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The Films of Budd Boetticher (Tall T / Decision at Sundown / Buchanan Rides Alone / Ride Lonesome / Comanche Station)

4.8 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Product Description

Few auteur directors are more revered and beloved than Oscar "Budd" Boetticher, Jr., who lived a life more amazing than any movie. And few films have been more eagerly-awaited on DVD than the spare, adult westerns he made at Columbia in the late 1950s, all starring Randolph Scott, most written by future director Burt Kennedy, and co-starring such outstanding actors as James Coburn (in his film debut), Richard Boone, Maureen O'Sullivan, Pernell Roberts, Lee Van Cleef, and Craig Stevens. Now, at last, you hold them in your hand: THE TALL T, DECISION AT SUNDOWN, BUCHNAN RIDES ALONE, RIDE LONESOME and COMANCHE STATION. Rounding out the set is Bruce Ricker's acclaimed feature-length documentary, A MAN CAN DO THAT, executive produced Budd's friend Clint Eastwood. Sony Pictures and The Film Foundation are honored to present one of the absolutely essential collections of this or any year.

To anyone interested in the Western genre, classic American cinema, and/or the history and art of film, the DVD release of director Budd Boetticher's five Columbia pictures starring Randolph Scott is a world-class event. For sustained and distinctive achievement in B-movie filmmaking, these movies--often referred to as "the Ranown cycle"--are rivaled only by the horror films Val Lewton produced for RKO in the 1940s. In each case the "B" is strictly a matter of budget and release pattern, not quality. Unlike the Lewtons, however, the Boetticher-Scott films have rarely been properly showcased in America, either individually or as a collective experience--in Martin Scorsese's observation, "one long extended movie" whose echoes, recurrences, and variations accrue extraordinary power and richness. The series properly originated with Seven Men from Now (1956), a movie not included here (but available separately) because it was made for another company. That picture more or less accidentally brought together Scott, Boetticher, and neophyte screenwriter Burt Kennedy--an uncanny blending of talents and qualities to create a great, thoroughly original Western that became the paradigm for the Ranown cycle. All the films run about an hour and a quarter and were shot in 10 days or so. In each, Scott plays a lone-riding man of few words with a personal, indeed private, mission to complete. Details of his backstory are few, and parceled out judiciously so that the understanding of both the audience and the other characters keeps evolving over the literal or figurative journey the film describes. In most cases, there's a key rival or adversary who poses the greatest threat to Scott's mission, yet is also the person closest to Scott in spirit or capability--often a disquietingly sympathetic figure whose necessary showdown with Scott occasions considerable regret. In keeping with Boetticher's own experience in Mexican bullrings, the climactic action takes on the spatial and spiritual overtones of a corrida.

It's scarcely coincidental that the three Ranown titles on a par with Seven Men from Now were likewise written by Burt Kennedy. The Tall T (1957), based on an Elmore Leonard story, centers on a life-or-death situation with Scott and another man's just-married bride (Maureen O'Sullivan) held hostage in the backcountry by three cold-blooded killers. Its fierce air of menace is enhanced by a bracing strain of dark humor, and Richard Boone is brilliant as the outlaw leader, an intelligent man who loathes his brute partners in crime and craves Scott's respect--even as he won't hesitate to kill him. Ride Lonesome (1959), widely regarded as the series peak, maddeningly has been the hardest to get to see, especially in the CinemaScope format Boetticher deploys so fluently. This time Scott is a man bringing a jokey outlaw (James Best) out of the badlands, with the apparent intention of collecting the bounty. Because local Indians are on the warpath, he's soon acquired unwanted traveling companions--a stationmaster's wife (Karen Steele) and two amiable galoots (Pernell Roberts, James Coburn) looking to take Scott's prisoner away from him. And somewhere behind, riding hell-for-leather with his gang, is Best's outlaw brother (Lee Van Cleef). This was Coburn's first film, and upon recognizing the young man's unique talent and appeal, the director wrote new material on location to enlarge his part. Comanche Station (1960) closed out the cycle with its purest, sparest manifestation. Scott rescues a white woman (Nancy Gates) from longtime captivity among Indians and sets out to return her to her husband. Chief rival in this case is Claude Akins, appropriating a few moves of Lee Marvin's from Seven Men from Now. The opening and closing images of Comanche Station define and crown this magnificent body of work. Yes, we've skipped a couple of titles--merely damn good movies rather than masterpieces. Critics habitually pegged Scott as a limited actor (an opinion in which he good-naturedly concurred), but he rises to the offbeat challenge of Decision at Sundown (1957), whose would-be hero gets just about everything wrong, from the nature of his grievance to the impact his quest has on everybody else. Unlike Boetticher's celebrated journey Westerns, this is a town movie, and so is Buchanan Rides Alone (1958). Buchanan, too, is a bit of a departure in being free of guilt or obsession; the happy-go-lucky cuss is merely passing through the border community of Agrytown on his way back from lucrative adventures in Mexico when he falls afoul of the corrupt clan running the place. Boetticher's dry sense of humor informs all these movies, but this one is played close to outright comedy--very black comedy. It's also the only Ranown entry whose cheapness is conspicuous, with tacky sets, crude Pathe Color (with which cameraman Lucien Ballard struggles gamely), and an uncredited score scrapped together from the Columbia music library. But as its criss-crossed motives and multiple betrayals play out, you may find yourself wondering whether this sardonic movie might have inspired Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961).

