Freckle Face

Cattle ranchers, corrupt sheriffs, gold mines – take an archetypal western trait and The Far Country uses it. Yet within the typical formula, Far Country tears down the west’s aggressive mythos.

Set in 1896, Jimmy Stewart’s character contends with a changing country. A feeble, newly christened town seeks independence; a cruel lawman bends to the will of local gangs to keep the small population under control. That town’s aspiration captures the country as an inherent whole, that need for freedom from outside influence. History happens in cycles. After breaking free of British rule, the scenario filtered down to stories like this.

In the starring role, Stewart plays an anti-hero working only for self. Freely using his gun to right any wrong, the camera props Stewart up for his willingness to kill. It’s the iconic genre image: Stewart on his horse, sun at his back, shotgun resting on his forearm, trigger finger in position.

Were it not for Stewart and genre director collaborator Anthony Mann, it’s likely that Far Country fades into obscurity

During the runtime, that becomes less a vision of right than one of selfishness and personal gain. The toll greed takes on a fledgling town becomes evident. As a cultural milestone, the western celebrated tough men who wear brim hats and spurs; that’s Stewart in The Far Country. But his actions deplete the lore.

It’s the little things at first. Circling back to help a crew after an avalanche, or offering a blanket to the local merchant, then turning defiant to the law’s demands. Far Country ends then as expected with a stand-off against those seeking to keep power for themselves – the type of person Stewart once was until he saw his action’s impact. With that died the thematic outlaw, at least in this case.

Far Country struggles otherwise, sluggishly pushing through Canadian location footage and routine action. Were it not for Stewart and genre director collaborator Anthony Mann, it’s likely that Far Country fades into obscurity, even against TV like Bonanza. Luscious open plains can only account for so much. Pair that with routine action from any B-tier western exploitation and Far Country hunts for anything to do that wasn’t played hundreds of times over – even before 1954, let alone watching from today.


On separate discs, Arrow brings 1.85:1 and 2.00:1 versions to Blu-ray; the master is the same regardless, and the source format is the taller of the two. Arrow cites a new restoration for this release, sans specifics. Lacking any notable damage, clean-up brings this print to near-pristine quality. Only a few scratches intrude.

While great in that regard, overall resolution is abysmal. This appears scanned in SD. Softness is the only dominate quality. Fine detail is nill, and the move to Blu-ray enhances almost nothing, short of better encoding.

Clumpy grain surrounds each frame. Analog halos exist at the source, if no less attractive (and puffier) in these circumstances. Color saturation draws out beauty, at least a smidgen’s worth. Blue skies and red scarves offer firm, natural density. That’s better than dull black levels and routine contrast, anyway.


Scoring holds up with strong highs, wobbling slightly if to an expected level. Lows fare better, digging in and smoothly catching the subwoofer in spots.

Fair dialog reproduction loses none of its energy. Stock sound effects bring their tinniness, clear enough though as to not cause problems. The restoration process helps the audio avoid any missteps.


Historian Adrian Martin brings his knowledge to Far Country via commentary. The always enjoyable Kim Newman speaks for 24-minutes about Anthony Mann’s career. For more, a 33-minute documentary discusses Mann’s work at Universal. Trailers and stills appear at the menu’s bottom.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Far Country
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Jimmy Stewart pairs with director Anthony Mann for a routine western that at least bucks the trend of outlaw heroes in The Far Country.

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