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Customer Review

on September 12, 2011
I'm glad that I checked the Criterion issue of Stagecoach out of the library rather than buying it. While the transfer is marginally better than the Warners' issue and the extras on the second disk are worthwhile (especially the piece on Yakima Canutt), other things are quite disappointing. Jim Kitses' commentary is arrogant and tedious; he misses Ford's clear (and well documented) intention to have the Ringo Kid/John Wayne as the centering point of the ensemble cast. Scott Eyman's commentary on the Warners' issue is more interesting, more accessible to nonspecialists, and easier to listen to; it also reflects his expertise as the author of Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford (2001). In addition, Criterion provides only a single subtitle track (English) while Warners' offers English, French, Spanish, and close captioning. Finally the Criterion booklet is problematic in many ways. The typefaces for cast/ credits/ headings are difficult to read. Some pages are almost impossible to read because the contrast between the type and the color of the page is insufficient (light yellow type on a dark yellow page is only one example of poor design choice); the disk menus suffer from the same readability flaws for any but young, sharp eyes. It is nice to have Ernest Haycox's original short story in the booklet, but as this is easily available online, it is not of significant benefit. Finally, the essay by David Cairns in the Criterion booklet is well worth missing. His descriptions of the actors are unprofessional (a description of Thomas Mitchell as having the "body of a giant baby, face of a sodden chimp, yet oddly noble of aspect" is appalling). And, more research into the background of Stagecoach would be valuable (for example, he claims the scene where Hatfield primes to shoot Lucy so she doesn't fall into the hands of the Apache comes from Birth of a Nation (1915), when it is far more likely to have come from the Thomas Ince/Francis Ford The Invaders (1912) and/or DWGriffith's Battle of Elderbush Gulch (1913)). All in all, this Criterion issue is quite disappointing. I regularly buy upgraded DVDs when they become available in order to have the best material available for the film classes that I teach--and I was particularly looking forward to the Criterion's Stagecoach, a film which I consider to be one of the best westerns ever filmed. Sadly though this is one DVD that I won't be buying.
11 helpful votes
12 helpful votes
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