Plot: What’s it about?
Sometimes in life, you can be guilty by association and that can mean bad news. That is the case with this story, in which three wandering cowpokes are suspected as being part of an outlaw gang, which is not something you want to be when angry vigilantes or the police are involved. These three were just looking for a place to crash for the night and when they saw an old shack, they just decided to make their camp nearby. But what should have been a quick rest and then back on their path turned into something else, when they discovered who was inside the shack. It turns out the shack was full of outlaws and when a pack of vigilantes came to smoke them out, sure enough they assumed these three were also members of the gang. So now these men are on the run and unless they can keep one step ahead of the mob, they’re sure to be caught. But sooner or later, the confrontation is sure to happen and unless they’re prepared to defend themselves, it’s all over.
I like a good western as much as anyone, so I was very pleased when VCI Home Video released Ride In The Whirlwind on our beloved format. This has some of the elements of a traditional western, but in the end this is a much less stereotypical take on the genre. The film has some good names involved, such as Jack Nicholson, Millie Perkins, and Monte Hellman, but this is not the normal western or movie by any means. This movie is often discussed alongside The Shooting and for good reason, as the same talents were involved and they made films at the same time. The two use the same talent & locations, but that is about where the similarities end. The acting is top notch of course, but the writing (also by Nicholson) is fantastic and conjures up a perfect western tale in my opinion. This is a no frills film in many ways, but in the end it has the basics it needs to succeed, like solid acting, writing, and directing. I think this ranks among my favorite westerns of all time and I am pleased to see it given such a tremendous treatment on this format. I also hope to see more lower profile titles from VCI Home Video given this much attention in the future.
If you are a student of film and study the masters, then chances are you know a lot about Monte Hellman. His name isn’t as recognizable to the public as Hitchcock or Scorsese, but his skills are immense and I think he belongs in the company of the upper level directors. He never has the budget that those men saw, but his films never suffer because of it and in truth, I think they turn out better due to that. What he lacks in funds, Hellman more than makes up for in style and creativity, you never watch the movies and remark how cheap they look. Perhaps his movies are minimalist at times, but this usually serves the story and tone of the film well, which is another positive. His resume also isn’t as lengthy as most, but his work is potent, especially the earlier pieces such as this film. In this movie, Hellman creates a world that seems like an old western painting that is alive, which is impressive if you ask me. Other Hellman films include The Shooting, Two-Lane Blacktop, Cockfighter, and Back Door To Hell. The cast of Ride In The Whirlwind includes Cameron Mitchell (Supersonic Man), Harry Dean Stanton (Repo Man), Millie Perkins (Two Moon Junction), Rupert Crosse (Too Late Blues), and of course, Jack Nicholson (As Good As It Gets, Batman).
Video: How does it look?
Ride In The Whirlwind is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This transfer was restored and remastered under the supervision of Monte Hellman and it shows, as this is one stunning visual presentation. This film looks brand new and that is no joke, this source print looks pristine and I saw no evidence of age signs or fading of any kind. The colors look bold, with no smears or fades and flesh tones seem natural and consistent also. I found the contrast to be razor sharp as well, black levels are well balanced and detail is high at all times. This is how older films should be treated, my thanks to Monte Hellman and VCI Home Video for giving us this superb transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio isn’t as spectacular as the video, but it is still above average and provides a solid listening experience. I like the music used in this film a lot and as such, I was pleased to hear it sound good in this mix. I didn’t hear any distortion within it, but of course the range is less than a full surround track would offer. Nevertheless, I am very happy with the music and since it adds a lot to the film when it is present, I think others will be also. The sound effects also have a nice sound, but the film uses lower key effects and such, so you won’t be overpowered by them. The main focus in this film is on the dialogue, which comes across in crisp form and displays no problems in the least.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc not only offers superb video & audio, but also a fine selection of bonus materials. You can read Quentin Tarantino’s review for the film, view the film’s theatrical trailer, peruse some talent files, or even browse some still photos, but the real meat of the supplements is still to come. That is an audio commentary which features director Monte Hellman and star Millie Perkins, as well as moderator Dennis Bartok. This is an informative commentary track by itself, but combined with the commentary from The Shooting, makes for a definitive look at the two films.