Stagecoach was originally made in 1939 and then again in 1966… so why go back to the well for a third time? Well, this made for TV take on the story, directed by Ted Post (whose TV and silver screen filmography is pretty diverse!) offers something that the earlier adaptations cannot: loads of country music stars in prominent roles! If the end result isn't as good as either of the earlier versions, it's still entertaining enough, especially if you're a fan of The Highwaymen..
The story doesn't differ very much from the versions told before. A stagecoach driver named Buck (John Schneider) is under pressure to taxi an expectant woman named Mrs. Lucy Mallory (Mary Crosby) to meet up with her husband (Michael Haynes) currently serving as an officer in the cavalry stationed in Lordsburg. To make this happen he has to successfully carry her across rough terrain, much of which is populated, albeit fairly sparsely, by some less than friendly Indians. As the stagecoach makes its journey, driver and passenger alike run into a colorful cast of characters in supporting roles: Doc Holliday (Willie Nelson), Hatfield (Waylon Jennings), a banker named Henry Gatefield (Anthony Franciosa) and a whiskey salesman named Trevor Peacock (Anthony Newley).
While this is going on, an outlaw named Ringo Kid (Kris Kristofferson) who has been wrongly-convicted for the most heinous of crimes busts out of prison. His plan is to head to Lordsburg to find the man who killed his brother. Of course, that won't be easy, because Marshal Curly Wilcox (Johnny Cash) is out to bring him back in and see that justice is served. While Ringo hits it off with a down on her luck lady named Dallas (Elizabeth Ashley), Wilcox gets ever closer and of course, the storylines or the various characters start to intertwine.
This isn't deep but it's fun. For a made-for-TV movie lensed in the mid-eighties it shows some surprisingly cinematic production values thanks, no doubt, to Post having experience working on decent sized Hollywood productions like Magnum Force and Beneath The Planet Of The Apes. The locations work well and the cinematography does a pretty decent job of capturing the wide open feel of the areas that the stagecoach has to traverse on its journey. You kind of wish this were shot in scope to really open it up, but the fullframe aspect ratio works well enough.
Given that the story will be familiar to even casual western fans, the main draw here, as mentioned, is the cast. John Schneider, instantly recognizable from The Dukes Of Hazzard, anchors the film well enough as the determined coachman. He's likeable and charismatic enough to work in the part. Mary Crosby is also just fine as the fragile passenger. Cash is a lot of fun to watch as the Marshal, never quite hamming it up but definitely having a good time in the part while Kristofferson is pretty much a natural as the outlaw character (he'd played these roles before and had more acting experience under his belt at this point than most of the other musicians that appear in the film). Willie Nelson does a decent enough job as Doc Holiday and Waylon Jennings is a lot of fun as the gambler Hatfield (he and Crosby's character hit it off and have some cool moments here). Smaller supporting parts from Jennings' wife Jessi Colter, Cash's son John Carter Cash and wife June Carter Cash, old school western/cowboy star Lash La Rue and fellow outlaw country star David Allan Coe add to the fun.The Blu-ray:
Olive Films presents Stagecoach on Blu-ray in its proper 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. For the most part, the movie looks quite good on Blu-ray. Grain is present as it should be but never overpowering or distracting. Detail is pretty solid throughout, close ups in particular, while black levels are strong and generally pretty inky. Nicely lit outdoor shots really look quite good. Skin tones look nice and natural, there are no signs of edge enhancement or noise reduction and although the disc is single layered compression artifacts are never a problem. Generally things look very good here.Sound:
The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo mix, there are no alternate language options offered although English subtitles are provided. Clarity of the audio is fine. The levels are nicely balanced and there are problems with any hiss or distortion. It's a little limited in range but it's a decent track with good presence and occasional moments of appreciable depth.Extras:
There are no extras here, just a static menu and chapter selection.Final Thoughts:
Stagecoach doesn't reinvent the wheel or really change the classic storyline very much. It's not deep and it's not all that original. But it's fun. The story is efficient, the technical side of the film is solid and the cast really go a long way to making this a really enjoyable time killer. Olive's Blu-ray release is completely devoid of any extras but it does look and sound nice. Recommended.