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Stagecoach (The Criterion Collection)

4.6 out of 5 stars 380 customer reviews

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(May 25, 2010)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This is where it all started. John Fords smash hit and enduring masterpiece STAGECOACH revolutionized the western, elevating it from B movie to the A-list. The quintessential tale of a group of strangers thrown together into extraordinary circumstancestraveling a dangerous route from Arizona to New MexicoSTAGECOACH features outstanding performances from Hollywood stalwarts Claire Trevor, John Carradine, Thomas Mitchell, and, of course, John Wayne, in his first starring role for Ford, as the daredevil outlaw the Ringo Kid. Superbly shot and tightly edited, STAGECOACH (Fords first trip to Monument Valley) is Hollywood storytelling at its finest.

Additional Features

Stagecoach is the Platonic ideal of what a movie should be and do, and Criterion's DVD and Blu-ray release showcases its virtues with love and care. That begins with the digital restoration of a landmark film most of us have seen only via substandard prints and videos. Transferred from a 1942 nitrate dupe negative, the new disc restores director John Ford and cameraman Bert Glennon's images to their proper richness, clarity, and depth. The results aren't pristine--dirt and damage remain visible at times, noticeably during the opening credits--but mostly it's as though a cloud had lifted with the first break of sun over Monument Valley. Excellent feature-length audio commentary is supplied by film scholar Jim Kitses (Horizons West), who right up front challenges the notion that Stagecoach lacks the nuance and complexity of later Ford masterworks. He also regrets that the picture is now known primarily as the vehicle that made John Wayne an A-list star. It did that (and Kitses means no disrespect to the Duke!), but more essentially it's a triumph of the ensemble film, in which every character and performance is carefully developed and even more artfully enlarged by interplay with the others. Kitses also fervently contends that the film's protagonist is not Wayne's Ringo Kid but Dallas, the prostitute played by Claire Trevor. (Ford told Trevor that her performance was so good, so fully woven into the texture of the film, she wouldn't receive the credit she deserved. He was right.)

Two devout Fordians make personal contributions to the Criterion disk: Peter Bogdanovich with amusing character portraits of Ford and John Wayne, and Tag Gallagher with a video essay, "Dreaming of Jeannie." Gallagher sketches Stagecoach's aptness as a reflection of post-Depression America and then, with acute sensitivity to the particulars of Ford's style, analyzes key passages. He illuminates the director's genius for exploring inner reality through spatial dynamics, and persuasively demonstrates that "Ford wants us to empathize with people, not to ally against them … to see without intolerance." Ford himself is heard from in a 72-minute interview conducted at his home in 1968 by BBC interviewer Philip Jenkinson; this is fascinating, though less for information and insights imparted than as a chapter in Ford's career-long history of being cantankerous with interviewers. His grandson and biographer Dan Ford presents a quarter-hour of home movies of the director with trusted colleagues aboard his yacht Araner, a home-away-from-home and means of escape from Hollywood … yet often Dudley Nichols would be turning out script pages somewhere on board. Stagecoach made Monument Valley "John Ford country," so it's right that the set should include a short history of the Goulding family, who operated a trading post there, and their relationship with Ford and the Navajo. There are also a (rather disappointing) tribute to Yakima Canutt, the fabled stuntman who played such a big part in executing the movie's famous chase across the salt flats; a 1949 radio dramatization of Stagecoach with Wayne and Trevor re-creating their roles; a theatrical trailer; and a print essay by David Cairns.

And yet the most exciting component apart from the Stagecoach restoration itself is something else by John Ford: a 54-minute silent comedy-Western from 1917, Bucking Broadway. This was made the year Ford started directing (at age 23), yet the work is both fresh with discovery and remarkably assured. Already it has the look of a Ford picture, as in an early sequence of horsemen gathering, surging up hillsides, crossing a creek, and then (anticipating the first shot of Stagecoach!) breaking into view from behind a roll of land we didn't even realize was there. The playing is relaxed, natural; there's hardly anything "silent movie" about it except that you can't hear their voices. Ford even kids about sentimentality (something he would often be charged with in later years) with a scene of crusty cowpokes getting blubbery over the song "Home Sweet Home." And in the final reel, as hero Cheyenne Harry (Harry Carey) arrives in New York City on a mission to rescue his girl, one shot is sublime: the off-center framing of the Westerner, with saddle thrown over his shoulder, striding into the tall, baronial lobby of a Broadway hotel as concierge and bellhops look warily on. Picture-man John Ford had arrived, ready for work. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features

  • Aspect Ratio 1.37:1
  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary by noted western authority Jim Kitses
  • Bucking Broadway (1917), a fifty-four-minute silent western by John Ford
  • Extensive video interview with Ford from 1968
  • New video interview with Dan Ford
  • New video interview with filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich
  • New video essay by writer Tag Gallagher
  • New video feature about Monument Valley
  • New video interview with stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong
  • Radio dramatization of Stagecoach from 1949
  • Theatrical trailer
  • A booklet featuring an essay by David Cairns

