalogue, and a 6-page insert booklet featuring an essay on the film by Julie Kirgo. It’s interesting to note that Stewart’s cruel and inebriated speech to Shirley Jones has been edited down significantly in the trailer. I also spotted an alternate camera angle from one of the moments in the film, something I rarely see in trailers of this vintage.
To my knowledge, Two Rode Together has never had a proper DVD release in the U.S., so Twilight Time’s Blu-ray treatment of it is most welcome. In my opinion, the more John Ford material in high definition the better, even the lesser of his films. Still, there’s plenty to be found with this one and the transfer is quite pleasing.
- Tim Salmons