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The Horse Soldiers

Dick De Jong
May 31, 2011
HDTV Solutions

I imagine that every fan of films has experienced at least one Aha moment - that instance in a movie theater when it strikes you that this medium is more than fun entertainment.

My epiphany about the power of cinema came midway through watching The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a Western starring John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin as the villainous Liberty.

I was just turning 13 and until then, movies were simply a pleasant pastime to spend with friends. But this tale of twisted Western justice showed me the light.

(Valance wasn't a totally life altering revelation. That came a few years later when I saw Closely Watched Trains. But I digress.)

Only when I was in college did I discover that Valance was directed by John Ford, who won four Best Director Oscars for The Informer, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green was My Valley, and The Quiet Man. And I started to more fully understand the guiding force behind my pubescent Aha.

The Horse Soldiers

John Ford (with cigar), William Holden (left), John Wayne (right)

Perhaps because my initial introduction to Ford was Valance, my favorite films from his prodigious opus, (which started back in 1917 and lasted almost fifty years), were his Westerns like Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine, and The Searchers.

Though I find The Horse Soldiers, (released in 1957), less compelling than those classics, Ford tells this Civil War story (based on the 1863 exploits of a Union cavalry unit sneaking behind Confederate lines to disrupt the Rebel supply trains) in an appealing straight forward style.

I would almost say no-nonsense, but of course, a woman (Constance Tower as the Southern Belle) is thrown into the mix between John Wayne, (as the railroad engineer turned Union Colonel, who is ordered to tear up the tracks), and William Holden, (as the feisty Doctor more concerned about saving his patients than winning a war).

The Horse Soldiers

The movie revolves around Wayne and Holden, but I am always interested to read through the credits and see who pops up in smaller roles. For example, the two Confederate deserters are played by the always memorable Strother Martin and Denver Pyle, who had a long TV career, best known for his role as Uncle Jesse on the "The Dukes of Hazzard."

Also, Tower's maid was Althea Gibson, the first African-American woman to win Wimbledon.

And for the film historians out there, Hoot Gibson played Sgt. Brown. Gibson rose to fame in the Silent Movie era as one of the original cowboy stars who made Westerns popular.

As for the quality of the Blu-ray, I could not see any evidence of restoration. In fact, the colors looked uneven in spots. And the audio, even though it is in the DTS-HD Master format is mono. Still the picture quality is enhanced by the 1080p resolution.

For an example of a beautifully re-mastered Blu-ray, I suggest that you watch the sublime The Searchers, another John Ford and John Wayne collaboration.

The Horse Soldiers

And as a fitting bookend to Wayne's mythic career, The Shootist is his last film and one definitely worth finding.

Bonus Features

MGM decided to only include the theatrical trailer that features that singing cavalry soundtrack.

Take the free time and watch a friskier Wayne as Ringo Kid in the gorgeous b&w Stagecoach.

The Horse Soldiers

Studio: MGM

Director: John Ford

Cast: John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers, Althea Gibson, Hoot Gibson, Ken Curtis, Strother Martin, Denver Pyle

Length: 120 minutes

Rated: Not Rated

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

  DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
  Dolby Digital Mono
  Dolby Digital Mono
  Dolby Digital Mono
  Dolby Digital Mono
  Dolby Digital Mono

English SDH, Spanish, French, German SDH, Italian, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

The Horse Soldiers

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