The Far Country comes to us from Arrow Video. I’m a big fan of seeing the Anthony Mann westerns getting an HD release. However, I ask…why this one? It took a little bit of time, but I think I figured out why Arrow went to bat for this one.
Released a few months in advance for the UK audience, this film has developed a mini fanbase in Britain. I’m not saying that your average British movie fan will have a slavish love towards the movie. It’s just that you don’t hear many American Western fans leaning that hard into it.
Offered up as one of the few American westerns set in Alaska, The Far Country tries to breathe life into America’s true genre. Yet, it’s an utterly American film. Forget about the cattle drive, the corrupt Judge or the slight Noir trappings. Examine the motivation behind Jimmy Stewart making the trip to the Yukon.
He’s trying to sell grossly overpriced cattle to people on the most remote frontier. The cattle being driven are beset with a 3x mark-up. That’s right, Jimmy Stewart and Walter Brennan are taking advantage of people living on the edge of civilization that desperately need livestock. All the while, they’re getting attacked by self-appointed Judge who seems mad that he didn’t think of the idea first.
Meanwhile, the townspeople of the Dawson City Yukon just want basic supplies. Stewart and Judge Gannon fight it out, but everyone else is like We Don’t Care! We’re just hungry! The level of sheer disregard for others and disposing the female lead like nothing is peak 1950s cinema. In a way, I believe this might be Stewart’s aggressive movie he ever made.
Sure, Stewart still plays the nice guy up until Brennan gets killed. When push comes to shove, Stewart acts like he was waiting for an excuse to drop Judge Gannon. Gannon is played by John McIntire. McIntire was best remembered for his turns on The Virginian, Wagon Train and playing the sheriff in Psycho. If you’re a classic film fan, you can already picture the guy in your mind.
Now just imagine Jimmy Stewart baiting that guy into a shootout that ends up getting his best gal, his best friend and his morality killed. It’s deep in that classical Western sense. Past that, it can be construed as rather mean-spirited for the modern soft audience. Of all the recent Universal pick-ups by Arrow, this one got my attention the most.
The Blu-ray comes with two ways to watch the film. It’s a slight change of aspect ratio showcasing how the film was shown early in the UK and how American audiences got to see it. Honestly, it’s a pretty impressive way to approach a limited edition. The restoration work on the 1080p transfer is quite impressive, but what else do you get with this disc?
- New commentary
- American Frontiers: Anthony Mann at Universal documentary
- Mann of the West (Kim Newman featurette)
- Image gallery
- Original trailer