Following the successful release of Rachel and The Stranger (also available through Warner Archive), rising leading man Robert Mitchum starred in his second western of 1948, Blood On the Moon. Whereas the former was a lighthearted tale of frontier love, Blood On the Moon was a much darker, twisty tale filled with double crosses and violence. The film was helmed by a young Robert Wise before he would go on to direct such classics as West Side Story or The Sound of Music. The resulting product is a stylishly crafted film that sought to be more than a typical western with its film noir elements and strong performances from the entire cast.
This time Mitchum plays Jim Garry, an honest, level-headed cowboy who travels to a small outpost to meet his friend, Tate Riling (Robert Preston, Victor/Victoria). Along the way, he runs into cattle owner John Lufton (Tom Tully), along with his daughters, Amy (Barbara Bel Geddes) and Carol (Phyllis Thaxter). John offers him shelter for a night as well as a job protecting his cattle from encroaching homesteaders looking to cheat him out of his cattle. After politely declining, the fiery Amy runs him off, believing him to be with the homesteaders, but not before exchanging a few passionate barbs back and forth. When he finally meets up with Tate, Jim realizes he is being approached with a large amount of money to help with swindling the Lufton family out of their cattle. Jim struggles in a battle with his conscience and his greed as tensions reach their breaking point.
The story has a lot of engaging elements going for it including some truly dramatic twists, well-staged action and fights scenes, and even a burgeoning romance. The players are all doing great work, especially Mitchum, who brings a stoic, charming dignity to these types of roles. Robert Preston is also formidable as the duplicitous villain of the movie trying to make a quick fortune. Barbara Bel Geddes brings her all to Amy in attempt to make her more than just the standard ingénue. The film is also beautifully shot by director of photography Nicholas Musuraca, giving the film a gritty undertone more typical in gangster films than westerns. Blood On the Moon was never going to shake off the typical western trappings entirely, but the journey to the conclusion is extremely well done and elevates this above just another entry in the genre.
Warner Archive presents Blood On the Moon for the first time on Blu-Ray with 1080p transfer sourced from a 4K scan of the original camera negative. The resulting image is nothing short of stunning for a film that is over seventy years old. This black and white feature has nice, natural film grain throughout that provides a great amount of detail to the image. The presentation has a good amount of depth to it including in the shadows where there is no evidence of any black crush. Print damage is virtually nonexistent throughout the duration of the movie. It is always amazing to see how film preservation can bring new life to a film, and Warner Archive has saved another piece of film history with this excellent release.
This Blu-Ray release comes with a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track that sounds simply wonderful. Robert Mitchum has a deliberately slow, cool delivery that always comes through crystal clear. As a matter of fact, none of the sound effects or the rousing score from Roy Webb ever overpowers the dialogue on this release. The action sequences including the cattle driving set pieces are appropriately lively in the speakers. There does not appear to be any damage or age related wear to the track. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles available on the disc for those who need it. Overall, this is an excellent audio presentation that suits the material really well.
- Theatrical Trailer: The dramatic original trailer is presented here which hypes up all of the twists and turns the movie delivers.
Blood On the Moon is an exciting addition the western genre that is impeccably directed by Robert Wise. With a cast that is delivering stand out work and a script filled with interesting twists and turns, this is one that is easily recommended for fans of the genre. Warner Archive provides an amazing A/V presentation that brings a whole new life to the film. Recommended
Blood On The Moon can be purchased directly through Warner Archive or various other online retailers.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Archive has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.