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DVD SAVANT

Blue


Blue
Paramount
1968 / Color / 2:35 anamorphic 16:9 / 113 min. / Street Date May 17, 2005 / 14.99
Starring Terence Stamp, Joanna Pettet, Karl Malden, Ricardo Montalban, Anthony Costello
Cinematography Stanley Cortez
Second unit direction Yakima Canutt
Art Direction Albert Brenner, Hal Pereira, Al Roelofs
Film Editor Stu Linder
Original Music Manos Hadjidakis
Written by Ronald M. Cohen, Meade Roberts
Produced by Judd Bernard, Irwin Winkler
Directed by Silvio Narizzano

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Western fans fond of pretty photography will have a lot to enjoy in Blue, an underachieving action drama defeated by a generic script and forgettable characters. Terence Stamp is appropriately inarticulate and Joanna Pettet does fine work, but able veterans Karl Malden and Ricardo Montalban are wasted. The Technicolor landscapes as rendered by Stanley Cortez are an irresistable asset.

Synopsis:

Raised by renegade Mexican bandit leader Ortega (Ricardo Montalban), handsome Azul, or Blue (Terence Stamp) doesn't get along with Ortega's various sons. After murdering a local policeman, Blue accompanies Ortega's band across the Rio Grande for a Fourth of July raid on the Texican farmers, who after the Mexican war hate the Mexicans as well. Wounded during the bloody hold-up, Blue is hidden and nursed by Doc Morton (Karl Malden) and his daughter Joanne (Joanna Pettet). When he decides to reclaim his Anglo heritage and learn to farm, Blue becomes part of Doc's family, a move resented by local boy Jess Parker (Anthony Costello). News comes that Ortega intends to make a vengeance raid to reclaim his son and destroy the community, and the Texicans band together behind Blue's leadership to prepare a defense.

Some very good western dramas have come of the tensions on the border between the United States and Mexico, the best of which is probably Robert Parrish's The Wonderful Country. Anglo outlaw Robert Mitchum is a hired pistolero for a governor/warlord in northern Mexico, and slowly sorts out his identity problems when offered a new life back in the States.

Blue simplifies this conflict and makes an attempt at a new version of Shane with the added dimension of racism. The supposedly idyllic pioneer community has sewing bees and square dances, but the centerpiece of their holiday celebration comes when a kid hangs an effigy marked "greaser" from a tree.

Terence Stamp's monosyllabic bandit Azul is introduced killing, whoring and scrapping with his jealous stepbrothers. But we soon find out he's really a tender guy, a noble fellow in search of something better. Blue rescues Joanne from rape and responds positively to Doc Morton's trust. Finally, he tills the earth without being asked, which tells both father and daughter that he's a prime candidate for civilization, like the renegade Masai in Robert Aldrich's Apache.

The film's set piece is a river battle not unlike the Civil War skirmish in Friendly Persuasion. With the Mexican bandits firmly established as kill-worthy, and led by a Ricardo Montalban's demented paterfamilias, Blue is free to organize a deadly ambush that will wipe out the Mexican foes. Blue finishes with a late-60s antiheroic downer attitude, but some things never change. The foreigners die by the bushel to secure a future for those noble Anglo farmers.

At almost two hours Blue hasn't enough depth of character to sustain itself, despite Joanna Pettet's fine performance. The pale blonde Stamp hides his English accent only partially and always looks as though he's in danger of heatstroke. Neither Karl Malden nor Ricardo Montalban has a real character to play, which oddly gives Montalban the advantage; Malden's style is severely cramped.

Director Silvio Narrizano (Die! Die! My Darling) is clearly thinking "classic" but his okay character direction is overshadowed by outdoor photography that reaches too often for pretty effects. Stanley Cortez' breathtaking vistas would make excellent Arizona Highways calendars or screen savers but are just more evidence of the lack of dramatic force behind the images. A couple of shots of Terence Stamp standing in front of a wide but grainy backplate of a sunset indicate that the studio must have been experimenting with front projection. Front projection doesn't look very good when one can see emulsion flaws in the static projected image.


Paramount's DVD of Blue is a visual stunner. The movie hasn't been seen much since its brief theatrical run in 1968 and the enhanced widescreen visuals are in excellent shape. Savant only hopes that the same year's Danger: Diabolik will appear in an equally fine transfer, better than the one that came out on laser ten years ago.

Manos Hadjidakis' music is interesting and flavorful; along with the strange costuming, the non-Latin strings in the score make Montalban's gang seem more like gypsies than Mexican bandits. Blue has vague notions of wanting to be a counterculture hit, something desired but undefinable in 1968. It turns out to be a watered-down nod to familiar western formulas.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Blue rates:
Movie: Good -
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 22, 2005


Note: Several readers have written in to tell me that the Burt Reynolds/Barbara Loden movie Fade In is closely tied-in with Blue: It's a modern-day story of life on a film set, a western that just happens to be this movie. The movie reportedly uses alternate and behind-the-scenes angles of setups in Blue, which links the two in an interesting filmic relationship.




DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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