Yellow Sky is one of those near classic Westerns from 1949. For decades the film has flown under the mainstream radar, only to finally be rediscovered on DVD. Gregory Peck is an unlikely choice to play the lead role. Stretch heads a band of thieves that strike from town to town hitting usually banks. The film wastes very little time getting started. We see the gang set up, and soon pull off, one of these heists in the first five minutes. The gang is quickly chased out into the unforgiving desert sun of the Western badlands. It seems the band is done for in true western poetic justice until fortune once again smiles upon them. Fortune in this case is the ghost town of Yellow Sky. Here only an old prospector (Barton) and his young granddaughter (Baxter) reside. It seems the old man’s been hording some gold in the hopes of bringing Yellow Sky back to her glory days. Of course, Stretch’s gang has other plans. The remainder of the film slows down as the gang attempts to pry the gold from the old timer. Stretch has a change of heart, and this redeemed Stretch is less of a stretch for Peck. Here he begins to fit the part. Including the obligatory romance, the film becomes all too predictable. Harry Morgan, billed as Henry Morgan, makes a nice addition to the gang of outlaws. The film was remade in 1967 as The Jackals with the action moved to Africa.
Unfortunately this film is presented in a full frame format. I could not find a reliable source on the original aspect ratio, but I believe it was at least marginally wider. Joseph MacDonald’s trademark vistas are not given their due with this problematic print. Contrast is simply terrible. Darks are too dark, and the desert sun washes out anything with any brightness. The vistas are also lost a bit in the smaller screen ratio. The print is otherwise in better shape. Minimal grain and artifacts make the image look better despite the contrast problems. There are moments where the print exhibits a blur that reminds me of a second generation video dub.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is far more serviceable. Dialogue is always clear. No thunder in the hoof beats, but the sound is still quite clear. The opening theme distorts just a bit, but this problem soon vanishes, as there is really no score to speak of during the film itself.
A series of production and promotion galleries is all there is to show for the film. A couple of trailers round out the minimal package.
This is not a bad movie any more than it is a particularly good one. Therein lies the rub. The fact is, the film left me with almost no impression at all. I guess it serves its purpose if all you’re looking for is some traditional western fun without as much gunplay, horse chases, or barroom brawls. There are a couple short gunfights, but they’re really quite tame when you get down to it. I’m afraid that this film serves mostly as a good trip down cinema’s memory lane. Peck fans and western genre collectors only. Still, I wouldn’t call it a waste of time, as it can be enjoyable to a point. I’d say Yellow Sky is a release that will come and go rather unceremoniously, to find its eventual life as a staple in discount racks and used disc stores. There’s a lot of stuff just like it out there. All that’s left for you to do is to “make a choice”.