Release Date(s)1969 (November 11, 2014)
Studio(s)United Artists/20th Century Fox/MGM (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D+
Sam Whiskey was really the beginning of Burt Reynolds’ rise to superstardom, although he had a memorable turn in Navajo Joe three years earlier. He had also been bumming around doing episodes of various TV shows, but never got a real break as a leading man until Sam Whiskey came along. It wasn’t enough to push him over the top, but it was enough to get him noticed for bigger and more successful projects.
The movie itself tells the story of the title’s self-made big shot (Reynolds), a man who gets talked into retrieving $250,000 in gold bullion by a ravishing young lady (Angie Dickinson). In order to fish it out of the bottom of the Platte River in Colorado, he enlists the help of an old friend (Clint Walker) and a local blacksmith (Ossie Davis). Hot on their tracks is a group of greedy outlaws, hell-bent on stealing the gold for themselves.
Although the movie is billed as a comedy western, it never manages to truly be funny. It attempts to pull off some silly character moments, as well as a bit of slapstick, but this falls flat for the most part. The characters themselves aren’t quite fleshed out enough either, leaving the actors with little to do, try as they might. The movie’s plot and execution is also quite flaccid, though it manages to retain some charm due to the presence of its actors, all of whom seem to be more in on the joke than they initially let on.
Kino Lorber’s presentation of the film on Blu-ray features a serviceable but healthy transfer. Although the color palette is a bit hampered, there’s still a nice organic quality with plenty of image depth and detail. Skin tones look decent enough, although black levels never appear overtly deep. Grain spikes a little from shot to shot, but contrast and brightness levels are satisfactory. There isn’t a heavy amount of print damage, and even though the overall presentation is a tad soft, there’s no evidence of digital tinkery to be found. The only audio track available on this release is an English mono DTS-HD track. Like the video presentation, it’s very presentable without being perfect. Dialogue is mostly clean and clear, although slightly at odds with the score sometimes. The sound effects have some decent heft to them, but there isn’t much in the way of dynamic range. It’s a decent audio presentation, but not much more than that. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
The only extras on this disc include an interview with Clint Walker, entitled Lookin’ Back with O.W. Bandy, as well as the film’s original theatrical trailer. For fans of Sam Whiskey, this is probably the best that the film has looked and sounded on home video.
Kino’s Blu-ray is not a perfect disc, but it’s definitely a step up from SD. In any case, fans of Burt Reynolds’ early career, especially before his southern-fried persona hit the mainstream, might find Sam Whiskey worth a look.
- Tim Salmons