Blu-ray Review: Bronco Billy

A former New Jersey shoe salesman-turned sharpshooter, Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby) is the leader of a scarcely attended traveling Wild West Show. Under the tent, nothing goes smoothly: snake dancers are bitten, and the latest Lovely Assistant misses her cues. Ever the dreamer, Billy pushes on, acting as cheerleader and den mother to a group of fellow outcasts including a lasso artist and Vietnam deserter (Sam Bottoms), a ringmaster and disgraced doctor (Scatman Crothers), a Native American snake charmer and his wife (Dan Vadis and Sierra Pecheur) and a one-handed roustabout and thief (Bill McKinney).

Nobody’s been paid in six months; the crowds are meager, and Billy regularly offers free shows to orphans, the sick and mentally ill. At a stop in a small Idaho town, Billy recruits a new assistant Antoinette Lily (Sandra Locke), a heiress on her honeymoon left abandoned by her dimwitted husband (Geoffrey Lewis), with no money. Antoinette is ice to Billy’s unique style of warmth. Her fervid attitude might just be the shot in the arm that the Wild West Show needs.

Eastwood and the late Sondra Locke, then in the middle of a long-term off-screen relationship, made six films together. The couple have palpable chemistry here, which almost makes up for the underwritten script. Aside from Billy and Antoinette’s humorous and occasionally tender interactions, there’s not much here. The rest of Billy’s troop isn’t given a whole lot to do. Attempts at character development during the third act is a case of too little too late. The return of Antoinette’s husband and ridiculous subplot involving her stepmother and scheming lawyer doesn’t add much excitement to the story.

Directed by Eastwood, the success of Bronco Billy comes from Clint’s obvious commitment to the title role. A well-rehearsed movie cowboy, this is Clint’s chance to have some fun. Playing the self-proclaimed “fastest gun in the West,” referring to his young fans as “pardners” and adheres to old fashioned values, pokes gentle fun at Eastwood’s own cinematic reputation. The scripts shortcomings prevent Bronco Billy from being a great film, but it offers fine lead performances and some humorous observations. This writer must admit to enjoying the chance to see Scatman Carruthers. I just love the guy.

Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Warner Archive’s 1080p transfer is terrific. The slightly brighter, circus like atmosphere of the Wild West Show provides a nice contrast to the otherwise moderate outdoor surroundings. There’s some softness during a Merle Haggard bar performance, but it’s not severe. Otherwise, image detail is impressive, whether it’s the texture of clothing or the most intricate facial features. Skin tones look natural throughout. Digital anomalies aren’t an issue. Viewers should be very pleased with this transfer.

The Mono DTS-HD 2.0 soundtrack does a solid job given the limitations of the source.  Well balanced throughout, dialogue is clear and concise, whether actors are in a loud or quieter scene. rowdier moments, like a bar brawl offer surprisingly dynamic range. For a Mono track, this presentation recreates the films atmosphere very well.

English SDH subtitles are included

The following extras are available:

  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:41)

Bronco Billy (1980)
Bronco Billy

Movie title: Bronco Billy

Director(s): Clint Eastwood

Actor(s): Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke , Geoffrey Lewis , Scatman Crothers, Bill McKinney , Sam Bottoms

Genre: Western, Romance, Comedy, Adventure, Drama,

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