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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Mono
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, English - Hearing Impaired, Italian - Hearing Impaired, Romanian
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Director
  • Featurette


Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 107 mins . PG . PAL


Another rousing westernfest starring none other than John Wayne, that hep cat of the west, fighting for the little guy and shooting some people. Oh, and he punches some, too.

This event starts out typically enough with a betrayal and a shady deal; one that will threaten John Chisum’s way of life. Chisum (J.W.) is a man who ‘got there first’ really, when they were giving away land. And he got shitloads of it. Then he stuck some steers on it and started making money hand over fist. But, because he’s a nice guy and helps people out, this is okay. Enter the shady dealer, L.G. Murphy, trying to buy up the town of Lincoln, which has sprung up since Chisum settled. He gets sticky fingers into the sheriff’s office so he controls the law, then he starts pinching Chisum’s cattle and selling them as his own to the U.S. Army. Whatever will Chisum do?

Running along beside is a rather interesting subplot regarding Billy the Kid. It seems Mr The Kid has settled down and taken a fancy to Chisum’s niece, and spends much of the film mooning around and reading the bible. It takes ages for him to get around to shooting anyone. Anyway, his mentor gets falsely accused of rustling and shot to death right there on his wagon, and that sends Billy on a bit of a killing frenzy, which dominates the film’s ending. So it’s kinda bizarre how we start the film with one story and it ends with another, but they both end simultaneously. As in most good westerns, the finale is a final shootout and retribution delivered western-style.

"You know that gimp?"

This was one of the big westerns for John Wayne, and one that earned him the (back then) unfathomable fee of a cool million dineros. It’s an interesting mix of story and historical fact and is actually based on a real man and the situation of the cattle wars. The Billy the Kid thing is an interesting twist, though I don’t recall these events appearing in Young Guns, that archival quality documentary of several years ago. At any rate, Pat Garrett is here too, helping out, with he and Billy actually being friends before things go all arse-shaped. (I think that was in Young Guns though... but it’s been a while).

Anyway, this is your typical big muscled, big shooting, big action western with lots of folks getting shot off their horses and rolling around in some dirt or a shallow river crossing. Slow and a little confusing to begin with, the film does eventually pick up speed until the final minutes where everyone gets killed in a hail of Uzi fire.


Being such a big John Wayne film, the treatment is big also. Note the excellent 2.35:1 big screen aspect ratio and the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement. These two features add great depth to the massive sweeping shots of the western prairies and canyons, and really help set the scene in its remoteness.

The picture is fairly good throughout, with some nicely saturated colours and distinct detail. There are a few issues about details though, particularly in the night scenes, of which some were shot by day and filtered whilst others are definitely shot by night. The daylight ones are too brightly lit beneath the blue filters, which puts the moon’s strength at about four times the brightness of a full moon. And the true night shots are all so poorly lit you won’t know who’s doing what to whom. That being said, the blacks are true black and do look nice.

Artefacts have been well catered for in their removal, though some misnomers managed to make their way through. A good example is at 1:07:26-28 where the right side of the screen conjures what could only be writing on the print. It looks like an effort may have been made to remove it, but alas, not all. This happens again at 1:08:44 for what appears to be the last time. The rest are smaller spots of black or white that don’t affect the film too much.

The only other failing is in the gingham shirts of some characters. These alias horribly, making them almost of screensaver-quality independent motion. This occurs infrequently, but is quite pronounced when it does. There are also instances of alias in diagonal hatbrims and such, but these aren’t too prevalent.


This is the worst theme song I’ve ever heard. Honestly. Merle Haggard in full voice singing ‘Chis-UMMMMMMMM’ (repeat) and a bunch of lyrics I shan’t impart here, but then when you think the singing’s done, comes the spoken word stuff! I tell’s ya, it got me all ornery, dagnabbit!

As to dialogue, this is rather cheesy in parts and sometimes delivered a little woodenly. It’s all clear and well pronounced though, just cheesy. Chisum’s right hand man, Pepper, mumbles a lot in character and even this is discernable if you turn the sound up a bit. Nice.

However, sound effects aren’t so good. The worst part of these is the damn gunfire stock sounds. Surely different guns shoot with different sounds? Well, not in the old west, pardner. The synching is all okay though and most of the effects are clear at least.

The music is well suited to the film and is well balanced throughout. It does play a little comedic occasionally, but not enough to annoy.


Director Andrew V. McLaglen, veteran of other films I’ve reviewed delivers an audio commentary over this’un that isn’t too bad. He speaks about the film industry and his work in it and gives some genuinely interesting facts about the film’s creation. Unfortunately, he sounds just like Stephen Wright the comedian, in the same droll deadpan voice and I kept waiting for a punchline that never came.

There are only two other inclusions in the theatrical trailer - delivered nicely in 1.85:1 and enhanced (if a little corrupted by time, artefacts and grain) – and a featurette. This is entitled John Wayne and Chisum and is a fairly well made documentary with behind the scenes footage and slight interviews. It’s a bit of a sales pitch, but hardly any different from the ‘making-of’s we get today. Except, thankfully, shorter. It’s an alright package considering the inclusions in the John Wayne Box Set I reviewed a while back (save yerself a click: It had three trailers for four films and that was it!)


It’s hard to know what to rate a film that includes a fist so deliberately hitting the camera without question or even a mention in the audio commentary. Yes, John Wayne draws back his fist and clearly strikes the lens, shaking the camera, before he delivers the blow. (Check it out at 1:17:56).

The film has its stilted moments and its awkward teenage romance (from two first time actors admittedly) and its robust gunfights. It has some cool action scenes and characters we come to care about, so it has its pros and cons. Equally as good as any of the John Wayne films I’ve reviewed before, it will sit handsomely among them in both transfer quality and in Mr Wayne’s unique panache. Fans will love it without doubt, and even those modern viewers spoiled by films like Tombstone and Unforgiven can get into the spirit of it, given time.

...And I was kidding about the Uzi, but you knew that.

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      And I quote...
    "Set in the hot Summer of ’69 (1869 that is) this western is better than Bryan Adams! (Just)."
    - Jules Faber
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          Nintaus DVD-N9901
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          Sony 51cm
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    • Audio Cables:
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    • Video Cables:
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