Click here to learn more about anamorphic widescreen!
Go to the Home Page
Go to The Rumor Mill
Go to Todd Doogan's weekly column
Go to the Reviews Page
Go to the Trivia Contest Page
Go to the Upcoming DVD Artwork Page
Go to the DVD FAQ & Article Archives
Go to our DVD Links Section
Go to the Home Theater Forum for great DVD discussion
Find out how to advertise on The Digital Bits

Site created 12/15/97.



The Digital Bits logo
page created: 10/24/05




Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

Randolph Scott on DVD and New Announcements

(Western Roundup #2 - October 2005)


I didn't particularly plan for this column to turn into a western round-up, but that seems to be what has resulted as I take a look at Randolph Scott on DVD, review five of his films recently released by Sony (Columbia), and then add in reviews of seven other western discs (three serials [Fighting with Kit Carson, Rustlers of Red Dog, Riders of Death Valley], two Red Ryder Double Features, and individual discs of The Last Frontier and Major Dundee). So I've updated the western release database just for completeness.

The usual update of classic release announcements can be found at the end and that database has been updated too.


Randolph Scott on DVD

The name of Randolph Scott immediately makes one think of westerns, which is not unreasonable since Scott, like Joel McCrea, focused exclusively on western films for most of the second half of his film career. Unlike most other western stars whose name is linked with the genre, however, Scott's later efforts were never at the B-series level beloved of the Saturday matinee fan. His were solid A productions, some of which from the late 1950s have been elevated almost to the status of cult items as the years have passed.

Scott was born in 1898 in Virginia, and grew up on the east coast where he was educated, eventually graduating from the University of North Carolina with a degree in textile manufacturing. Realizing that his interest was acting instead of textiles, he found himself in Hollywood where he garnered a bit in a 1928 George O'Brien silent western, Sharp Shooters. Several other small parts followed including one in the Gary Cooper version of The Virginian and an early Cecil B. DeMille talkie, Dynamite, both released in 1929. Eventually, he signed a seven-year contract with Paramount and appeared in 20 films during the 1931-1938 period, although not all were with Paramount since the contract did not bind Scott exclusively to that studio.

During this contract, westerns were a major focus as Scott was starred in a number of Zane Grey adaptations. These films, of which there were ten in all, were generally high caliber Bs in nature and utilized stock footage from silent Zane Grey features that Paramount had earlier made. Scott was an effective lead and adapted well to action films. But he also showed versatility, reflecting his easy-going personality and naturalistic approach to acting. Thus there were also appearances in horror (Supernatural, 1933), musicals (Roberta, 1935; Follow the Fleet, 1936; High, Wide and Handsome, 1937), fantasy (She, 1935), and even a Shirley Temple film (Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, 1938). Scott's Paramount contract ended, appropriately however, with a western, The Texans (1938). By this time, Scott was an acknowledged film star although not generally in an A picture leading-man category as yet.

Of Randolph Scott's first 36 films, only five are available on DVD in Region 1 with one other title announced as forthcoming and another known to be in the works. Here are the details.


Title Year Production DVD Details
To the Last Man 1933 Paramount (one of the Zane Grey films) Title apparently in the public domain and available from several sources including Platinum and Roan Group. None viewed.
Wagon Wheels 1934 Paramount (Zane Grey film) Title apparently in the public domain. Available from Lion's Gate. The film is fine, but the DVD is marginal at best.
Rocky Mountain Mystery (aka The Fighting Westerner) 1935 Paramount (Zane Grey film) Title apparently in the public domain and available from several sources including Marengo, Platinum, and soon Roan Group. None viewed.
Roberta 1935 RKO Title expected to appear as part of the second Astaire and Rogers box set from Warner Bros. in August 2006.
She 1935 RKO Released on DVD by Kino. Recommended.
Follow the Fleet 1936 RKO Available from Warner Bros. separately or as part of the Astaire and Rogers Collection: Vol. 1. Recommended.
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm 1938 Fox Title announced by Fox for release on Nov. 22nd, 2005.


Scott films from this initial period for which there is no DVD availability/known-plans as yet include: The Virginian (1929), Murders in the Zoo (1933), Supernatural (1933), The Last of the Mohicans (1936), The Texans (1938) and the other various Zane Grey films made from 1932 to 1935 (Heritage of the Desert, Wild Horse Mesa, The Thundering Herd, Sunset Pass, Man of the Forest, The Last Roundup, Home on the Range). Note that some of the latter titles may have already appeared on bargain DVDs, but if so, I'm unaware of them.

