The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962.
Directed by John Ford.
Starring John Wayne, James Stewart, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles, and Woody Strode.
John Ford’s classic western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance gets the 4K treatment courtesy of the Paramount Presents line of classic films. The movie looks gorgeous, and the studio has ported over the legacy Blu-ray extras and added an introduction by film critic Leonard Maltin.
Paramount Presents’ latest entry in its series of classic films is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which I believe is the first 4K edition in the lineup. (The others I’ve reviewed have all been Blu-rays.) The film is a classic directed by John Ford, the master of Hollywood westerns, and it stars James Stewart as Senator Ransom “Ranse” Stoddard, who has returned to a little frontier town called Shinbone with his wife, Hallie (Vera Miles).
He’s come back to attend the funeral of Tom Doniphone, played by John Wayne with his usual swagger. When a local newspaper editor asks Ranse why he’s there, the senator tells a story of his connection to Tom 25 years ago, when a criminal named Liberty Valance terrorized the area with his gang.
The bulk of the film takes place during that story, as Ranse and Tom deal with Valance, with their paths ultimately culminating in his shooting, as the title says. When the truth of Valance’s killer comes out, the newspaper editor talking to Ranse famously tells him, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” It’s a well-known line of dialogue that still rings true in 2022, 60 years after the film’s release.
The 4K disc found in this package houses only the movie, which was restored by Paramount for this release. While most classics look really nice in 4K, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is exceptional, thanks to Ford’s decision to shoot the movie in black-and-white. The use of black-and-white creates a sharp contrast in the images that’s accentuated by 4K. It’s safe to say this is likely as close to a theatrical presentation as you can get during this era of home video.
There are no bonus features on the 4K disc. They’re found only on the included Blu-ray platter, and the package includes a code for a digital copy too. The extras are nearly all of the legacy variety, except a new 7.5 minute introduction to the film shot by critic Leonard Maltin, who runs down the basic talking points and gives a good primer for people who haven’t seen the film before. The rest of the extras include:
• Audio commentary: This track features Peter Bogdanovich’s separate conversation with Ford and Stewart, edited together to create one commentary. It’s a worthwhile listen, and the way it was put together means there’s no dead air or descriptions of what’s onscreen at the moment. As you might imagine, Bogdanovich does an excellent job of pulling stories out of both men.
• Selected scene commentary: John Ford’s grandson Dan offers commentary on seven scenes in the film, with additional comments from his interviews with his grandfather and Lee Marvin. James Stewart shows up too.
• The Size of Legends, the Soul of Myth (51 minutes): This is a multi-part look at the making of the film, starting with an examination of the role of Western stories in American culture in general and in Hollywood in particular. From there, this sprawling documentary discusses the story that inspired the film, the spot Wayne and Ford were at in their careers when making it, and more. It ends with the aptly named chapter Print the Legend, which examines the film’s legacy during the decades since its release.
The original theatrical trailer rounds out this edition.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★