Cattle Drive
R2 - United Kingdom - Simply Media
Review written by and copyright: Matthew Crossman (14th April 2016).
The Film

Chester Graham Junior (Dean Stockwell) is a wilful, spoil brat of a boy whose Father owns the railroad and the train he is travelling on. Bored and ignored by his Father Chester roams about the train coaches making a nuisance of himself. Soon he finds himself in trouble when he starts a fight with another boy travelling on the train and the fight is broken up by the conductor. Chester then interrupts his Father's business meeting on the train to tell him that the conductor hit him and asks his Father to fire the conductor. Chester's Father looks into the matter and soon realises that Chester is lying and starts to put arrangements in place so that Chester can be removed from the train and go to a school, if his Father can find one that will take him. Shortly after the train stops to take on water and Chester departs the train sulking. He sees a lizard and throws stones at it and when the lizard scuttles off Chester follows it. Chester then falls down a small crevice and whilst he is dusting himself down the train departs without him. Wandering aimlessly Chester is nearly trampled by a wild stallion that is being chased by cow hand Dan Matthews (Joel McCrea). Dan is slightly annoyed that the stallion he has been chasing for sometime has once again eluded him thanks to Chester's interruption. Chester demands Dan take him back to where the train left him but Dan cannot do that as he is part of a large cattle drive to Santa Fe. Santa Fe just happens to be the final destination of Chester's Father's train and Dan tells Chester that he can accompany him and the rest of the cow hands as long as he pitches in and helps. Chester initially is reticent about the agreement but starts to change his mind due to the kind, patient compassion shown to him by Dan and the cattle drive cook Dallas (Chill Wills). Over the course of the next few days Chester starts to learn the ways of being a cow hand and grows attached to Dan. One evening the cow hands start to talk about who has the fastest horse and Dan is challenged to a race by fellow cow hand Jim Currie (Henry Brandon). A wager is placed and the race will be run the following morning. The next day and the race begins with Jim's horse leading the way but as they approach the finishing line Jim's horse tires badly and Dan's horse romps home. Dan is given his winnings and it is then then Chester , proudly, declares that he was as much to do with Dan and his horse winning the race because he had taken Jim's horse out the night before and ran it for several hours ensuring it would be tired for the race. Dan gives the money back and explains to Chester that winning a rigged game is not winning at all. Chester learns his lesson and buckles down. As they near the end of the cattle drive Dan spots the stallion he had been chasing when he first encountered Chester and he and Chester are given a day by cow hand boss, Cap (Howard Petrie), to try and track and capture the stallion one last time.

By the time 'Cattle Drive' was released it was John McCrea's sixteenth western and it shows. McCrea is perfectly cast as the kindly, patient cattle hand with a big dream of owning his own ranch one day and the viewer cannot helped but be seduced by his view on life as Chester soon is in the film. Dean Stockwell, perhaps best remembered for his turns in the television series 'Quantum Leap' and his part in David Lynch's 'Blue Velvet' is perfect as the spoilt Son of a railroad owner who mends his ways. Stockwell was, by my reckoning, about fifteen by the time he made 'Cattle Drive' but had been in the acting business for a good six years previous and here he looks confident and assured. The film is, without doubt, an idealised version of what a real cattle drive would have been like, and I have no problem with that. With westerns getting more frequently violet as the decades wore on it's this example of the genre that is most fondly remembered by people over the age of fifty years old. Westerns before the 1950's were filled with evil characters in black hats, hard drinking, and fistfights that would break every single item of furniture in the saloon before the day was done. Post the 1950's and the western genre tried to re-invent itself by becoming more gritty and realistic with movies such as 'The Wild Bunch'. 'Cattle Drive' is a film from of it's era and consequently it's a much more gentle version of what it was like to make a living in the 19th century and that is not a bad thing. I grew up watching westerns such as this film on television (usually on a Sunday afternoon - it was either a western or a war movie) and to watch this film takes me back to simpler times and that is not such a bad thing. 'Cattle Drive' can be watched, and more importantly enjoyed, by all ages. It may have a simplistic, linear storyline but no one gets beaten up, the are no killings , no bad language and no sex. You may think this makes it seem boring but in a time when even The Archers on the radio has a women killing her Husband I like to think of it as a nice change of pace.

Video

The film is presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. As usual Simply Media have preceded the presentation of the film with a warning in regards to the archival nature of the print used. They need not have bothered as there is very little wrong here. At times the colours do seem a little faded but these are rare occurrences and for the most part the images presented are nicely balanced with a pleasant pastel palette, so that when there are the rare images of greenery in the film, it really does stand out. There are one or two minor defects, mainly during the stampede scene towards the end but overall this is a good presentation.

Audio

A simple dual mono mix (in English) is the only option available for the soundtrack of the film and it is perfectly acceptable. It's clear throughout, even if it does sound a little shallow. The soundtrack still presents the crackling of a fire or the hoof beats of the cattle well and the dialogue is crisp. Despite its limitations it seemed to me to be an accurate presentation of how the sound of the film would have been heard in 1951. There are no subtitles available of any kind on the disc in keeping with the majority of Simply Media's re-releases of older titles.

Extras

None.

Overall

I'm not ashamed to say I thoroughly enjoyed 'Cattle Drive'. Sure it's a pretty simplistic storyline but the whole production is managed well. The actors are good throughout and the direction is more than competent - it even has a heart warming ending which will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy afterwards. If the movies of today are filled with too much violence, sex and swearing for you, then may I suggest that you take a trip back to 1951 when movies were to be enjoyed for all the family and 'Cattle Drive' is no exception?

The Film: B Video: B Audio: B- Extras: F Overall: B-

 


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