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5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional 70's western gets deluxe treatment on Blu-ray, August 21, 2011
This review is from: The Outlaw Josey Wales [Blu-ray Book] (Blu-ray)
In the wake of the many 1970's revisionist westerns Clint Eastwood reinvented his western personna once again with "The Outlaw Josey Wales". "Wales" was a sign post of Eastwood's final western the dark and, well, unforgiving "The Unforgiven" and, although not quite as dark as that film, "Wales" is certainly as dark as his previous film (which also paved the way for "Wales") the spooky "High Plains Drifter".

After Wales family is slaughtered he joins Confederate fighters led by Captain Fletcher (the always marvelous character actor John Vernon). At the conclusion of the war Fletcher convinces his men except for Josie to surrender to the Union all of them unaware that there are plans to execute Fletcher's men as part of an arrangement to save Fletcher's neck. Josie escapes with Jaime (Sam Bottoms) unaware that they are being pursued by Fletcher and the Union soldiers. Josie attracts a ragtag band of fellow travelers along the way.

The transfer: "Wales" has never looked this good on home video which highlights the flaws of mid-70's film stock as well as the look of the film itself. Grain is consistent throughout the presentation and looks quite nice adding to unique look. The colors are bolder than previous home video versions and the skin tones are just right for the look of this gritty film.

The film continues to show the influence of Eastwood's mentor Don Siegel ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "Dirty Harry")and Leone ("The Good, The Bad and The Ugly")but also demonstrates Eastwood's growth as a director.

"Wales" was a problematic production; writer-director Philip Kaufman ("The Right Stuff", "The Warriors", "The Unbareable Lightness of Being" and who co-wrote the script for "Wales" from the book by Forrest Carter) was fired during the shoot early on (after repeatedly butting heads with Eastwood over co-star Sandra Locke; it seems both wanted to woo her.) and Eastwood reluctantly took on the reins as director which forced Eastwood to push through the shoot without the usual prepartion he would have done as director. Luckily, Kaufman's excellent script survives largely intact and Eastwood compliments the script; it's hard to imagine what Kaufman might have done differently from Eastwood and while it is sad that he was robbed of the chance to complete the project himself, at least his vision somewhat survives.

THe film sports a nice 5.1 DTS lossless soundtrack that nicely captures the environment depicted in the film.

The special features are surprisingly good for this film. Unlike some companies that have been releasing catalog titles (even those with big stars or that have a following)lately, the extras here aren't just recycled from the previous version of the film.

The 30 minute punningly titled "Eastwood's West" gathers the usual suspects from co-stars to critics discussing a variety of Eastwood's films from the 1970's (although the focus is, not surprisingly, on "Wales"). It's an excellent short documentary.

"Hell Hath No Fury" the excellent featurette on the production of the film IS carried over from the previous DVD special edtion.

Kaufman is, not surprisingly, absent from the proceedings and that's too bad; it would have been fascinating to hear his take on what occurred 34 years later with the perspective of time. The chance in director isn't addressed really.

We also get the original vintage promotional featurette (although it doesn't provide much in the way of insight into the production of the film being PC). We also get the original trailer for the film.

A classic dark, brooding western "The Outlaw Josey Wales" has retained many of the qualities that made it so memorable in 1976 and the raw violence is still somewhat startling.

Warner has done a really good job of restoring the film for Blu-ray. The first edition comes in a limited edition "keepsake" hardcover book that has behind-the-scenes photos from the film.

Highly recommended.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 30, 2011 5:33:46 PM PDT
Interesting that you stated that Eastwood and Kaufman had a falling out because they were eying Sondra Locke--where did you get this info. From what I heard was that Kaufman had a different vision for the film which was smaller while Eastwood envisioned an epic Western. Was this from that book on Eastwood? Or did someone close to Eastwood tell you this? Eastwood stated in "Inside The Actors Studio" that he and Kaufman had an artistic difference on the film and not the vying for affection of Sondra Locke which I think would be a puny choice for dismissing someone on a film.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2011 9:00:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 1, 2011 9:01:36 PM PDT
Wayne Klein says:
Clint Eastwood and Phil Kaufman evidently had their creative differences on the film when it came to "directing" so that certainly played a part but keep in mind that Kaufman was brought on board by Eastwood to rewrite the script (so it certainly would have met with his approval)and Kaufman had already started shooting the script.

Did they have a conflict over the creative direction of the film as well? Yes but, again, keep in mind that Eastwood would have had a sense of the work Kaufman would have done given that they had been working on the project before and he had hired Kaufman to rewrite the script and direct.

There were many thinks (some of which if I recall correctly were never addressed or never brought up for personal reasons) that happened between Kaufman and Eastwood some of which we know some of which we'll never know and the only people who WILL know are Eastwood and Kaufman neither one of whom is elaborating beyond the explanation they've already given.

There's also a story floating out there (which I've never been able to substaniate) that Kaufman didn't want Locke for the film. Again, only those directly involved know the whole story.
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