From 1938 to 1946, Scott continued to make a variety of films although westerns tended to dominate. With his contract at Paramount completed, he freelanced and with the exception of MGM, worked at all the major Hollywood studios during this period. He was even considered for the role of Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, apparently being author Margaret Mitchell's choice; obviously that didn't materialize. At Fox, he mainly made westerns, where he usually co-starred. Included were the well-regarded Jesse James, a version of the Wyatt Earp story in Frontier Marshal, and Western Union with Robert Young. At Universal, it was a combination of westerns (When the Daltons Rode) and war films (Corvette K-225, Gung Ho!), although best known are his titanic battles with John Wayne in The Spoilers and Pittsburgh. During this period, Scott solidified his position as a film star and increasingly became the lead player in his films. Perhaps most significant during this period, in terms of its future impact, was Scott's initial teaming with producer Harry Joe Brown on the 1943 Columbia release, The Desperadoes. The pair would reunite in 1947.

Of the 22 films that Randolph Scott made during the years bracketing the Second World War, seven are available on DVD in Region 1 with one other title announced. Comments on all of Scott's films from this period follow.



Title Year Production DVD Details
Jesse James 1939 Fox Not on DVD, but a likely candidate for a future Fox Studio Classics release. In Technicolor, with Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda starring. Worth watching for.
Susanna of the Mounties 1939 Fox Not on DVD, but likely to appear as Fox appears now to be working its way through its Shirley Temple films.
Frontier Marshal 1939 Fox Not on DVD, but another one worth watching for. Scott plays Wyatt Earp.
Coast Guard 1939 Columbia Not on DVD. Scott and Ralph Bellamy struggle over Frances Dee.
20,000 Men a Year 1939 Fox Not on DVD. Routine air flight training yarn.
Virginia City 1940 WB Not on DVD. The follow-up to Dodge City with Errol Flynn further out west. Scott is a second lead. Worth watching for.
My Favorite Wife 1940 RKO Available on DVD from WB separately or as part of The Cary Grant Signature Collection. Also with Irene Dunne, Scott as a second lead. Recommended.
When the Daltons Rode 1940 Universal Available on DVD from Universal. Highly entertaining western with Scott starring. Recommended.
Western Union 1941 Fox Not on DVD. Stars Scott and Robert Young. In Technicolor, but the story is rather lackluster.
Belle Starr 1941 Fox Not on DVD, but worth looking out for, if only to see Gene Tierney as Belle and Scott as a bad guy.
Paris Calling 1941 Universal Not on DVD. Exciting WW2 story that stars Scott and a fine supporting cast (Basil Rathbone, Gale Sondergaard). Worth watching for, but don't hold your breath.
To the Shores of Tripoli 1942 Fox Available on DVD from Fox. Routine war propaganda. Initial Fox DVD release mistakenly was in black and white, later correctly released in Technicolor.
The Spoilers 1942 Universal Available on DVD from Universal. Exciting gold rush story has been filmed many times. Scott/Wayne fistfight is a doozy. Recommended.
Pittsburgh 1942 Universal Not on DVD. Another excuse for a Scott/Wayne dust-up. Also with Marlene Dietrich.
The Desperadoes 1943 Columbia Available on DVD from Columbia. That studio's first Technicolor feature. An entertaining western featuring Glenn Ford and Scott. Recommended.
Bombardier 1943 RKO Not on DVD. WB holds rights. Brisk war propaganda film, also starring Pat O'Brien. Worth watching for.
Corvette K-225 1943 Universal Not on DVD. Exciting WW2 Canadian naval action in North Atlantic. Worth watching for.
Gung Ho! 1943 Universal Title apparently in the public domain and available on DVD from several sources. None viewed. Over-the-top propaganda.
Follow the Boys 1944 Universal Not on DVD. One of those wartime tributes to the troops featuring a multitude of cameo appearances by the studio's stars.
Belle of the Yukon 1944 RKO Coming on DVD from Sony (MGM) on December 6, 2005. Technicolor, minor musical. Worth a look. Originally an International Pictures production released through RKO.
China Sky 1945 RKO Not on DVD. WB holds rights. Thoughtful adaptation of Pearl Buck wartime story.
Captain Kidd 1945 United Artists Title apparently in the public domain and available on DVD from several sources. Roan Group release is best bet. Film itself is mediocre.


