The latest Blu-Ray from Eureka! brings two of the earliest films of John Ford’s career to fans. A director certainly befitting of the Masters of Cinema series in which this two disc Blu-Ray release is a part of.
The double feature presents Straight Shooting & Hell Bent for the first time on home video in the UK, the former being Ford’s feature film directorial debut and the latter being another early film of his, with both being restored wonderfully in 4K.
The set features multiple special features spread across both discs; two video essays from Tag Gallagher, an audio interview with John Ford, a discussion with Kim Newman on the career of Ford and a short fragment of his lost film Hitchin’ Posts. Overall, there is a lot left to be desired. Each special feature seems of low quality or effort with the segment of Hitchin’ Posts being the standout, giving fans a small glimpse at a Ford film which may never be found.
As for the film’s themselves, it must be stated that they are a must-see for any John Ford fan, or any western fan, for that matter. By the sheer nature of their existence as two of Ford’s early films, and Straight Shooting’s placement as his feature film directorial debut, they are an important part of both Ford’s and the Western genre’s history.
Straight Shooting stars Harry Carey as Cheyenne Harry as a hired gun who vows to protect a farmer and his family from the ranchers attempting to steal their land. The pacing does drag and, although only an hour in length, Straight Shooting feels rather long. That being said, at 104 years old the film is less dated than you’d expect, featuring some stunts and action sequences that are impressive even by today’s standards, and the relationship between Cheyenne Harry and the family he is protecting is incredibly engaging.
Released only a year after his debut, Hell Bent is an excellent example of just how much Ford’s skills as a director had progressed in the time since Straight Shooting. Another collaboration between Ford and Carey, as well as a return for the character of Cheyenne Harry, the movie follows Harry as he tries to save a woman he has fallen for after she is kidnapped. The story is far more coherent than Straight Shooting and the story itself allows for a more tightly packed hour of action.
Altogether both films are most notable for their importance in Ford’s career, as well as their debut on home video in the UK, yet Straight Shooting and Hell Bent are both good films in their own right. Offering up short and simple, yet entertaining, westerns.
Though the special features are severely lacking in this set, the two films and their significance more than make up for it. This John Ford double feature may not appeal to everyone but it is a must have for fans of the western.
Straight Shooting & Hell Bent: Two Films by John Ford is out now.