True Grit [1969 – Paramount] – BD Review

As a reference of modern society, the Old West pervades the truer nature of American colonialism in a subsequently rawer form. While the nature of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns were more in the style of a mercenary texture where life revolves not around the law but at times in notions of vigilante justice, John Wayne’s ideals by comparison rested more in the texture of good ol’ boy Americana. Interestingly enough with the release of the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of the original book of “True Grit”, the comparison to this late 60s movie of the same name invariably comes into play. As the film which won him the Oscar for Best Actor, the key to Wayne here is him letting down his guard a little in front of the more progressive persuasion of Kim Darby as Mattie Ross. The wit of both fairly sharp using the inevitabilities of Wayne’s intention.

The inclusion within the cast of Dennis Hopper as a man who meets his end inside a shack and Robert Duvall as the murderous but intelligent Pepper gives the ideals of the movie credence before its time. Hopper’s “Easy Rider” was only a few months away while Duvall would make his entrance in “The Godfather” a few years later. The transfer on BD shows the inherent blues and barren tundra in the area around Ridgeway, Colorado where the film was shot (even though at first glance in the beginning of the film, certain town scenes can be mistaken for the Warner Ranch in Burbank). The use of day for night in a less-than-stellar fashion is glaringly obvious except for one small scene where Wayne’s Cogburn relates his road to bounty hunter of sorts (albeit one with a badge). The commentary by Western enthusiasts including Jeb & J. Stuart Rosebrook is little more than candy filling addressing the vernacular of the times while the most revealing shooting secrets they relate is that Kim Darby was deathly afraid of horses and was having family trouble so she had a hard time remembering her lines. Granted most of the people involved with the picture are not present in Hollywood anymore but even a perception by Duvall would be undeniably prudent.

Other small featurette extras include some parts of the same whole with “True Writing” talking about the adaptation which was written by Marguerite Roberts who earlier had been targeted by the McCarthy hearings. “Working With The Duke” reflects the more heroic textures of the man when the reality of his work style and intent of his health on this particular picture would have been much more telling. “Aspen Gold: The Locations Of True Grit” revels with character the textures of the land which makes the journey an integral part of the story. “The Law & The Lawless” like the writing segment before reflects the archetypal progression of the tide while still maintaining a certain code shared by these outlaws. “True Grit” is a product of its time but undeniably rooted in classic storytelling with true-to-vernacular dialogue. Out of 5, I give the BD a 2 1/2.

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