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Paramount Studios presents
"You ever set foot on Bar S again, I'll kill you."
DVD ReviewThree Violent People begins with a brawl in the streets of a Texas town between carpetbaggers and Confederate veterans. Then, a few minutes later, another brawl breaks out between those same carpetbaggers and one Colt Saunders (Charlton Heston) over the lovely Lorna Hunter (Anne Baxter). On the basis of its opening, the movie seems good and determined to make good on its title, but it quickly digresses into a soap opera—sort of a Texan Gone with the Wind.
Where Scarlett O'Hara has Tara, Colt Saunders has the Bar S Ranch. It has been rundown due to the war and lacks all inspiration upon Colt's return with Lorna—who he manages to marry after a courtship spanning the length of a glass of wine (I guess the old saying's true: "candy's dandy, but liquor's quicker"). However, Lorna is not the Southern belle Colt takes her to be, for she used to be a St. Louis prostitute—the term is never mentioned, but it's implied—who, like all good Hollywood hookers, is trying to turn over a new leaf. But will the seedy provisional government led by Commissioner Harrison (Bruce Bennett), desperate to get his hands on the ranch, let them live in peace? Things are only worsened when Colt's ne'er-do-well brother, Cinch (Tom Tryon), tries to sell the Bar S.
The story plays out like the a Western Days of Our Lives, where people take offense at the smallest of things and act without it being apparent to the audience what their motivations are. Between unwanted pregnancies, fights over land, and sibling betrayal, the characters do act with a considerable amount of strength—especially since the screenplay (by James Edward Grant) makes a big point in the beginning about Colt's violent temper. Apart from a few whiskey bottles being thrown to the ground (hey, for us Irish that's just a lively family dinner), it would be tough to sense any aggression from these characters. Of course, by story's end a gunfight has been fought and the good guys win—after all, this is a Western.
The problem with Three Violent People isn't that it is bad. Director Rudolph Maté handles the material well enough, giving a well-paced narrative with enough interesting camera compositions to hold our interest. Even the acting is fine, with Heston turning in a solid, although by-the-numbers, lead performance as the grizzled Colt. I just didn't ever get the movie that all the indicators told me I would be getting. There's tons of talk about Colt getting ready to face-off the provisional government and indeed it could make for an exciting film, but instead we're treated to an evening of people discussing their emotional distress. A character study could have been a nice surprise, if only the characters in the script had been developed. As things are, each oneis basically just given a nametag of their emotions and walks around with it until the closing credits.
So, despite its promise of being an engaging Western full of suspense and action, Three Violent People is little more than a soap opera staged for the big screen.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer contains some print defects and grain, though it appears this is largely due to the film's age. Detail is fine, contrast is adequate, and colors come across nicely. Thereís nothing much to talk about here, one way or the other.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Preserving the original sound mix, the mono track sound fine. There are no hisses or crackling, making for a pleasant example of film preservation.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Layers Switch: 01h:01m:17s
Extras Review: There are no supplemental materials for this DVD.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsMisleadingly titled, Three Violent People should be renamed Three Emotionally Distressed People. The image transfer and mono sound mix are nothing extraordinary on this barebones DVD, so let it ride off into the twilight.
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