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    The Virginian

    Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 83 mins . PG . PAL


    Talk about cheesy westerns. Plenty of old world values and dudes in nice slacks wandering around town helping each other out and riding horses. Plus a prissy schoolteacher fresh from out east, a love triangle, a bad dude all in black – honest to God, even his twirled moustache is black! If only he had a cape and top hat and tied the schoolteacher to the railway tracks, rubbing his hands in glee. Oh well.

    So our story takes place as Molly Wood from Vermont (not Holly Wood... haha) takes the train west to a new post on the outpost as a schoolteacher. Well, arriving in this town of 30 men to every woman, naturally the cowboys get called cowpokes. And so soon there is more than one young fella (perhaps bored with cows out by the campfires) coming after her and it becomes a personal quest between Steve (Sonny Tufts... is that a porn name or what?) and The Virginian (real name: Virginian) to see who can git her goodies first. Enter Dastardly Dan...

    "As my sainted mother used to say; one trick at a time."

    ...and the black hats, who make friends with Steve (who’s just back from being away for three years). Now Dastardly Dan (real name: Trampas) has been cattle rustling, and he gets Steve’s hands dirty old school. When The Virginian (that’s his name!) is sent to bring the rustlers to justice, the previously lighthearted film suddenly becomes a brutal melodrama and lives are lost. Trampas escapes and has a vendetta out for The Virginian and a final confrontation is inevitable (and predictable). There's some damn fine unloading of weapons into people though.

    This film is just a bit of cinema fluff really. No real action scenes, a brooding romance among the cowpokes and some mob justice - swift and sure - is about all there is to it. It has the look of an old TV show with so many sets about and cowpokes sitting on horses in front of moving backdrops in a studio. However, for a 1945 film the picture quality is excellent and is a testament to the damn fine resources at the Sony DVD Center. Have yet to see a dodgy picture come out of there (have seen plenty of dodgy films however...)


    Like I said, killer visual quality for a 1945 colour picture. Delivered in 4:3, there are naturally a series of varying calibre film artefacts but none are really too intrusive. The film reflection at 16:32-36, some weird flickering around 23:27 and a classic vertical black scratch at 4:02 are some good examples.

    Flesh tones are occasionally a teensy bit pasty, and shadow detail isn’t so good. However, the night scenes are all rather clear and blacks are true enough. Colour levels are all fine, showing up every deliciously garish dress of Molly Wood’s or every satiny shimmer on the cowpokes’ campy bandanas.


    Well, this is in Dolby Digital stereo and we couldn’t expect much more than that, right? I mean, it was made in 1945! I’m sure they only had Dolby Surround 4.0 by that stage, but it was on expensive wax cylinders or something.

    Dialogue is all nice and clear and short on the cuss words I would have expected in these lean, hard and tough cattle men with satin bandanas. The limited sound effects are okay, I suppose, but they borrow heavily from the stock effects bucket.

    The only real flaw, however, resides in the music being a tad louder than the rest of the noise. Plus, it’s too chipper for such hard country. I didn’t see ZZ Top anywhere!


    Well, they’s all been-a rustled by nogoodnik black hats.


    As far as westerns go, The Virginian is pretty weak. He’s all like this heroic man of few words and stuff, and his wummun is all like stubborn and proud and junk. Plus he wears a series of satin bandanas.

    It’s a really rather clean western made more for the romance stuff than any of the weak death scenes and helicopter chases and stuff. There is a humourous newspaper article in the film that calls The Virginian a cowpoke and cowpuncher, but it isn’t enough to save this dreary romance on horseback. Even the hangings are all stoic and brave and stuff. What’s up with that?

    Western enthusiasts might do better to let this one slide and go with something a little more upbeat, as this is more set in the time, rather than having all the cool western junk others in the genre have. Plus, the woman on the cover looks like someone just farted.

    They do sport some nice slacks though, those cowpokes.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3030
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      And I quote...
    "Did all cowpokes wear such natty slacks and leather chaps with satin bandanas?"
    - Jules Faber
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