Review: 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' in 4K a Frequently Gorgeous Release

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday May 19, 2022

Review: 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' in 4K a Frequently Gorgeous Release

Of all the star-studded westerns to come out of Hollywood, few broke down the image of the American western frontier quite like John Ford's "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." Highly acclaimed by pretty much everybody, the film gave American audiences full view of the lies told to build the towns and cities we know today, while also intertwining one of the most heartbreaking love triangles ever committed to celluloid. This isn't your classic tale of the Old West as much as it's a treatise on the transformation that the west underwent during the U.S. government's rapid expansion.

Paramount Home Entertainment and their continuing Paramount Presents line bring John Ford's "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" to stunning 4K with a release that pulls out all the stops for this well-loved classic. The 4K presentation aided by Dolby Vision HDR frequently looks spectacular, with the black levels being remarkably deep and truer to the source. But as a word of warning, select shots and sequences look very waxy and unnatural, like digital noise reduction was applied during the restoration process. DNR is a disappointing thing to experience in any presentation sourced from film materials, but luckily it seems like those notes of DNR are only relegated to some select scenes.

Adapted from the short story by Dorothy M. Johnson, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" starts with the arrival of Senator Ransom "Ranse" Stoddard (James Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) in a small western town called Shinbone. They're there for the funeral of an old friend. When asked about why the senator was there, the story flashes back 25 years to tell the origin of the relationship between Ranse and rancher Tom Doniphon (John Wayne).

There's something mercurial and heartbreaking at the center of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." Not only is the sun setting on the Old West during the story, so is the love shared between Tom Doniphon and his then-crush Hallie. Ford masterly posits the power dynamics between Ranse, Hallie, and Tom right in parallel to the death of outlaw justice in the west.

As for special features, Paramount has added a laundry list of supplements for this release, including a brand-new interview with historian Leonard Maltin as he discusses John Ford's career and the film's history. There's also the audio commentary with Peter Bogdanovich and archival recordings with Ford and actor James Stewart. Bogdanovich was one of our foremost John Ford historians before passing away, and it should come as no surprise that this commentary comes chock full of anecdotes and context to the film. If you're a fan of the film, you'd be remiss not to pick up this new 4K release.

Other special features include:

• "The Size of Legends, the Soul of Myth" — A seven-part series exploring the film.

• Selected scene commentary with intro by Dan Ford

• Theatrical trailer

"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is now available on 4K Blu-ray and Blu-ray from Paramount Home Entertainment.