There's a bonus to the set, a feature-length portrait, A Man Can Do That. Written by film critic-historian Dave Kehr and exec-produced by Clint Eastwood, the documentary includes testimonials from Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Towne, and other directorial admirers, plus the eloquent participation of Boetticher himself a year or so before his death in November 2001. Each of the Kennedy-scripted Ranowns gets a full-length audio commentary (Jeanine Basinger's on The Tall T is a model of historical perspective and stylistic appreciation), and there are pre-film introductions by Eastwood (Comanche Station), Martin Scorsese (The Tall T, Ride Lonesome), and Taylor Hackford--but watch these after seeing the movies, to avoid spoilers. As for the DVDs themselves, these movies have never looked better. Even Buchanan Rides Alone. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features

Martin Scorsese on "Ride Lonesome"
"Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That" Documentary
Audio Commentary with Film Historian Jeanine Basinger
Audio Commentary with Film Historian Jeremy Arnold
Audio Commentary with Taylor Hackford
Clint Eastwood on "Comanche Station"
Martin Scorsese on "The Tall T"
Taylor Hackford on "Buchanan Rides Alone"
Taylor Hackford on "Decision at Sundown"

Product Details

  • Actors: Randolph Scott, Richard Boone, Karen Steele, Pernell Roberts, James Best
  • Directors: Budd Boetticher
  • Writers: Burt Kennedy, Charles Lang, Elmore Leonard, Jonas Ward, Vernon L. Fluharty
  • Producers: Budd Boetticher, Harry Joe Brown
  • Format: Box set, Color, NTSC, Original recording remastered, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, English
  • Dubbed: French
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: November 4, 2008
  • Run Time: 380 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001ER4CNO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,622 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Films of Budd Boetticher (Tall T / Decision at Sundown / Buchanan Rides Alone / Ride Lonesome / Comanche Station)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
In the late 1950s, the "Adult" western was at its zenith. There were several men responsible for this (James Stewart and Anthony Mann, notable among them), but three men stand out - Budd Boetticher (director), Burt Kennedy (writer) and Randolph Scott (actor). Scott, along with his partner, Harry Joe Brown, produced them through his production company - Ranown Productions. With Scott, Boetticher, and often Kennedy, they made seven westerns - the Ranown Westerns - that stand as the model for the genre, and set the stage for the more realistic (and often more violent) westerns that would come in the 1960s (films like Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch")

Two of these seven Ranown westerns are not actually from Ranown, though they were made with Scott, Beotticher, and Kennedy. Those two - Seven Men From Now (1956) and Westbound (1959) are not in this set. The other five are. I have seen each, and here is my take on them.

