By Ashley Hillard
I’m not a big fan of John Ford but I am a big fan of Westerns and this is a good Western. Ford explores morality and the way Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) comes to terms with the truth behind the shoot out that led to the death of a man who attacked him years before, Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). What’s a Ford Western without John Wayne? Wayne plays the same character he plays in all his films, this time called Tom Doniphon.
Part of what makes a Ford film a classic in the Western genre are the staple archetypes he uses. John Wayne is the hard boiled good guy with a bad guy attitude that encounters the stranger that just stepped off the train, trying to bring law to the lawless. Of course there’s the woman in the middle, this time Hallie Stoddard (Vera Mills). What makes this film stand out from other Ford Westerns is the way the characters cross each others paths and the way in which the story moves through time. Doniphon becomes even more of a hero type because the story starts at his funeral. The showdown has a twist that sets it apart and Lee Marvin is fantastic as the Western bad guy.
Not uncommon for films then (or sometimes now) is the throwaway lead female character, there more or less to show that the guys around her are straight. Valance includes Ford’s visual staples, including some great kitchen scenes. Definitely worth adding to any Western fan’s collection.
An exciting array of extras accompany the film, including commentary by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, including his archival recordings with John Ford and James Stewart; selected scene commentary with an introduction by Dan Ford, along with his archival recordings with John Ford, James Stewart and Lee Marvin; several featurettes, a photo gallery and more. One for the Cowboy boffins!
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