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True Grit (1969)
BLU-RAY disk
01.04.2011 By: Jason Adams
True Grit (1969) order download
Director:
Henry Hathaway

Actors:
John Wayne
Kim Darby
Glen Campbell

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A teenage girl seeking to bring her father's murderer to justice has no choice but to turn to surly, one eyed U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn for help.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Hey, this sounds familiar… Yes, before the Coen Brothers brought us TRUE GRIT, there was already one adaptation of Charles Portis' novel back in 1969. And though it's not as great as THE SEARCHERS or ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, TRUE GRIT is still a classic western—a straightforward tale of cowboys, friendship and justice that's still very good at what it does.

TRUE GRIT is famous for being the role that finally won John Wayne an Oscar, even if it's generally accepted that he received the golden statue as more of a lifetime appreciation award than anything. And while he’s indeed great as the trigger happy, whiskey swilling Rooster Cogburn, it's not Wayne's best role. (For my money that'd be the aforementioned SEARCHERS.) As the marshal, he's pretty much playing himself, albeit a surlier version that sports an eye patch. But that personality definitely fits the character well (well enough to get his own spinoff film years later), and if you're any kind of fan of The Duke, there's no reason you won't dig him in this role.

The other key ingredient is Kim Darby, who is clearly a decade older than Mattie Ross is supposed to be. Darby does fine by the character, even if John Wayne himself thought she was awful, and her portrayal of the strong-headed and whip-smart girl trying to find justice for her slain father does a good job playing it sympathetic and not simply bitchy. And despite their off-set conflicts, I think Wayne and Darby have a natural onscreen chemistry together. By the end when Rooster is calling Mattie "little sister" you believe it.

TRUE GRIT doesn't deviate much from its plotted course or expected characterizations, but director Henry Hathaway executes its archetypes well, with an exciting climax that's worth the slowish start in the first act. It also isn't afraid to spill a little blood or kill off a character or two, which is always welcome. And classic film fans will enjoy appearances by a young Dennis Hopper and Robert Duvall.

And if you're curious as to how this original compares to the new version, the Cohen Brothers' film is much more faithful to the novel and has very different sensibilities than Hathaway's movie, even in scenes it closely mirrors.
THE EXTRAS
These features are all taken directly from the previous DVD release:

Historical Commentary: Western historians and genre experts Jeb Rosebrook, Bob Boze Bell, and J. Stuart Rosebrook take you on a detailed tour of the world and history of the film, covering pretty much everything from the original novel to the production to symbolic meaning and other trivia. It's very detailed and a fun listen for those looking for something different than the typical filmmaker's commentary.

True Writing (4:26): A quick look at the original novel and how it translated to the screen.

Working With the Duke (10:13): Members of the film's cast and crew discuss Wayne and what he was like on and off the set. A nice, albeit short retrospective

Aspen Gold: The Locations of True Grit (10:18): Another feautrette on the places the movie was shot and how they were used.

The Law and the Lawless (5:44): A short piece on the legal system of the old west and how the laws led to situations like those found in the film.

Trailer.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
If you're one of the many, many people in love with the Coen Brothers' new adaptation of TRUE GRIT and are curious as to how the original movie adaptation fares in comparison, I won't lie—the new version is superior. But that doesn't mean the John Wayne classic is any worse a movie. It's still a good Western with a good performance by the Duke.

Extra Tidbit: Karen Carpenter, Mia Farrow and Sally Field were all up for the role of Mattie Ross.
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