Top critical review
241 people found this helpful
Quality of transfers is disappointing - trash along with just o.k. transfers - most can be found in better quality elsewhere
on July 31, 2005
50 westerns, seems like a bargain?! Well... maybe, depending on your tolerance for sub-par film transfers. There are some great films here to be sure, but at least a third are pretty bad transfers, and the rest are mostly just marginal at best. Virtually all of the more commonly available films offered here can be found in significantly better quality elsewhere.
Virtually all of the half dozen or so of the films from the 1960's are total trash - you can not watch these without getting a headache - totally unwatchable!!! For example, check out "The Grand Duel" starring Lee Van Cleef in the sixties - a totally washed out, blurry disaster, probably one of the very worst film transfers I have ever seen on DVD (note: a much better film transfer of this movie is available on the Platinum issued Lee Van Cleef DVD). On the other hand, in this collection you get an early 1940's era film like Howard Hughes' "The Outlaw" in near pristine condition. Most of the other films in this collection fall somewhere in between quality wise.
But, you should be aware that in most cases these same films can be found in significantly better quality in other generally superior DVD collections - see my other Amazon reviews for several examples. Check out "Tough Guys of the West" for a much better collection of 20 similar B-Westerns or check out any of the Platinum issued DVDs included in "The Great American Western" series.
Included in this collection are several commonly found Roy Rogers and Gene Autry films - however, these are mostly just copies from fuzzy VHS and as a result most of them have a slight out of focus look to them - you get used to it after awhile and you can watch them o.k., but just be warned that the quality is somewhat lower than your average VHS tape. I have found that the Madacy or Platinum issued Roy Rogers films are generally as good and in some cases better film transfers than what you find in this collection (see my review for the Madacy issued Roy Rogers DVDs). Also, you might want to check out the Roan Group issued DVDs for some other Roy Rogers titles not included here in this collection (see my review for more details on those great DVDs).
And then you have the Tex Ritter and Bob Steele films - these appear to be actually mastered from original 16mm or 35mm film - the only problem is that they tend to have a lot of scratches and splices at certain points. In one Tex Ritter film the soundtrack gets out of synch with the action and talking for about 20 minutes. But even so, you do get a reasonably sharp image direct from film instead of a third rate, fuzzy VHS copy. And often these films run for quite a long time without any problems and when problems do pop up it's only for a minute or two - in other words, you can mostly enjoy the films without eye strain. Even so, I will warn you that these particular early Bob Steele and Tex Ritter films are not really that great even considering the time period and the genre. Both Tex and Bob have made better films than the ones offered in this collection - these are mostly just "o.k." performances - nothing great.
If you like Bob Steele you should check out a superior performance in the film credited to Roy Rogers, "The Carson City Kid" which is included in this collection. This is an early Roy Rogers (pre-Dale Evans) film which co-stars Bob Steele. "Carson City Kid" is very enjoyable, but again, as noted above, the transfer of the Roy Rogers films here are not very sharp (the one put out by Madacy, for example, while still not perfect, is far better than the transfer included in this collection, while the one issued by Platinum easily has the best best picture of all, but that soundtrack is easily the worst! So, take your pick!) - but, in any case, my point is that Bob Steele's performance as the bad guy in this film is much better than the other earlier films he stars in that are included in this collection.
"Vengence Valley" with Burt Lancaster is in color and a great movie, but the image here is not very sharp and the color is severely faded out as if copied from a VHS copy someone left on the dashboard of the car a bit too long! I have the version issued by Platinum and it is nearly perfect with pretty good color and very sharp looking. Get the Platinum version and avoid the one in this collection!
"The Kansan" and "Abilene Town" are both really great movies, but here they are both particularly fuzzy looking - again, another case of bad transfers from VHS? "Abilene Town", for example, can be found in much, much better quality on the "Tough Guys of the West" DVD collection (see my review for "Tough Guys of the West"). "The Kansan" is also available on Alpha Video and while Alpha has a very mixed track record for some of these films, their version in this case is much better than the one in this collection - see my Amazon review).
