Olive Films have recently released the first titles in their Signature line of blu-ray releases. Already considered on the boutique end of distributors, Olive has opted to double down and prove their quality with this new line. Receiving more bells and whistles than their typical releases, if the packaging and quality of Johnny Guitar is any indication of the future of the line, then collector’s will be quick to cling on the the Signature series for sure.
Let’s take a look at Johnny Guitar.
The Movie Itself (4/5)
While I do enjoy good western films, I feel that I have missed many greats of the genre. Part of this is due to being born in a time when westerns are fewer and farther between, but also partly due to the daunting number of older westerns and not knowing where to begin. Thankfully, situations like these arrive and one is present to me to dive into.
Johnny Guitar is the story of a woman named Vienna who has opened up a saloon in Arizona, and has gathered a group of men to help run the place, with the hopes of becoming wealthy. As part of this venture, she has even hired Johnny Guitar, the fastest hands in the west to protect the place (why is it always the fastest hands in the West? Couldn’t we have found other ways of saying how fast these gunmen were?). Johnny and Vienna have a complicated love history, by the way.
When Johnny arrives in town, Vienna is getting in trouble with the sheriff, as a local woman has convinced him that she is harboring a fugitive by the name of the Dancin’ Kid. Turns out that this woman, Emma, is in love with the Kid and doesn’t like him hanging around in a saloon owned by a woman. This leads to a showdown of two very strong women in a world that is largely dominated by strong men.
Johnny Guitar was really well done, and highly entertaining to watch. Good older western films have a way about them that is timeless and highly gratifying. It is no wonder that the genre has such a big following. Even though this one was full of the cliches, I definitely enjoyed my time watching it.
Visuals/Picture Quality (4/5)
Presented in 1080p from a new 4k restoration, Johnny Guitar looks quite good on blu-ray. While there is plenty of noticeable film grain, it is relatively clean and never gets too distracting from the viewing. I didn’t notice any blotches or screen tears or anything of the like, and the colors for the most part looked pretty good.
Older films are hard to score, as times have changed and we are spoiled these days with pristine clarity. I would definitely say that the restoration they’ve done is impressive and the film looks great.
Score/Audio Quality (5/5)
With a Master Audio 2.0 track, Johnny Guitar sounded almost brand new to me. Apart from the obvious differences with movies these days (multiple channels, high quality SFX), this track does not sound like it belongs to a movie that is over 60 years old. The dialog is clear as can be, and the action scenes sound great.
Special Features (5/5)
After having seen some Olive Films releases lately that had zero special features, one question I’ve had concerning the new Signature series has been how much of a focus on special features these releases would have. I am very pleased to say that there are a wide range of features included in this set, which are:
- Introduction by Martin Scorsese
- Audio Commentary with critic Geoff Andrew
- Johnny Guitar: A Western Like No Other
- Johnny Guitar: A Feminist Western?
- Tell Us She Was One of You: The Hollywood Blacklist and Johnny Guitar
- Free Republic: Herbert J. Yates and the Story of Republic Pictures
- My Friend, the American Friend
- Johnny Guitar: The First Existential Western
- Theatrical Trailer
While adding up to a bit over an hour of content (not counting the commentary track), there is a lot of really interesting features here, with a lot of critic reception. I highly recommend watching these features, and, would even recommend buying the set based on them, if you are interested in film study.
The second question I had going into the Olive Signature series was what the packaging would look like. Typical Olive releases have a fairly standard blue blu-ray case (although they seem to be a bit sturdier than the norm). However, with this new line, Olive has opted to go with the clear blu-ray cases more akin to what you would see from Drafthouse or Garagehouse Pictures. I am personally a big fan of these clear cases, and am especially pleased with the two sided sleeve they have included. The disc itself also has attractive art.
Also included are an 8 page booklet in color, with Johnny Guitar: The First Existential Western, an essay written by Jonathan Rosenbaum.
All of this comes in a really nice, quality side loading slipcover with bright colors and attractive branding for the Signature label (a small stripe on the front, and a numbered spine, for you collector’s out there). The only weird thing about this packaging is that the slipcover is about an eighth of an inch too deep, so when the case is inserted, it doesn’t sit flush against the sides, but instead goes in a bit deeper and looks just slightly off. A minor gripe, to be sure, but an oddity nonetheless.
- Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
- DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Runtime 110 Mins
I came into this review with tentative excitement for the Olive Signature series, and after watching this awesome film with it’s great companion features and packaging, I can safely say that I am eagerly awaiting more. The movie itself was really entertaining, and unique among westerns. I definitely recommend this one.
You can pick it up here.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.