"The Tall T" (1957) Ranown starts off with a bang. Perhaps the best of them. Scott was never better. Richard Boone played the heavy - I'd say the best of them in all the Ranown westerns. Henry Silva is also very good as another heavy. Maureen O'Sullivan was perfect in the female lead. A great early story from Elmore Leonard. Boetticher did a great job directing a taut, lean story, scripted by Kennedy. Many say it was the best of the Ranowns. This film includes a horrible way to "dispose of" two people (father and his young son) that is not shown, just described. The horror created by the description is more frightening than anything you could feel if you actually saw it. While there may be one Ranown western that was as good - "Commanche Station" (1960) - none were better.

"Decision at Sundown" (1957) A misfire.
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The DVD juggernaut has finally gotten around to releasing the Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher westerns. Together, they made seven western films in the fifties. Five are in this box from Columbia.

Their first collaboration, "Seven Men from Now," is already available in a nice package from Paramount with lots of extras: 7 Men from Now (Special Collector's Edition).

The remaining film, "Westbound," is available in Warner's Archive Collection: Westbound

Also worthy is "Ride the High Country," Randolph Scott's swan song from 1962, directed by Sam Peckinpah.

Together with the five James Stewart/Anthony Mann collaborations ("Winchester '73, Bend of the River, The Naked Spur, The Far Country, and The Man from Laramie" - all are available on DVD), these films defined the adult Western movement of the nineteen-fifties.

OK - I should also include "Hondo" and "The Searchers" (John Wayne/John Farrow/John Ford) in this list. Great movies all.
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After the Batjac release of SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, a welcome announcement of the rest of Scott/Boetticher collaborations will be available in one collection. These were small films in their times -- a feature that would probably be less than 90 minutes and play before the main movie. As time has gone along their fame has steadily grown and it is now accepted that several are among the most important westerns following in the wake of the 1950 Stewart/Mann classic, WINCHESTER '73. Infact the Mann/Stewart westerns and the Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher films have a similar sense about them. Scott and Stewart are usually men on a quest, generally involving revenge. I would say that Stewart's characters are for the most part, bitter and cynical. Scott still tend to be moral pillars. The most strikingly different of the lot is DECISION AT SUNDOWN. In this one Scott is tracking the man he feels is responsible for his wife committing suicide. He gives her qualities she never had and ultimately discovers the truth. But, all in all, if you love the western than this collection will make a solid addition to any library. You'll also be treated to a wealth of fine actors: Richard Boone, Henry Silva, James Coburn, Claude Akins, LQ Jones and so many more. Extras include a documentary on Boetticher, intros to the films by Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorcese,and Taylor Hackford. Terrific transfers, you really get the sense of the wide open spaces as Boetticher intended. If you enjoy these films -- impossible not to -- I'd recommend the Stewart/Mann collaborations: WINCHESTER '73, BEND OF THE RIVER, THE NAKED SPUR, THE FAR COUNTRY and THE MAN FROM LARAMIE.
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Budd Boetticher's classic westerns finally arrive as a set in nice clean transfers. They are long overdue in a digital format and have been highly anticipated by film buffs as well those who treasure a view of Americana that includes honor, duty, horses and the landscape -- the majestic canvas on which we play out our lives.

The films have been detailed elsewhere. My favorites are "RIDE LONESOME," "COMANCHE STATION" and the "THE TALL T." They all feature Randolph Scott's as a consistent hero with different names. A hero in a changing world who still operates under a moral code that seems quaint.

On a side note: What or who is the "tall T"? It is never mentioned in the film. I can't recall if it is mentioned in Elmore Leonard's story "The Captives." Personally, I think the "T" is part of the architecture of the ranch where Scott rides a bull. It is prominent in one particular shot. And it is tall. Why this is the title of the film is a puzzle unless it is here where the story is set in motion. Or perhaps it is a physical body gesture that Scott makes at a place in the story that is a turning point. It is a human crucifix position as well. Perhaps that is the reference -- like John Wayne's crossing his arms at the end of "The Searchers," about which there is much speculation (some think it's an homage and tribute to his friend Harry Carey).

There's a clean, sun-baked look to these morality tales that sort of frames the simmering tensions that are usually played out in an explosive climax. Often in a natural "arena" setting. Boetticher was very enamored of, and comfortable in, a bull ring.

The underrated Randolph Scott is perfect as a taciturn, leathery-faced loner.
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