Twilight Time Movies: ‘Comes A Horseman’ (1978)

Nick Clement reviews Twilight Time’s limited edition Blu-Ray titles.

Alan J. Pakula is best known for his 70’s paranoia trilogy (All the President’s Men, Klute, and The Parallax View) and studio potboilers from the 80’s and 90’s (Presumed Innocent, The Devil’s Own, The Pelican Brief, Consenting Adults), but one of his least celebrated and most interesting efforts is the languid, dark, and beautifully shot 1978 western Comes a Horseman, which is available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time. This is a thematically rich film, and while definitely a slow-burn, carries a lived-in intensity that extends from the fully invested performances all the way to the refined production values. I’m also a fan of when storytellers transcend your expectations, and one of the things about Comes a Horseman that makes it impactful and long lasting is that the film clearly wanted to be something more than just a standard oater; Pakula and original scenarist Dennis Lynton Clark had more on their minds. Interesting to note that before Clark penned Comes a Horseman, he worked as a costume designer on a pair of terrific westerns – 1970’s A Man Called Horse, and 1971’s Man in the Wilderness, where he also served as production designer.

Set in 1945, and starring James Caan, Jane Fonda, and Jason Robards as a group of ranchers in the mid-west, Comes a Horseman has a strong sense of narrative drive without being preachy or overburdened by too much extraneous plotting. Caan and Fonda portray cattle ranchers who go up against an evil land baron (Robards) who will stop at nothing to expand his fortune, by any means possible. That’s the general gist, and yet, there’s so much more, but because much of it is handled in a subtle fashion, the film almost carries a dream-like vibe in certain spots. The film also features celebrated stunt man and character actor Richard Farnsworth in an Oscar nominated supporting performance, as well as Mark Harmon (in his big-screen debut), Jim Davis, George Grizzard, Macon McCalman, Basil Hoffman, and James Keach. Embraced by critics and audiences at the time of its release, Comes a Horseman grossed over $40 million in theaters, and yet remains one of Pakula’s most outside-the-box resume items.

As usual, the wonderful folks at Twilight Time have done a superb job with the audio and visual transfer. Considering that Comes a Horseman was shot by legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis, expectations had to have been high in terms of the picture presentation, and one can’t help but feel that this is the best that the film could ever look, despite Twilight Time actually offering a note of consideration to potential buyers at their website; the raw materials with which their team worked with weren’t in the best of shape, and Twilight Time has decided to reduce the price from $29.95 to $22.95 to satisfy customers who aren’t used to seeing as much speckling or debris within the image. Restoring films from 40 years ago is no easy task, and I think they should be commended for their work.

The film’s original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 has been retained, and presented in full 1080p high-definition color, which carries an appropriate level of moody, film-stock gravitas that enrichens the entire experience. Willis and Pakula had previously teamed up on Klute, The Parallax View, and All the President’s Men, and the aesthetic in this film carries familiar notes from their earlier collaborations while still paying respect to one of the oldest genres that cinema has to offer. The quiet yet at times brawny score by Michael Small is rendered in 1.0 DTS HD MA sound, and to the ears is rather wonderful. Special features include an isolated music track and the film’s original theatrical trailer. As is customary for every Twilight Time release, this is a limited print item (3,000 units only), and is region free.


❉ Twilight Time Movies release classic catalogue Blu-ray and DVD titles available for a limited time, exclusively in limited runs of 3000 copies. For more information, visit https://www.twilighttimemovies.com

❉ Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott, and co-operates the website Podcasting Them Softly.

❉ He is also a regular contributor for MovieViral.com, a site dedicated to providing the best news and analysis on viral marketing and ARG campaigns for films and other forms of entertainment.

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