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The Independent Critic

Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Jack Palance, Van Heflin, Brandon De Wilde
George Stevens
A.B. Guthrie, Jr.
118 Mins.
Eureka Entertainment (Blu-ray)

 "Shane" Released by U.K.'s Eureka Entertainment's Masters of Cinema 
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Shane isn't just a masterpiece, but an enduring masterpiece. With a story simultaneously simple yet layered and complex, Shane is one of those films that you can watch even now, over 60 years later, and be completely enthralled with it from beginning to end.

The man Shane (Alan Ladd) is a gunfighter seemingly trying to escape his past and drawn into what feels like a refreshingly peaceful life on the Starrett homestead in the Grand Tetons. He cares for the Starretts, Joe (Van Heflin) and Marion (Jean Arthur) and their son Joey (Brandon De Wilde), and there's a part of him that romanticizes the idea of this simple life that has long evaded him.

Shane has, of course, not stumbled into a purely peaceful situation at all. There's a battle brewing and it's a battle that he, being a gunslinger, will insert himself into because that is what gunslingers do. Right or wrong. It's what they do. Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer) wants to wrest land away from a group of Wyoming homesteaders, including the Starretts, and he's bringing in enough force to do it in the persons of Wilson (Jack Palance) and Calloway (Ben Johnson).

We've seen this kind of story before, maybe dozens of times. Yet, there's something different about the way director George Stevens constructed Shane that makes it a more powerful, more complex and more enduring film than so many of the others. When you love a western, it's a film like Shane that you go back to time and time again.

Shane was nominated for six Academy Awards, though it picked up only one for Loyal Griggs's stellar color cinematography. Somewhat surprisingly, Ladd didn't pick up a nomination here while Stevens (Best Director), Palance (Best Supporting Actor), and De Wilde (Best Supporting Actor) did.

The extras included on this Masters of Cinema collection are impressive and include:

  • Stunning high-definition restoration 1.37:1 presentation
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Uncompressed mono and stereo soundtracks
  • Audio commentary by George Stevens, Jr. and associate producer Ivan Moffat
  • Video interview with film scholar Neil Sinyard
  • Complete Lux Radio Theater adaptation of Shane
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • 28-PAGE BOOKLET featuring writing on the film by critic Penelope Huston, an unpublished interview with Stevens, a treatment for an un-filmed prologue to the film and archival imagery

These extras add something special to a film that is already special. While I find myself surprised that Ladd didn't receive an Oscar nomination here, the truth is that Shane really belongs to Brandon De Wilde as little Joey. De Wild had picked up a Golden Globe Award a year earlier for his work in The Member of the Wedding. De Wilde's promising career was cut tragically short at the age of 30 when he was killed in a vehicle accident on the way to visit his wife in the hospital. In this film, De Wilde's ability to project innocence and naivete against the backdrop of a brutal and sadistic wild west is absolutely mesmerizing. It is the ability of Stevens to frame all of this, aided by Griggs's stellar lensing work, in such a way that we are constantly enveloped by both the wonder and the brutality of it all. There's an insight into the violence here that is captivating, beautifully brought out by A.B. Guthrie's tremendous script.

There is so much more that I could say about Shane. In fact, there's likely so much more that I want to say, but the truth is that after 60 years you likely know the truth for yourself. Shane is a masterpiece and the folks at Eureka Entertainment have done it justice. This first U.K. Blu-ray release is just about as good as it gets.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic