Studio: Warner Archive
Year: 1944
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Run time: 87 minutes
Rating: NR

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Disc Spec: 1 DVD
Region: A
Holden has such a quick, yet (by American standards) articulate delivery that he sounds like an effusive Bob Hope in a dramatic role. He has made every movie I’ve seen him in better because of his presence in the cast. Sometimes, however, the structure of the movie fails to support the quality of the cast. For me, the problems with “The Wild Rovers” is not Holden or any of the actors; it’s Blake Edwards.

What “The Wild Rovers” lacks is a coherant story. There is a scene about two thirds into the movie when there is a gun battle. Holden enters the fray late only knowing one person in the fight. He sees the bartender with a gun in his hand and promptly shoots him dead. Why he did so is never really explored or explained (although other characters in the movie commented on the pointlessness of the act). For all we know, the bartender hadn’t taken sides and was seemingly trying to restore the peace. The scene is instructive of the movie because there are many other people and events in the movie that go unexplained. The background of the two main characters goes largely unexplained. Well, so what? Except that there is a scene in which Holden marvels at how two such different people became friends. Outside of the age difference, we pretty much have to guess for ourselves as to what else is different about them. There’s a conflict between sheepmen and cattlemen which is rather historic during a period of Western history. However, we could use at least a weak explanation as to why that is an issue istead of just accepting the hatred we find. The relationships between father and sons are ripe for exploration but we only see the results. On and on we get scenes and situations that look good on film but don’t seem to relate to everything else we’re watching. Maybe the answer was on the cutting room floor. After all, I understand that Edwards had to cut about 20 minutes off the original film. However, blaming the film editor is like shooting the bartender.

Director Blake Edwards is most known for ostensible classics like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Pink Panther series, but there’s a wide swath of banal comedies that make up a big chunk of the rest of his filmography. And if we’re really being honest, even his most recognized work doesn’t hold up extremely well, with the talents of Audrey Hepburn and Peter Sellers really propelling the aforementioned films more than anything else.

This movie stays away from thin stale western stereotypes. Very humorous bantering between Holden and O’neal adds a nice touch to the movie, but the humor is never used to soften the violence or emotional impact of the movie. There are no “good guys” and “bad guys” either. Much like the real world everyone in this picture has an angle on the truth and whats right. The director leaves it to the viewer to decide whats right instead of spoon feeding it to you with “black-hat/white-hat” simplicity. Wonderful movie particularly for the western fan.
Movie Quality: 9/10

Special Features

  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Special Features: 1/10

Final Thoughts

Much like “Unforgiven” , this western falls more in the reality of the wild west than the “typical western”. The characters; such as Karl Malden as the hard rancher patriarch, William Holden’s happy go lucky cowboy, Tom Skerrit and Joe Don Baker as the two sons who live in their father’s (Maldin) shadow are real character’s that develop and grow.
Overall Rating: 8/10