Review: The Long Riders Blu-ray

STUDIO: MGM/Fox | DIRECTOR: Walter Hill | CAST: Stacy Keach James Keach, Robert Carradine, Keith Carradine, David Carradine, Randy Quaid, Dennis Quaid, Nicholas Guest, Christopher Guest
6/7/11 | PRICE: Blu-ray $19.99
R | 95 min. | Western | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 | English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

When are we going to get a gorgeous Blu-ray edition of a Walter Hill film!? The ones that are out there — 48 Hrs. and Johnny Handsome among them — are acceptable at best (Paramount’s edition of The Warriors is the finest of the bunch), while the majority of Hill’s works have yet to make the leap to the high-definition arena. The most recent vintage Hill film to receive the treatment, the handsome 1980 western The Long Riders, is a step in the right direction. But only a small step.


The Long Riders movie scene

The Long Riders is probably best remembered for its novelty casting of four sets of real-life brothers in the roles of the sibling members of the James-Younger outlaw gang. They are Stacy and James Keach (Waiting for Forever) as Frank and Jesse James; Robert, Keith and David Carradine (Dark Fields) as Bob, Jim and Cole Younger; and Randy and Dennis Quaid (Pandorum) as Clell and Ed Miller.

But there are many who seriously groove on Ric Waite’s gorgeous location cinematography, Ry Cooder’s twangy score and, of coursework, Hill’s stunningly mounted action set pieces. These are the elements that scream out for a first-rate Blu-ray adaptation.

It’s not that The Long Riders doesn’t look and sound better than it has in its previous DVD editions — the plains are beiger, the forests fuller and Cooder’s guitar clearer — but I wanted more. During the gang’s ill-fated attempted robbery of the First National Bank of Northfield, Minn., the  film’s action highlight, I wanted more thunder in the horses’ galloping hooves, more crackle when six-shooters were discharged and more sonic sizzle as bullets fly into their outlaw targets. As it is, the optimal sound and vision hasn’t been attained. Perhaps the source material and age of the film is partly to blame, but when nicks and glitches are plainly visible in the print, one must point the accusatory finger at the suits who requested a Long Riders Blu-ray, as well as the guys sitting at the mixing panel.

Further, Walter Hill is still alive and well and busy prepping his return to the theatrical feature director’s chair (the last film he helmed was the underrated 2002 boxing movie Undisputed) for a reported 2012 project with Sylvester Stallone. That said, why is he not contributing bonus features for his film on Blu-ray? To our knowledge, he has only appeared on the extras of Paramount’s Warriors DVD and Blu-ray. And he was great on those! How come The Long Riders got nothing?

So, whoever’s prepping Hard Times or Geronimo or Southern Comfort or The Driver for Blu-ray, will you please get Mr. Hill into the studio so we can hear what he has to say!?


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.