Escape from Fort Bravo

Escape from Fort Bravo

Director: John Sturges Cast: William Holden, Eleanor Parker, John Forsythe


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This reviewer (who knew John Sturges) finds himself almost glad that the director isn't here to see the level of disrespect with which Escape From Fort Bravo has been treated with on the Warner Home Video DVD. Not that all of it is the fault of Warner Home Video -- some of the blame for this movie not being more obviously a candidate for special treatment lies with MGM, the studio that originally made the picture; but rather than rescuing a deserving movie, Warner Home Video has missed an opportunity, and managed to heap more neglect upon it. Sturges was a contract director at the time of the film's production, and had just begun to get really good within that somewhat limited role -- Mystery Street and The People Against O'Hara were already to his credit, crime pictures that showed a certain directorial flair, if not quite the finely-honed visual/thematic point that, say Anthony Mann was bringing to such subjects during the same period; but Sturges was always at his best in action settings, especially outdoor subjects, and Escape From Fort Bravo gave him the chance to work in both, with a tough script and the right cast -- especially William Holden and John Forsythe, and a young John Lupton (who probably got his lead role in the series Broken Arrow from his work in this film) -- and in color. But the color was a major part of the rub where this movie was concerned. MGM's bottom line was suffering terribly at the start of the 1950's, from the intrusion of television on their audience and also the loss of their theater chain; and in their quest to cut corners, the studio's management decided to try making its color films using a German-based process called Anscocolor. It seemed promising at first, as a cheaper alternative to Eastmancolor, and MGM went so far as to shoot Kiss Me Kate (1953), no less, in Anscocolor. But it turned out that Anscocolor didn't produce reliably lustrous results, and the color would also fade over time. As a major musical, Kiss Me Kate was the subject of extensive restoration in the 1990's, and it still looks gorgeous in the twenty-first century (even when shown in 3-D); but Escape From Fort Bravo hasn't been as lucky and isn't ever likely to be -- unless it happened to have been directed by John Ford, most Civil War and cavalry movies (of which this is both) just don't attract the same kind of interest as a major Cole Porter musical. So we have what we have on this DVD, a very uneven image, suitable letterboxed to the non-anamorphic aspect ratio of 1.85-to-1, but with very unstable color and clarity. All of the skin tones look the same, except when they get washed out in some shots, and there a large amount of grain that works its way into the picture as is especially obtrusive on any decent-sized monitor; and even the Union Army blue varies significantly in tone and density from shot to shot. So the color was a flaw going in -- but it doesn't change the fact that this is a flawed but great cavalry/Civil War drama, which Sturges and company elevate beyond the limitations of its script. Indeed, elements of the story anticipate Sam Peckinpah's Major Dundee (1965), another movie that took decades to receive the respect it deserved (though it did finally receive it). Warner Home Video has given it only a fair transfer, but also a paltry 10 chapter markers (which can't even be accessed on the menu -- they're not labeled), plus the original trailer (which is a peculiarly flaccid and unexciting mess -- you almost get the feeling someone at MGM was trying to sabotage this picture). But this is a movie that could easily have rated a commentary track -- Warner Home Video has budgeted the latter for far lesser movies, including The Giant Behemoth -- and begs for one, in terms of its cast and subject and director. Instead, they've almost dumped it on the market on the cheap, in this stripped down edition that will do little to enhance the reputation of the picture or anyone associated with it or, indeed, Warner Home Video.

Product Details

Release Date: 08/26/2008
UPC: 0883929005123
Original Release: 1953
Rating: NR
Source: Warner Home Video
Region Code: 1
Time: 1:38:00
Sales rank: 10,191

Special Features

Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
William Holden Capt. Roper
Eleanor Parker Carla Forester
John Forsythe Capt. John Marsh
William Demarest Campbell
William Campbell Cabot Young
John Lupton Bailey
Richard Anderson Lt. Beecher
Polly Bergen Alice Owens
Carl Benton Reid Col. Owens
Harry V. Cheshire Chaplain
Michael Dugan Sims
Fred Graham Jones
Eloise Hardt Girl
Forrest Lewis Dr. Miller
Frank Matts Kiowa Indian
Howard McNear Watson
Alex Montoya Chavez
William Newell Symore
Phil Rich Barman
Charles Stevens Eilota
Glenn Strange Sgt. Compton
Valerie Vernon Girl in Bar
Richard P. Beedle Confederate Lieutenant

Technical Credits
John Sturges Director
Jeff Alexander Score Composer,Songwriter
George Boemler Editor
Malcolm Brown Art Director
Frank Fenton Screenwriter
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Ralph S. Hurst Set Decoration/Design
Stan Jones Songwriter
Nicholas Nayfack Producer
Warren Newcombe Special Effects
Michael Pate Original Story
Philip Rock Original Story
Helen Rose Costumes/Costume Designer
Robert Surtees Cinematographer
Edwin B. Willis Set Decoration/Design

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Escape from Fort Bravo 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great western combining both yankees versus Rebs and fighting against the indians. the Romance part is maybe a little bit too easy but otherwise the characters are great . the final scene in the desert is a must-see for all westerns fans