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Image Entertainment presents
Cow Town (1950)

"With barbed wire we can keep our herds where we want 'em, rotatin' our ranges, feedin' our stock the way they should be fed."
- Gene Autry (Himself)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: May 25, 2004

Stars: Gene Autry, Champion, Gail Davis, Harry Shannon, Jock O'Mahoney
Other Stars: Clark "Buddy" Burroughs, Harry Harvey, Steve Darrell, Sandy Sanders, Ralph Sanford
Director: John English

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 01h:10m:54s
Release Date: May 25, 2004
UPC: 014381231120
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+B+B C+

DVD Review

It's often said that few things made a bigger difference in the making of the American West than Joseph Glidden's invention of barbed wire. Through the adoption of that device, the giant cattle drives were no more, the giant herds of buffalo were doomed and everything else would change with them. This picture takes the real life revolution created by barbed wire and uses it effectively as the basis for a better-than-usual Western, which instead of the usual present-day Autry yarn sticks Gene back in the 19th century.

The story takes place around a cow town called, well, Cow Town. Gene is having trouble with rustlers, and sees this newfangled barbed wire as his salvation. The other ranchers are pretty skeptical, and when their cattle turn up injured they turn to a range war as they sabotage Gene's fences. But Gene soon deduces that some third parties are behind the trouble, for reasons of their own, but he can't convince the others, led by Ginger Kirby (Gail Davis).

Having a meatier subject matter really helps this rise above B-western status. There are serious issues at work, including the implications of barbed wire putting cowhands out of work, since far fewer men will be necessary to keep tabs on the herd. I'm not sure that I accept the revisionist history that's on display here; my recollection is that fences were preferred by sheepherders and not by cattlemen, though this picture suggests the contrary. The violence is surprisingly harsh for an Autry program, though as expected, there's no gore. The action is pretty well done, with some effective location shooting and even some dramatic stampede sequences. One of the best bits is the confrontation between Autry and the cowhands, led by Ted Jeffrey (stunt man Jock O'Mahoney), climaxing in a wild chase on a buckboard short a couple of wheels. Autry's steed, Champion, billed here (as usual) as World's Wonder Horse, gets to actually show his stuff for a change as he defends Autry in a fight.

The romance between Autry and co-star Gail Davis is toned way down in this outing; she spends much of the running time pointing a rifle at him and telling him to stop trespassing on her land. At one point she even exhorts one of the men to murder Autry, and not in a joking or sarcastic manner either. The supporting cast is pretty nondescript, though Ralph Sanford as the opportunistic general store owner Martin Dalrymple gets in a few good moments as he vacillates between making a buck on barbed wire and earning the enmity of the other half of the ranchers.

The songs this time around are almost all old standards: Down in the Valley, Buffalo Gals, Powder Your Face with Sunshine and Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie. Although the latter uses the familiar words, Autry's melody is a completely unfamiliar one to me.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: As usual, the picture has been restored by the Autry Foundation, and it looks quite good. Hardly any source material flaws are to be seen. Black levels are excellent as are greyscale and detail. As usual fine patterns are problematic, but that's par for the course with NTSC television.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The only track is a 2.0 mono that's suitably clean. The range on the music is very nice, though the library music is a shade tinny. Dialogue is clear throughout and there's hardly any hiss or noise to trouble the viewer.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (closed captions)
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio show
  2. Excerpts from Annie Oakley
  3. Still, poster, lobby card and presskit galleries
Extras Review: The usual store of goodies in the Gene Autry Collection is present here, including the intro with Gene and Pat Buttram from Melody Ranch Theater, the January 21, 1950 radio show, a rerelease trailer, stills, posters and lobby cards (which must be rare since some presented here are pretty beaten up) among other materials. There's also a focus on leading lady Gail Davis, with a bio, filmography and a clip from her television series (produced by Autry) where she starred as Western legend Annie Oakley. Not earth-shaking but, as usual, much better than one has any right to expect.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Barbed wire is the theme of the hour and it provides a decent setup for Autry. The transfer is quite good and the usual abundant extras are present.


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