Screen legends John Wayne (Rio Bravo) and William Holden (The Wild Bunch) team up with eminent western director John Ford (The Searchers) for this Civil War adventure packed with laughter, romance and thrills. A faithful representation of one of the most daring cavalry exploits in history, The Horse Soldiers tells the rousing tale of a troop of Union soldiers who force their way deep into Southern territory to destroy a rebel stronghold at Newton Station. In command is hardbitten Colonel Marlowe (Wayne), a man who is strikingly contrasted by the company’s gentle surgeon (Holden) and the beautiful but crafty Southern belle (Constance Towers, The Naked Kiss) who’s forced to accompany the Union raiders on perhaps the most harrowing mission in the war. The stellar supporting cast includes sports pioneer Althea Gibson and many frontier favorites like Judson Pratt, Ken Curtis, Willis Bouchey, Bing Russell, O.Z. Whitehead, Hank Worden, Denver Pyle, Strother Martin and Hoot Gibson.
For thoughts on The Horse Soldiers, please check out our discussion on The Video Attic:
The Horse Soldiers returns to Blu-Ray courtesy of Kino Classics with a digital AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1 that is derived from a brand new 4K master. Instances of print damage such as nicks and scratches have all been cleaned up immensely with overall clarity and detail looking excellent. There are still minor specks and blemishes that have made it through the restoration gauntlet, but this is by far the best the film has looked on physical media. The presentation is striking throughout most of the runtime with image stability and delineation being quite strong. The picture can run a touch soft in long shots and with optical effects, but colors are well saturated with the warm hues of the American South coming through. Skin tones are natural and consistent with subtle facial features easily noticeable in closeup. Black levels hold up well with no major instances of crush apparent. This transfer maintains the natural film grain of the presentation with a refined look rather than a clumpy mess. This presentation is an excellent effort that should please fans of Ford and The Duke.
This new Blu-Ray comes with a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix that sounds pretty dynamic throughout this excursion. Much like the video side of the equation, the audio track avoids most instances of age related wear and tear or distortion. Dialogue holds up wonderfully, coming through clearly without being stepped on by the music or sound effects. The environmental effects are delineated nicely from the firing of guns to the galloping of horses. This is a film that utilizes its score well in a way that resonates without hijacking the experience. It is presented with clarity and a strong fidelity as it fills the room. This track does everything it needs to exceedingly well. Optional English subtitles are provided on this disc.
- Audio Commentary: Film Historian Joseph McBride, the Author of Searching for John Ford, delivers a very informative commentary track in which he discusses how this film fits into the career of John Ford, the background of various creative figures attached to the film, the personal nature of certain aspects of the story, some of the flaws of the narrative, the history and reception of the picture, details about the shooting locations and more.
- Trailers: The two-and-a-half minute trailer is provided for The Horse Soldiers. There are also trailers provided for Legend Of The Lost, Brannigan, The Devil’s Brigade and The Revengers.
The Horse Soldiers is middle-tier work from John Ford, which means it is better than the majority of the work from his contemporaries. John Wayne strikes the perfect balance of resolute leadership with an undercurrent of sensitivity which allows for a more layered character. The questionable inclusion of an unrealistic romance does not add anything to the picture, but the core narrative is strong enough to keep you engaged until the end. Kino Classics has released a new Blu-Ray with a terrific A/V presentation and a really thorough commentary track. If you are a fan of Wayne and Ford, there is no real reason not to pick this one up. Recommended
The Horse Soldiers will be available to purchase on Blu-Ray on June 14, 2022.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Kino Classics 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.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.