Directed by Martin Ritt, (Hud, Norma Rae) Hombre is essentially the story of man forced by changing times to enter a world that never truly accepts or respects his beliefs. Though based on the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name, it’s hard not to think that Ritt, a victim of the Hollywood Blacklist during the 1950’s, didn’t feel a certain kinship with Paul Newman’s character, John Russell, like Ritt, one piece of information changed many people’s perception of him, whether they knew him personally or not.
A white man, John Russell (Newman), was raised by Apache Indians. Now an adult, he still finds himself most comfortable among the tribal community. He learns that he has inherited a boarding house and decides to go into town to sell it. Russell finds himself on a stagecoach with a group of passengers including Jessie (Diane Cilento), a resident landlady at the property Russell inherits; two well to do passers through, Alex (Frederic March) and Audra Favor (Barbara Rush); newlyweds Billy Lee (Peter Lazer) and Doris Blake (Margaret Blye) and the blustery stranger Cicero Grimes (Richard Boone) who take exception to John when they learn he lives with the Indians. Eventually, John heritage becomes such an object of derision that he’s forced to ride up top” with the driver, Russell’s Mexican friend Henry Mendez (Martin Balsam).
As it turns out, Grimes presence is part of a plan to hold up the stagecoach and get the money in possession of Alex Favor, who in turn had skimmed it off funds entrusted to him in his position as Indian agent. However, things don’t go as planned, when Grimes and his men ride away, taking Audra Favor hostage. In the nick of time, Russell manages to shoot one of the gang members who has the money in his saddlebags With Grimes still looking to recover his money, the once rejected and reviled John Russell becomes the stagecoach passengers only hope for survival.
Adapted by Martin Ritt’s frequent collaborators Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Hombre is one of those films that says a lot by saying a little. Much like Sergio Leone’s “Man with No Name,” John Russell is a man of remarkably few words, but his eyes, facial expressions, and slight movements often say a lot, and when he does speak, the audience is forced to listen. There is no filler here; what dialogue there is, cuts to the quick. None of the characters here are particularly likable. Even John is an anti-hero; it’s a credit to Paul Newman that you never really warm up to him. Just as the stagecoach passengers never warm to him, he hates whites. When emotions are high, rash decisions get made, and things like the end of Hombre, tend to happen quickly.
Presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, Twilight Time has provided another superb 1080p presentation. Detail is fantastic throughout, and the terrain is especially flattering. Colors are rich and vibrant, and there is no dirt or scratches to speak of. Skin tones appear natural, and contrast is dialed in.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is very good, and typical of its era. Hiss, pops, and other audio issues are not in evidence, while the dialogue is clean, and clear throughout. Sound effects and David Rose score never crowd each other. This is a mix that does its job.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Film Historians Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo: Recorded exclusively for this release, the two discuss the actors, the films themes, their favorite films of the 1960’s, some thoughts on director Martin Ritt, and more.
- Isolated Score Track: offered in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:21)
- Six-Page Booklet: An excellent selection of color stills, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s enthusiastic analysis of the film.
There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.
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