Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Sunset in the West (1950) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Roy Rogers stars in the Republic Pictures Western SUNSET IN THE WEST (1950), just released on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber.

I'll state right at the outset that the picture quality of this Blu-ray is fantastic. I don't think I've ever seen a Roy Rogers film look better, and fans should make haste to snatch it up. What a visual treat!

The plot doesn't matter overly much, as cattleman Roy helps a sheriff (Will Wright) he used to work with catch a bunch of train-hijacking gunrunners in 67 quick minutes.

The cast is rounded out by Penny Edwards as the sheriff's pretty niece and colorful Estelita Rodriguez as cantina gal Carmelita, who helps supply the good guys with info she's overheard. Supporting players in the film include Pierre Watkin, Paul E. Burns, Charles La Torre, and William J. Tannen.

Best of all, Roy's cowboy pals are Foy Willing and Riders of the Purple Sage. When Roy and the cowboys hop onto a train and launch into "Rollin' Wheels," I have to say I had goosebumps. It's a wonderfully staged moment. I would have liked even more music in the film, but what's here is excellent.

The film was energetically directed by William Witney, who does a nice job with the action sequences. I wish he'd reined in Gordon Jones as the comic relief, but otherwise Witney got the most possible out of the material. A scene as simple as one of the opening shots of the sheriff riding the train is done with great visual style.

The film was shot in Trucolor by Jack Marta, with attractive mountain and coastal location shooting. Some scenes such as the opening title song have obvious studio footage intercut with long shots from the location work, but the studio stuff, as seen on this Blu-ray, is so pretty that it really doesn't matter.

For those who might be new to Roy Rogers, the film's setting is what I refer to as "Roy Rogers Land," a whimsical mishmash of eras found only in Westerns such as this one. For instance, in this film there are no cars or telephones, but alongside the trains, horses, guns, and telegraphs, the women are dressed in "modern" dresses. In some other Rogers films, such as the same year's TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD (1950), you might find a car, even if the town looks like something out of the 1800s and people are as likely to use a horse or wagon.

The disc includes a Westerns trailer gallery and an informative audio commentary by Toby Roan; now I know how to tell Trigger from his doubles! Full disclosure: As longtime readers know, Toby is a good friend of this blog -- and they also know that Toby has an encyclopedic knowledge of Westerns. It's terrific that he's had the opportunity to contribute commentary tracks to several recent releases, including this one.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Ha! You can't reign in Gordon Jones. That would be like telling Estelita to tone down the personality.

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words on the commentary, Laura.

As much as I love Roy Rogers, and as wonderful as the transfer was, the bar was set really high.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

LOL! I *love* Estelita. She's so much fun!

You're so welcome, Toby, I really enjoyed it! This is a great release in every way, and I hope it will find a welcoming audience from classic film fans.

Best wishes,

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as "Roy Rogers Land" goes, did you notice the cigarette machine in the cantina?

10:10 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

My copy is on its way right now. Can't wait to see this.

For me, Witney got the level of music about right in the post-WW2 Rogers films where action, often quite brutal, took precedence. Not brutal by today's standards, of course!

Nice to see a Roy Rogers movie reviewed, Laura.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Lee R said...

I love all color films of Roy Rogers. I haven't seen the new release of Sunset West but I have seen the commercial VHS tape release that was also in color. That tape version was great looking, I am curious to see if the new version is a great improvement over that last commercial tape release.

As for Penny Edwards, I have a major crush on her. Has anyone ever noticed that Fox's Dana Perino could be a dead ringer for the beautiful Penny? She could easily have been Penny's double.

As for color Roy's the crime of the century is that there are 6 Roy Rogers color films that as of today are only available in b/w. The color versions of these 6 films must be found so that they may be restored. If they can still show films from the 19-teens that have been found and restored I see no reason why these Roy Rogers color films from the late '40's and '50's can't be seen in their fully bloomed color beauty.
The 6 Missing Color Versions of Roy movies are:
1948 The Far Frontier -- 67m
1948 Grand Canyon Trail -- 67m
1948 Night Time In Nevada -- 67m
1948 Eyes of Texas -- 70m
1947 On the Old Spanish Trail -- 75m TruColor
1947 Apache Rose -- 75m
The color versions must be somewhere.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

If you enjoyed the musical moments the most (and I totally agree with you there!), you really ought to see some of Roy's earlier films sometime! I personally like the 1942-43 era the best—when Gabby Hayes was sidekick and there were as many as four or five songs per movie—though there are some good ones in the postwar years too. (I did a blog post way, way back on my five favorites.) I kind of lost interest when the Sons of the Pioneers left the series.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

LOL, Toby! I didn't notice that, even watching it twice through! You just never know what you'll find in Roy Rogers Land. :)

Jerry, I'd love to know what you think. I think I'm prejudiced in favor of more music, in part because I grew up listening to lots of Sons of the Pioneers records!

Elisabeth, thanks for linking your post! Good to know the musical moments were special for you as well. I love the SOP but the Riders of the Purple Sage are really good too, and wow, was this one pretty to look at.

Lee, I sure wish that someday full-length color copies would turn up. Some amazing discoveries have been made in places like Eastern Europe and Australia, which were the "end of the line" for some prints, which weren't returned to the studios. I don't know if Roy Rogers movies would have had that kind of worldwide distribution but it would sure be something if a great Rogers print turned up in some far-flung place.

Meantime I hope you'll get to check out the Blu-ray. Penny looks lovely in it. :)

Best wishes,

11:39 PM  

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