Randolph Scott kicked off the postwar years with another fine western (Abilene Town) and by the end of 1946, he decided to concentrate on westerns exclusively thereafter. There would be only two minor exceptions (Christmas Eve, 1947 and a cameo in Starlift, 1951). In the late 1940s, Scott made several good westerns at both RKO (Badman's Territory, Return of the Badmen) and Fox (Canadian Pacific, The Cariboo Trail), but it was his reunion with producer Harry Joe Brown at Columbia in 1947 that would pay lasting dividends. Beginning with The Gunfighters, Scott and Brown teamed together in a joint venture business deal with Columbia Pictures that eventually amounted to 17 films released by Columbia during the 1947-1960 period. For variety, Scott also had a non-exclusive deal with Warner Bros., from which another 13 films resulted, including one produced by John Wayne's company, Batjac. Of course, not all these westerns were great. The Columbia productions were generally superior to the WB ones, but all had something that set them apart from most other westerns of the era. Much of that was Randolph Scott's presence which guaranteed a thoughtful, naturalistic performance that frequently avoided the western clichés of the day. It didn't hurt, however, that Scott was also frequently teamed with two very fine directors of the time, Andre De Toth and Budd Boetticher. It is particularly Scott's films with Boetticher (such as Seven Men from Now, The Tall T, Buchanan Rides Alone) that have come to be recognized as a yardstick by which westerns of any era, but particularly the 1950s may be measured.

Scott's last film with Boetticher and Harry Joe Brown was 1960's Comanche Station. He intended it to be his final screen appearance, but in 1962 at age 64, he was tempted one more time by a fine script that would unite him with Joel McCrea - both playing aging western characters. The director was Sam Peckinpah and the film was Ride the High Country. Suffice it to say that Scott could not have concluded his career with a finer film. After a career spanning 35 years and 100 films, Scott faded into the sunset and enjoyed a quiet retirement until his death in 1987 at age 89.

Of Randolph Scott’s final 42 films, nine are available on DVD in Region 1 with two others announced. Details follow.



Title Year Production DVD Details
Abilene Town 1946 United Artists Title apparently in the public domain and available on DVD from several sources. Marengo release worth trying as the film is quite good.
Badman's Territory 1946 RKO Not available on DVD. WB holds rights. Worth watching for.
Home, Sweet Homicide 1946 Fox Not available on DVD.
Trail Street 1947 RKO Not available on DVD. WB holds rights.
The Gunfighters 1947 Columbia Not available on DVD.
Christmas Eve 1947 United Artists Not available on DVD.
Albuquerque 1948 Paramount Available on DVD from Universal. Rather slow moving story, but decent transfer.
Coroner Creek 1948 Columbia Not available on DVD. Worth watching for.
Return of the Badmen 1948 RKO Not available on DVD. WB holds rights. Worth watching for.
Canadian Pacific 1949 Fox Not available on DVD. Standard stuff.
The Walking Hills 1949 Columbia Not available on DVD. Fine John Sturges directed outing worth watching for.
The Doolins of Oklahoma 1949 Columbia Not available on DVD. Worth watching for.
Fighting Man of the Plains 1949 Fox Not available on DVD.
The Nevadan 1950 Columbia Not available on DVD.
Colt .45 1950 WB Not available on DVD. Plenty of action and worth watching for.
The Cariboo Trail 1950 Fox Not available on DVD. Fine teaming with Gabby Hayes and worth watching for.
Sugarfoot 1951 WB Not available on DVD. Good western, particularly first half. Worth watching for.
Starlift 1951 WB Not available on DVD. Cameo only.
Santa Fe 1951 Columbia Available on DVD. See review below.
Fort Worth 1951 WB Not available on DVD. Standard stuff.
Man in the Saddle 1951 Columbia Available on DVD. See review below.
Carson City 1952 WB Not available on DVD. Santa Fe revisited.
Hangman's Knot 1952 Columbia Available on DVD. Recommended.
The Man Behind the Gun 1953 WB Not available on DVD. Routine.
The Stranger Wore a Gun 1953 Columbia Available on DVD. See review below.
Thunder Over the Plains 1953 WB Not available on DVD. Routine.
Riding Shotgun 1954 WB Not available on DVD. Routine.
The Bounty Hunter 1954 WB Not available on DVD. Good Andre De Toth outing and worth watching for.
Ten Wanted Men 1955 Columbia Available on DVD. See review below.
Rage at Dawn 1955 RKO Title apparently in the public domain and available on DVD from several sources. That from Roan Group is recommended.
Tall Man Riding 1955 WB Not available on DVD. Good action. Worth watching for.
A Lawless Street 1955 Columbia Available on DVD. See review below.
Seven Men from Now 1956 WB Coming on DVD from Paramount on December 20, 2005. Excellent film worth looking forward to.
7th Cavalry 1956 Columbia Not available on DVD. Worth watching for.
The Tall T 1957 Columbia Not available on DVD. Worth watching for.
Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend 1957 WB Not available on DVD. Routine.
Decision at Sundown 1957 Columbia Not available on DVD. Worth watching for.
Buchanan Rides Alone 1958 Columbia Not available on DVD. Worth watching for.
Ride Lonesome 1959 Columbia Not available on DVD. Worth watching for.
Westbound 1959 WB Not available on DVD. Routine.
Comanche Station 1960 Columbia Not available on DVD. Worth watching for.
Ride the High Country 1962 MGM Coming on DVD from WB on January 10th, 2006 as part of a Sam Peckinpah box set. Excellent film worth looking forward to.


