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Western Classics in August

Optimum Home Entertainment have announced the UK DVD release of four classic Westerns on 27th August 2007. Barebones, priced at £12.99 each and all making their UK DVD debuts are…

Canyon Passage (1946)
Jacques Tourneur’s (Out of the Past, Cat People) first Western is a lost classic, regarded by some as an equal to the work of the great John Ford.

Dana Andrews plays Logan Stuart a scout turned general store and freight company owner, based in the mining settlement of Jacksonville, Oregon. Logan's best friend is George Camrose (Brian Donlevy), a banker and express company owner with an addiction to poker. When a gambling debt turns sour leading to accusations of murder, George is sentenced to death by a kangaroo court but Logan helps him escape. Meanwhile, Indians go on the warpath when the town’s brutish Bragg (Ward Bond) kills a young Indian woman.

Also featuring Susan Hayward and Patricia Roc as women vying for Logan’s attentions and the incomparable Hoagy Carmichael as a wandering minstrel, Canyon Passage is a deft blend of action, romance and colourful location scenery.

Seminole (1953)
Directed by the great Budd Boetticher (Ride Lonesome, Comanche Station and East of Sumatra), Seminole is notable for offering a sympathetic representation of Native Americans.

Rock Hudson stars as officer Lance Caldwell who is assigned to Fort King in the Everglades. A boyhood friend of Seminole Indian chief Osceola (Anthony Quinn), Caldwell opposes the maniacal Major Degan’s (Richard Carlson) plans to wipe out the local Seminole tribe. Caldwell is rescued by Osceola after a violent battle and finds himself swiftly court-martialled. When Osceola returns to Fort King in an attempt to initiate peace he is brutally murdered and Caldwell framed for the crime. Can truth prevail?

Superior western fare tautly scripted from his own story by Charles K. Peck Jr., Seminole thrillingly meshes action, betrayal and racial politics. Look out for Lee Marvin as surly cavalry Sergeant Magruder.

The True Story of Jesse James (1957)
A welcome return to the western genre for Nicholas Ray after Hot Blood, Bigger Than Life and Rebel Without A Cause, The True Story of Jesse James offers a compelling look at the Jesse James legend.

As Jesse James (Robert Wagner, Broken Lance) attempts to evade the law, those who know him best – his brother Frank (Jeffrey Hunter, The Searchers), wife (Hope Lange, Peyton Place) and mother (Agnes Moorehead, All That Heaven Allows) – ponder the question, "What turned this simple farm boy to a life of lawlessness?" And as Jesse continues his ride into notoriety, the key events in his life are scrutinized in a desperate attempt to close in on him for good.

Featuring a compelling performance from Wagner as one of the key anti-establishment figures in American history, Ray freely adapts the original Nunnally Johnson script, depicting James as an archetypal Ray character, beset by feelings of disenchantment and disillusioned by the cruelties of adult life.

Deadly Companions (1961)
A Western set in the late 1860s, Sam Peckinpah's first feature as director offers a tantalising glimpse into the future of one of American cinema’s most uncompromising filmmakers.

Yellowleg (Brian Keith, The Parent Trap), a former sergeant in the Union army takes up with a couple of ne’er do wells (Chill Wills, The Alamo and Steve Cochran, The Best Years of our Lives) and attempts to pull off a daring bank robbery. In the ensuing shoot out he accidentally kills the nine-year-old son of dance-hall hostess Kit Tilden (Maureen O'Hara, The Quiet Man). Riddled with remorse, Yellowleg seeks atonement by escorting the funeral procession through dangerous Apache territory to the gravesite of Kit’s husband.

Though less driven by the violent, visual pyrotechnics that defined later Peckinpah works, The Deadly Companions looks forward to The Wild Bunch in its shot of a children fighting with sticks in the street and a sequence featuring a hypocritical parson holding a church service in a saloon. Ripe for re-discovery, this is a powerful and surprisingly moving parable about the powers of redemption.

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