Sidney Poitier's directorial debut, Buck and the Preacher is a slowly paced western that mixes action and comedy. His effort here is commendable, but the script, written by Ernest Kinoy (the TV miniseries Roots) from a story by Kinoy and Drake Walker, ineffectively blends the two elements. Namely, the action is missing. The story builds slowly, but that isn't a bad thing; the characters are developed enough that viewers will want to stick around and see what happens to them. But, until the end, there is little but plotting and suspicious eyeing between Buck (Poitier), who used to be a sergeant in the Union Army, and the Preacher (an ex-con, played by Harry Belafonte).
The two don't get off to a good start, and the Preacher briefly entertains the idea of turning Buck in, dead or alive, for the five hundred dollars offered to him by a group of labor recruiters who are determined to halt Buck's plans of leading former slaves west; they want them back in Louisiana, sharecropping. But his conscience wins out and soon Buck and the Preacher are battling the bounty hunters together. Poitier and Belafonte have terrific comedic chemistry and work well with each other. The supporting cast includes Ruby Dee and Cameron Mitchell. Poitier has directed several films since, including Stir Crazy (1980) and Ghost Dad (1990). Cinematography by Alex Phillips, Jr. The untraditional score is courtesy of Benny Carter, who contributed to the TV series Night Gallery.
The DVD: The latest entry in Columbia's top-notch Classic Western series, Buck and the Preacher ($24.95) is an easily recommendable DVD. Side A features the widescreen version of the film (1.85:1). For the most part, everything is well rendered; the saturation level is good and there is good detail. There are a couple of scenes during which the colors look faded, and, particularly towards the end, there was evident grain, but nothing overwhelming. Side B contains the full screen version.
The mono English track is good; dialogue, gunshots, and the Benny Carter score are all clear. There is also a Portuguese language track, presented mono. The 2-page insert booklet includes production notes; special features include talent files, a look at the original theatrical poster, and theatrical trailers for Buck and the Preacher, A Raisin in the Sun, Brother John, and To Sir, With Love. Interactive menus, scene selections, and English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai subtitles round out the supplementary content.