Reviews

We start off with five Randolph Scott westerns, to complement the article above, and then catch up on a number of other recent western releases.


Santa Fe (1951)
Man in the Saddle (1951)
The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953)
Ten Wanted Men (1955)
A Lawless Street (1955)
(all released on DVD by Sony [Columbia] on September 6th, 2005)

Until now, Scott fans were despairing that Columbia would ever get around to releasing its considerable trove of Randolph Scott films. Only Hangman's Knot and The Desperadoes had appeared, but now Columbia has seen the light and a further five titles have been made available, all from the 1951 to 1955 period. Two further waves like this covering the 1947-1950 and 1956-1960 would make all the Columbia Scotts available, so here's hoping. Meanwhile, there's much to enjoy in this current group of releases. Man in the Saddle and A Lawless Street are the best of the bunch; Santa Fe the least.

Santa FeMan in the SaddleThe Stranger Wore a Gun

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!Buy this DVD now at Amazon!Buy this DVD now at Amazon!

Ten Wanted MenA Lawless Street

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!Buy this DVD now at Amazon!

In Man in the Saddle, Scott is a rancher who is increasingly goaded by his powerful neighbor played effectively by Alexander Knox. Knox first of all marries Randy's girl and then starts to put the squeeze on his ranch. Meanwhile, Randy is rather reluctant to respond, seeming to take the loss of his girl too casually, appearing to have too little gumption to face down Knox, and even hesitant to embrace the affections of another woman who obviously loves him. Thus, when he finally does react on all fronts, it's all quite satisfying. The film is full of real human relationships and the blend of action that is concentrated in the latter stages of the film makes for very pleasing entertainment. Joan Leslie and Ellen Drew play the two women while John Russell has an interesting supporting role. The direction is by Andre De Toth who engineers two fine set pieces - a rousing fist-fight in the hills and a shootout in town during a windstorm. Overall, a superior entry and handsomely mounted in Technicolor. Sony's full frame DVD presentation is very good. The original elements appear to be in fine condition and the resulting transfer exhibits good colour fidelity and a crisp image. There is some speckling and scratches in evidence, but nothing to detract from the film. The mono sound is quite adequate for the task and is supplemented by English and Japanese sub-titles. The only supplements are four trailers, none of which are for any of the Scott westerns. Recommended.