The early John Wayne films are also a mixed bag - most are fuzzy looking, but some might actually be from film instead of VHS copies - it's hard to tell. "McLintock" from 1963 is basically trash in this collection - very fuzzy and very faded color. Please also note that "McLintock" is being released very shortly (or has been released by the time you read this) by the John Wayne estate on DVD - you will probably want get that one!
Better film transfers of some of these early Lone Star Production John Wayne films (at least not any worse and in some cases significantly better) can found on the Roan Group DVD, "The Early Years Collection." I have a much better, near perfect DVD transfer of "Angel and the Bad Man" (from Good Times) compared to the fuzzy version you find in this set.
A couple of other films are rare in that I have never seen them offered on DVD before, so you might need to get this set for those. "Billy the Kid Trapped" and "Arizona Stagecoach" for instance are ones I had never seen before on DVD - I found both to be very enjoyable and are from film transfers, but again with a lot of splices and scratches at various points - but still very enjoyable and very watchable. I don't think any of the Tex Ritter films are available elsewhere. The same Bob Steele films in this collection are also offered on Alpha Video DVDs, but I don't know if they are in any better condition on Alpha than what you find here in this collection, but my guess is you would likely be better off with the Alpha versions.
So, the bottom line is that you should get this if;
(1) You need a good copy of "The Outlaw" - it's the only film here that is in pristine condition.
(2) You need to have the few films that only appear in this DVD collection and nowhere else.
(3) You don't want to spend a lot of money, and don't care about quality, yet you want to sample a lot of early B-Westerns to get some idea of what the genre looks like. Actually, on second thought, you would be far, far better off in getting the 10 DVD 20 movie collection "Tough Guys of the West" if that is your goal. That collection gives you a much better bargain in terms of quality than the "50 Western Classics."
Here's another tip for you. If you are looking at B-Westerns for the first time you might want to check out the Hopalong Cassidy films offered by Platinium - there are 40 films total on 5 DVD volumes that you can get really cheap! Some vendors sell these for less than two dollars a disc (each disc has 5 films on it)! Do the math - with shipping you are looking at about $1 per film. And they are in absolute pristine condition! Check it out - the Hopalong Cassidy films are among the very best B-Westerns ever made. The Red Ryder series is also available on DVD issued by VCI and I have seen most of them - they are great films with pretty good film transfers - you will not be disappointed in those.
Here is the complete list of films in this set:
Angel and the Badman
The Carson City Kid
Young Bill Hickok
In Old Caliente
Rough Riders Round-Up
Sheriff of Tombstone
My Pal Trigger
Cowboy and the Senorita
Bells of San Angelo
Under California Stars
Sing Cowboy Sing
The Mystery of the Hooded Horseman
Song of the Gringo
Springtime in the Rockies
Round-Up Time in Texas
Man of the Frontier
Riders of the Whistling Pines
Paroled To Die
The Oklahoma Cyclone
Daniel Boone, Trail Blazer
Vengeance Valley starring Burt Lancaster
Billy the Kid Trapped starring Buster Crabbe
Kentucky Rifle starring Chill Wills
Painted Desert starring George O'Brien
It Can Be Done Amigo starring Jack Palance
Gone with the West starring James Caan
The Outlaw starring Jane Russell
White Comanche starring Joseph Cotton
Phantom Rancher starring Ken Maynard
The Grand Duel starring Lee Van Cleef
Mohawk starring Neville Brand
Abilene Town and 7th Cavalry starring Randolph Scott
Arizona Stagecoach starring Ray "Crash" Corrigan
Broadway to Cheyenne starring Rex Bell
The Santa Fe Trail starring Errol Flynn
American Empire starring Richard Dix
The Kansan starring Richard Dix
Gunfight at Red Sands starring Richard Harrison
Stagecoach to Denver starring Robert Blake
The Sundowners starring Robert Preston
China 9, Liberty 37 starring Warren Oates
Judge Priest starring Will Rogers