Indicator does the director-actor partnership proud with its best Blu-ray boxset to date
He may not be a household name in the same way as John Ford or Howard Hawks, but director Budd Boetticher holds a place in the hearts of cowboy picture fans for the seven 'Ranown Cycle' films (named after star Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown) he made between 1956 and 1960.
While Boetticher and Scott did two of these Western B-movies (1956's Seven Men from Now and 1959's Westbound) for Warner Bros, the others (1957's The Tall T and Decision at Sundown, 1958's Buchanan Rides Alone, 1959's Ride Lonesome and 1960's Comanche Station) were shot for Columbia Pictures – and it's those five that are celebrated by Indicator's superb new Blu-ray boxset.
The films themselves are built around precisely the sort of setups that you'll have seen before any number of times in other medium-scale Westerns (lone men looking for revenge, kidnapped women, 'Indians' on the warpath, etc.). It's the way that Boetticher, Scott and writers Burt Kennedy and Charles Lang take the stories in unexpected and surprising directions that makes them stand out from the crowd. Witness the bitter twist at the heart of Decision at Sundown, the decision to play the family infighting of Buchanan Rides Alone as a grotesque comedy, or the way in which the films frequently mirror Scott's heroes with villainous gunslingers who prove every bit as likeable and charming.
Sadly, stints in prison and an asylum, as well as bouts of ill-health, mean that Boetticher never had the chance to fulfil the promise he showed with the Ranown Cycle. And while this boxset won't make him a household name, it gives the films Boetticher made with Scott a chance to reach a new audience.
Picture: Regardless of whether they are based on older photochemical restorations (The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone and Comanche Station) or a more recent 2K digital restoration (Ride Lonesome), these Blu-ray encodes do the best they can with the material available.
There are issues with occasional source-related halos and – more especially – the additional coarseness that stems from the frequent use of optical dissolves, but for the most part the 1080p imagery exhibits plenty of clean detailing and authentically grainy renderings of the various Technicolor/Columbia Color/Eastman Color palettes. You won't be disappointed.
The encodes themselves are technically sound, with no sign of digital anomalies or compression-related issues. The films are all presented in their original aspect ratios – 1.85:1 in the case of The Tall T, Decision at Sundown and Buchanan Rides Alone, 2.35:1 for Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station.
Picture rating: 4/5
Audio: The films' rather modest LPCM mono mixes are less obviously striking, but also seem to have been given a thorough clean up. Dialogue, music and Foley effects are all nicely balanced and suffer no distortion or other technical issues.
Audio rating: 3.5/5
Extras: As usual, Indicator has packed out its boxset with a conucopia of fascinating bonus features. These range from film-specific content like isolated music and effects tracks, a trio of informative chat tracks (on The Tall T, Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station), extensive image galleries and appreciations of the films from Martin Scorsese, Taylor Hackford and Clint Eastwood; to more general goodies such as lengthy archival audio interviews, video essays about Boetticher, Scott and the films, and a fascinating 37-minute interview with the filmmaker from 1999.
The set also includes a fabulous 80-page book packed with new writing about the films, plus archival reviews.
Extras rating: 5/5
We say: A wonderful celebration of an under-appreciated director. Is it too early to declare 'boxset of the year'?
Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott at Columbia, 1957-1960, Indicator, All-region BD, £43
HCC VERDICT: 4.5/5
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