Yellowstone Kelly (1959)

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Sergeant: You must be a tame Indian.
Yellowstone Kelly: I wouldn’t count on that.

The above short quote may sum up the depth of Warner Archive’s recent release of Yellowstone Kelly. Director Gordon Douglas and lead Clint Walker (Kelly) made three films together – the others being Fort Dobbs and Gold of the Seven Saints: none of the three are really well known.

Depending on your perspective, Yellowstone Kelly is either the best or the worst of the three.  As a plot it is by far the weakest, as it never seems to make up its mind what the ultimate course is:  is it Yellowstone Kelly’s relationship with the Sioux and their Chief, whose life he previously saved, or the brewing conflict between the Sioux and the ever present U.S. Calvary.

Perhaps because of this dichotomy, the characters really never develop or gel, at least not in relation to the other two films.   However, from other standpoints Yellowstone Kelly is the strongest of the three.  It is the only one in color, which although not always an advantage over black and white, is here given the well done cinematography and typical outdoor settings.

Director Gordon Douglas, never known as one of the greats, does a good job with what he is given.  The action is fast paced and taut.  As Douglas himself once asked fans not to view all of his films as they’d never return to the theater, this isn’t among his many clunkers.  It does not however, rate as well as the classic Them or The Detective from 1954 and 1968, respectively.

The production values, although greater again than the other two films in the “series,” are still that of your standard ‘B’ western.  In later decades this would most likely be a movie of the week as it, as was the rest of the series, was made to capitalize on the popularity of the television western in the 1950s, especially Cheyenne which starred Clint Walker.  Most of the other leading cast members are also from the television industry.

So ultimately, is this a picture you need to add to your collection?  Probably not unless you are already a fan.

Warners touts this as a remastered edition, but, for whatever reason, the impact of remastering is pretty minimal.  Not sure if this is due to limitations of the original source material or budgetary concerns.  It hasn’t previously been available on DVD at all so kudos for the release in any event.  Some of the footage did appear to perhaps have come from a different generation source, perhaps video, but it was hard to tell for sure.

Video quality is average, which I probably would have upgraded to “good” if WB hadn’t slapped the remastered label on it.  Dark hues are for the most part a bit fuzzy.  Audio is what you’d expect.  Nothing special but definitely adequate and in line with similar releases.

You can get Yellowstone Kelly from the The Warner Archives is a site you really need to visit often, as they are constantly updating their offerings with many obscure, hard to find, and simply excellent releases.

Review copy provided by Warner Bros. Thanks!

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