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With: Randolph Scott, Virginia Mayo, Karen Steele, Michael Dante, Andrew Duggan, Michael Pate, Wally Brown, John Daheim, Walter Barnes
Written by: Berne Giler, based on a story by Albert S. Le Vino, and on a novel by Berne Giler
Directed by: Budd Boetticher
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 72
Date: 01/09/1959

Westbound (1959)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Stage Plight

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Westbound on DVD.

This is the sixth of the seven Randolph Scott Westerns directed by Budd Boetticher, and the last to be released on DVD. It's also one of the least, filled with unremarkable supporting characters and a plot too big in scope for the picture's small scale. Nevertheless, with these seven films, Boetticher achieved a kind of grace and economy that few other filmmakers have ever matched, in any genre, for any budget. Scott stars as Captain John Hayes of the Union army who takes on the job of setting up and running a daily stagecoach line to transport gold to the ailing war effort. Unfortunately, some Confederate supporters aren't too happy about this new setup and attempt to stop it. A discharged, one-armed soldier (Michael Dante) and his voluptuous bride (Karen Steele, Boetticher's muse) help. Gorgeous Virginia Mayo co-stars as the woman from Hayes' past that got away and married the wrong man. Westbound feels slightly different from the other entries, probably due to the absence of producer Harry Joe Brown and screenwriter Burt Kennedy, but it still has some extraordinary passages. Jean-Luc Godard paid homage to Boetticher in Breathless when the lead characters stop by a cinema to watch this film.

DVD Details: Westbound is the second title I watched from the exciting new Warner Archive, which has finally released 150 of the more obscure Warner, MGM and RKO catalog titles to the public (with twenty more titles coming each month). Viewers can order DVDs for $20 each or download digital versions for $15. Westbound is a no-frills disc, with absolutely no subtitles, captions, audio options or extras. The digital transfer is far from seamless, with some mis-timed colors. The running time on the box -- and at every other source I checked -- reads 72 minutes, but the disc runs just under 69 minutes. Regardless, the image is sharp, and letterboxed, and it's great to have this classic available at all.

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