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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with director Samuel Fullerís widow, Christa Lang-Fuller, and daughter, Samantha Fuller
  • A Fuller Life (2013), a feature-length documentary by Samantha Fuller about her father, featuring admirers and collaborators Wim Wenders, William Friedkin, Mark Hamill, James Franco, Monte Hellman, Jennifer Beals, Bill Duke, Constance Towers, and others
  • New interview with critic Imogen Sara Smith, author of In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City
  • Stills gallery
  • An essay by film scholar Lisa Dombrowski and excerpts from Fullerís 2002 autobiography, A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting, and Filmmaking

Forty Guns

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Samuel Fuller
1957 | 80 Minutes | Licensor: 20th Century Fox

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #954
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: December 11, 2018
Review Date: March 27, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

Hollywood legend Barbara Stanwyck saddled up with writer-director Samuel Fuller for the pulp maestroís most audacious western, a boldly feminist spin on the genre that pivots effortlessly between ribald humor, visceral action, and disarming tenderness. High-riding rancher Jessica Drummond (Stanwyck) commands a forty-strong posse of cowboys, ruling Cochise County, Arizona, without challenge. When U.S. marshal Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan) and his brothers arrive in town with a warrant for one of her hired guns, Jessica begins to fall for the lawman even as he chips away at her authority. With astonishing black-and-white CinemaScope photography, hard-boiled dialogue laced with double entendres, and a fiery performance by Stanwyck at her most imperious, Forty Guns is a virtuoso display of Fullerís sharpshooting talents.


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents Samuel Fullerís Forty Guns on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz presentation comes from a new 4K restoration, scanned from the 35mm original camera negative. The restoration was performed by Fox.

The film just looks stunning with the restoration work covering all bases. The image is razor-sharp throughout with nary an instance where I found it to go soft or hazy, extreme close-ups coming off quite staggering and long shots delivering an incredible amount of detail, right down to individual blades of grass and tiny pubbles. Film grain isnít heavy, but it is there and cleanly rendered without a trace of noise or any sort of artifact. Contrast looks exceptional, with nice looking blacks and strong whites (that donít bloom) with fine tonal shifts in the grayscale.

I donít recall a single blemish ever appearing throughout the film, the restoration work looking to have picked off everything, and there are no digital artifacts to speak of: no banding, no ringing, no pixilated moments. Nothing. Even a dust storm that appears well into the film looks clean and natural here. Overall itís an absolutely gorgeous looking black and white presentation.

10/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The monaural linear PCM presentation is another wonderful surprise. Though not overly dynamic I still found range to be decent and fidelity to be impressive. The music sounds really good with no sign of distortion, and there is some nice depth to some of the gun shots, horse hoofs, and other sound effects. For an older monaural presentation it exceeded my expectations by a great deal.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

There is some wonderful material on here, starting with a 1969 audio recording of Samuel Fuller at the National Film Theatre in London. Taking questions from the moderator and various members of the audience, Fuller covers a wide range of topics about his career and life, talking about his days as a reporter, first getting into filmmaking, his thoughts on violence in his films, controversies around them, films he didnít get off the ground, and more. He also talks about his disappointments, like his then-recent film Shark. It plays over the film as a separate audio track though has little about Forty Guns itself (which really only gets mentioned) but itís a wonderful, energetic, and funny conversation.

As wonderful as that feature is, though, the best supplement to be found on this disc is the next one: Fuller Women, a wonderful 20-minute discussion with Fullerís widow Christa Lang Fuller and his daughter Samantha Fuller. The two talk about the man and his work, Forty Guns in particular, and the common themes. But the feature is at its best when the two are just chatting, sharing stories, or joking around, with my favourite moment being Christa acting horrified at Samantha saying ďpussy whippedĒ in reference to Stanwyckís character, her whip, and the forty men that follow orders. The two are energetic and fun and I wish theyíd show up on other discs to talk about their respective films, and not just Fullerís work. (Another fun aspect to the feature is picking through their movie collection in the background.)

Woman with a Whip next offers a 34-minute interview with scholar Imogen Sara Smith providing a wonderful analysis of Forty Guns. She talks about the blending of noir and western elements hereóthough this wasnít an entirely unique thing for the timeóFullerís use of guns, the violence, Stanwyckís character and performance, while also getting into technical details around the use of close-ups, the filmís framing, and execution of specific scenes and shots. Itís an all-encompassing academic feature, wonderfully presented by Smith who packs it with strong insights and keeps it engaging. It makes up for the lack of a commentary track.

The biggest feature on here is easily Samantha Fullerís 2013 film A Fuller Life. Fuller has a number of personalities (from James Franco to Jennifer Beals to Mark Hamill to Tim Roth to Bill Duke to Wim Wenders to many more) reading from sections of her fatherís autobiography, while resorting to film clips, archival footage, and photos for visual aids (as well as footage of the guests reading). The 80-minute film is, at its core, a film featuring people reading from a book, but the directorís personality still manages to come through the readings and the editing is breezy and quick. Itís a lovely and fun love letter to her father.

The disc then closes with a small still gallery featuring promotional material, original music sheets for ďHigh Ridiní Woman,Ē photos and various design drawings. The release is also accompanied by a booklet featuring an essay by Lisa Dombrowski, a couple of pages featuring set photos, and then a reprint of a section from Fullerís autobiography covering Forty Guns. This last part of the booklet is particularly great.

Criterion has released a number of Fullerís films, all of which featured great material in their supplements, but this is easily the strongest batch of material, getting more in-depth into Fullerís life and filmmaking style.

8/10

CLOSING

Criterionís best edition so far for one of Fullerís films it not only offers a gorgeous and almost immaculate presentation of the film, but it also offers the most thorough collection of supplements around the filmmaker. Highly recommended.


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Purchase From:
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