One of the unique parts of the Western film genre is the lore behind Buffalo Bill. And while the western has faded as a favored film genre through the years, it’s still the subject of various films, stage plays and other adaptations. This particular film tells the story of a white man living in the West who was sympathetic to and friends with the Native Americans, Bill Cody, who later became a scout for the Army and was the head of a sideshow in the later years of his life.
The film stars…Joel McCrea as the title character and he portrays Cody warts and all, despite the fact that the film was produced in 1944 (the ad for buying war bonds on the end credits proves that). Cody sees and falls in love with Louisa Frederici (Maureen O’Hara, The Quiet Man), the daughter of a US Senator. The two marry, but when a situation arises where Cody had to choose sides between the US Army and the Native American tribe (whose chief is a very young Anthony Quinn (Lawrence of Arabia)), Louisa leaves Bill, and takes their son with her. Bill resolves the conflict (despite loss of life on both sides), and later in his life, people question his role in the conflict, some of whom even call him a fraud. He reconciles with Louisa and the two live out their lives on a traveling sideshow with Bill as the centerpiece.
Despite the age of the film, it takes some brave steps in portraying Bill as a flawed, conflicted character who just wants to make people happy. There’s even some time devoted to addressing the racist parts of the society, as it looked down on Native Americans. This kind of movie can very easily translate into a modern day adaptation, as it looks with the good, the bad and the ugly perspectives, and I found myself liking this movie, and despite McCrea’s performance, which seemed a bit wooden, everything else was very good.
The film comes with Dolby Mono and Stereo tracks, though they both sound pretty even. There’s not much surround effecting going on in this film, all the action is in front of you.
The full frame color presentation at times looks excellent, particularly during the exterior scenes in the west, with deep earth tones reproduced well here. It doesn’t stay that way through the whole release, but since it’s over 60 years old, it gets a bit of a pass.
The older movies, unless they’re well regarded, usually don’t have any extras, this is the case here.
A film about a intriguing man with a fascinating story, Buffalo Bill is an excellent film that looks great on DVD and is worth exploring if you’re interested.