Wagon Master: John Ford Begins the 1950s [Review]

Wagon Master Warner Archive Blu-ray title

Wagon Master is known as being one of John Ford’s personal favorites. For those that don’t follow Golden Age Westerns, the movie was a bit of an oddity. Honestly, it’s bizarre to think of a nostalgia piece existing in 1950s. Yet, the reliance on Ford stock actors and a carefully selected soundtrack are designed to evoke that.

John Ford really started experimenting with this film. The use of a pre-credit scene in a classic Western was unprecedented. Plus, Ford really went out of his way on the character actors. None of the faces are that familiar unless you’re familiar with the wide reach of Ford’s work.

Wagon Master

What’s so unique about the film is the bulk of it is about escorting Mormon pilgrims to Utah. They are religious exiles that are shunned by most of the West. Yet, the Wagon Master and his crew takes the job. The film has been called a tone poem by some. Honestly, I feel it’s one of the first Independent American Westerns ever made.

The African American community had produced Westerns way outside of the studio system since the 1920s. But, under the Argosy Pictures banner, this was the first time that a major Western director had leaned into that outside the studio angle. Hell, I don’t care if it’s RKO or Warner Brothers. I have a hard time believing that any studio wanted a film about the Mormon Hole-in-the-Rock Expedition.

Warner Archive has outdid themselves. Wagon Master has probably never looked this good. For those that don’t know, this was the only major John Ford release to get dumped into theaters. The sole special feature is a ported over commentary. Still, Bert Glennon’s cinematography has never looked better in stunning 1080p. The DTS-HD 2.0 MONO track really pops. I’d recommend it.

Wagon Master

Wagon Master is now available!

Fans can purchase at www.wbshop.com/warnerarchive or online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays® are sold


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