  • Product Details

    • Actors: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine, John Carradine, Thomas Mitchell
    • Directors: John Ford
    • Writers: Ben Hecht, Dudley Nichols, Ernest Haycox
    • Producers: John Ford
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Widescreen
    • Language: English
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Number of discs: 2
    • Rated:
      Not Rated
    • Studio: Criterion
    • DVD Release Date: May 25, 2010
    • Run Time: 96 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (380 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B00393SG0G
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,141 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "Stagecoach (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    By Richardson VINE VOICE on May 22, 2010
    Format: Blu-ray
    I've just viewed the latest Criterion edition of Stagecoach and compared it side by side with the WB 2 disc set. The picture is improved.... not perfect ...but much better. I prefer the commentary by Scott Eyman on the WB edition. The second disc on the WB set has the spectacular American Masters Documentary and a wonderful featurette. The new Blu-Ray and DVD sets by Criterion also have a wealth of bonus features topped by an hour interview with Ford himself! If you are a fan I'd keep the older edition for the bonus features and Eymans commentary and feel good about adding the new edition for better picture and non-repeated bonus features. The featurette on the stunt man Yakima Canutt is excellent, Bogdonovich is always interesting...Ford home movies's a solid Criterion package!
    22 Comments 131 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: DVD
    This special edition is jam-packed with goodies for fans of the film and of the western genre, starting off with an audio commentary on the first disc by film historian and western scholar Jim Kitses. He challenges the conventional view that Stagecoach lacks the depth and command of craft of John Ford's later films. Kitses does a fantastic job of explaining how Ford's camerawork and the use of invisible editing set up differences in class and established genre conventions. When not offering expert analysis, he provides biographical information on various cast members in this eloquent and informative track.

    Also included on this disc is a trailer.

    Disc two starts off with "Bucking Broadway," a 54-minute silent film from 1917 that stars John Ford favorite Harry Carey as a cowboy whose true love is taken away by a big city type. It features many of the themes and conventions that Ford would explore again and again in later films.

    There is a 1968 interview with Ford by British journalist and television presenter Philip Jenkinson. Running over an hour, the filmmaker talks about his childhood, how he got his start as a director, working with John Wayne, and, of course, Stagecoach. Ford comes across as a no-nonsense man and plain-spoken, refusing to romanticize his past despite the interviewer's best attempts.

    Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich offers his thoughts on Stagecoach and praises the strong script and solid ensemble cast. He analyzes Wayne's performance and how he reacts to the things that happen around him. Bogdanovich also offers his impressions of Ford and Wayne, having met both of them.

    "Dreaming of Jeanie" is a video essay that examines Ford's visual style in Stagecoach.
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    6 Comments 71 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: VHS Tape
    "Stagecoach" is a landmark film in so many ways. While probably not the very best western ever created this stunning production is memorable as being one of the first of the genre where just as much emphasis was placed on character development as action. It also marked the breakthrough role (and first collaboration with frequent director Ford) for a young John Wayne after a decade of appearing in countless B films, and the first time that director John Ford used his most favourite location of Monument Valley, Utah for shooting which gives this film an almost out of this world ,mythical quality.
    Produced in the magical year of 1939 "Stagecoach" more than holds its own with all the other great classics produced in that year. Honoured with two Academy Awards for its musical score and the beautiful performance by Thomas Mitchell as the drunken doctor travelling on the stagecoach the film tells a very simple story of the intertwined lives of a group of people travelling through dangerous Indian territory on a stagecoach and how each effects the others lives in different ways. Ford assembled a sterling cast of performers here and apart from Wayne as the wrongly convicted outlaw the Ringo Kid we have the before mentioned Thomas Mitchell (in the same year that he played Scarlett O'Hara's father in "Gone With The Wind"), as the drunken doctor who is forced to deliver a baby on route, Claire Trevor in a superb performance as the "scarlett lady" Dallas, run out of town for her morals who forms an attachment to Wayne's character , Andy Devine as the coach driver and John Carradine as the shady gambler Hatfield. Donald Meek also registers as the fumbling spirits salesman who keeps having his samples raided by Mitchell.
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    Comment 26 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: DVD
    Let's see - take a whiskey drummer, add a boozy doctor (served in the Union Army,) a snaky gambler (Confederate vet played by John Carradine,) a good girl (haughty young wife of a horse soldier posted out west with the 6th Cavalry,) and an obnoxious and imperious businessman with a secret to hide. Add one bad girl (Claire Trevor) driven our of town with the drunken doc by the town's respectable marm hens, and one cuffed outlaw, the Ringo Kid (John Wayne.) Shake vigorously in a stagecoach plunging violently through hostile Apache territory.

    Made in 1939, the Year of the Motion Picture, John Ford's STAGECOACH is pretty much everything you want or need in a western. Nominated for a slew of Academy Awards, it took one home when Thomas Mitchell won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as the shrewd, whiskey-loving physician. In 1995 it was placed on the National Film Registry by the National Film Preservation Board.

    Well, this is the first film Ford shot in Monument Valley, and it looks great. It's also one of the first big-movie breaks for Wayne. Check out the first Wayne shot - the camera eagerly rushes up to him and holds him in a wide-eyed close-up for a couple of seconds. An entrance worthy of an icon, even if Ford was a couple of decades premature. And the always reliable, underrated Claire Trevor looks great as... well, I'm not quite sure what she is, though she dresses well and the respectable folks drive her away when they can, shun her when they can't. In fact, the only thing that doesn't look all that marvelous on the Warners' 1997-released dvd is the print itself, which is scratchy in some spots and muddy and murky in others. Not terribly so, but c'mon, Warner Brothers.
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