A Lawless Street finds Scott sheriff of the latest in a succession of towns to which he has brought law and order. Scott's dogged devotion to duty has alienated him from his wife (Angela Lansbury in a somewhat thankless role), who will only return to him if he hangs up his guns. Of course, Randy has to see this one last job through. The complication lies in Scott's principal antagonists who are a couple of local businessmen who want to benefit from a mining boom and so bring in a gunslinger to kill Scott. Michael Pate is quite good in this role and the resolution of the fight between the two is handled with a nice twist. It's a simple-sounding story, but the script is thoughtful and presents the reality of the Scott character's day-to-day life with some perception and attention to detail (we actually see Scott taking the time to dress, eat, and sleep [albeit in one of his own jail cells, where it's safe]). The action in the last third of the film is well-handled in terms of both execution and photography. In fact, the whole film has an interesting look characterized by camera angles which are a little more interesting than the norm - something for which low-budget director Joseph H. Lewis was well known. Sony's 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is again quite good, although the colours are not quite as vibrant as in Man in the Saddle. There is the usual speckling, but again, nothing that significantly detracts from enjoying the film. The mono sound is unremarkable and is accompanied by English and Japanese subtitles. There are several bonus trailers, none of which are for the Scott films. Recommended.

The Stranger Wore a Gun starts off well with Scott as a spy who cases a town in advance of a raid by Quantrill's Raiders. Sickened by the resulting slaughter, he tries to start a new life further west, driving for a stagecoach company out of Prescott, Arizona. Life soon becomes complicated when gold shipments are stolen and those responsible, aware of Scott's past, try to blackmail him into assisting them. This film should have a lot going for it. Direction is by Andre De Toth who takes advantage of the fact that the film was shot in 3D by projecting lots of things right at the camera. The supporting cast features the always reliable Claire Trevor (although her part is not strongly written) along with early juicy work from Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine as a couple of the bad guys. Unfortunately, the whole thing becomes rather muddled in the middle and loses momentum leading to a routine resolution. The film is certainly worth one's time for some of its individual characteristics, including Scott's performance, but overall, it's in the second tier of this set of DVD releases. The full frame presentation is nicely detailed although a fair bit of grain is evident along with the usual speckles. The colour fidelity is good. The disc offers the usual mono sound which is quite strong in this instance, and English and Japanese sub-titles. There are several bonus trailers, none for the Scott films. Recommended as a rental.

Ten Wanted Men finds Scott to be a powerful rancher who has built up his spread over many years and effectively controls much of the region's institutions. Local landowner Richard Boone tries to buck the serenity of the region when Scott prevents him from forcing his attentions on a young woman. Bringing in ten gunmen to help, Boone takes over the local town and forces Scott to respond. Scott's character is a little out of the ordinary here, as he plays a role that has traits of the sort of power-hungry types that he's usually fighting against in his films. Richard Boone makes for a good antagonist and the film's action is competently handled through much of its first three-quarters. The final confrontation, however, is quite a letdown as Scott uses dynamite unconvincingly to rout Boone's henchmen. The supporting cast (Jocelyn Brando, Skip Homeier) is a little below standard, although Lee Van Cleef's presence is welcome. Sony's full frame presentation is very good with bright, generally accurate colour and only minor speckling. The mono sound is clear and distinct, and is supplemented by English and Japanese sub-titles. There are several bonus trailers, none for the Scott films. Recommended as a rental.

In Santa Fe, Scott is the eldest of four brothers who fought for the Confederacy. After the war, he takes on a job ramrodding the building of the Achison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad, hoping to leave the bitterness of the war and his distaste for the northern victors behind. His three brothers continue to nurse their bitterness and become one element of the many hardships that building the railroad must overcome - Indians, gamblers, and competing railroad lines. The name "Santa Fe" is the closest we ever get to the town in this film, as all the action takes place in the territory between it and Topeka, Kansas. Not that it matters a great deal; the film is pretty routine stuff throughout, as the action is little more than competently handled. The script never really builds tension, instead lurching from one minor scuffle to the next. There is a good performance by Jock Mahoney as one of the bad guys (he and Scott have a good fight on a moving train), but the rest of the cast and particularly those playing Scott's brothers is uninspiring. The full frame presentation again offers a very nice transfer with good colour and minimal debris. The mono sound is merely adequate in clarity and is supplemented by English and Japanese sub-titles. There are several bonus trailers, none for the Scott films.


On to Part Two

Barrie Maxwell - Main Page
E-mail the Bits!


Don't #!@$ with the Monkey! Site designed for 1024 x 768 resolution, using 16M colors and .gif 89a animation.
© 1997-2002 The Digital Bits, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com