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Blu-Ray Review: Kino Lorber’s The White Buffalo (KL Studio Classics) 

The White Buffalo

It’s Charles Bronson as Wild Bill vs a Giant Albino Buffalo in the Snowy Western Frontier.  The White Buffalo comes to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber

The Film 

The Jaws adage has always been correct.  Less is more.  The White Buffalo only half understands this when it comes to its specific beast.  The Adaptation of the historical fiction of the same name has Charles Bronson cast as Wild Bill Hickock and Ralph Sampson as Crazy Horse hunting down the ubiquitous albino man killing Whal… I mean Buffalo.  

Bill Hickok (Bronson) wants nothing more than to begin again without the infamy of his name and reputation following him.  As he begins to make his way west, eventually ending in Deadwood, both physically and mortally, Hickok is haunted by visions of a White Buffalo.  In search of the murderous beast, he finds a tracker (Jack Warden) and eventually Crazy Horse (Sampson) who both have similar goals though very different outlooks of the world and each other.  As the trio works together, The White Buffalo begins its final stand against humanity which it hates so much.  

The White Buffalo isn’t a bad film, just a derivative one.  To make matters all the worse, the story itself has been told time and time again since Melville wrote his treatises against the whaling industry.  One can only imagine that the allure of a Jaws-style blockbuster was too much for both director J. Lee Thompson and producer Dino DeLaurentis.  The result is something that at times is crass and obvious, and alternately fascinatingly strange.  

Much of what can be appreciated is the trio of Warden, Sampson, and Bronson.  Though it takes the first two-thirds to get them together, once they are a trio, they take the lessons learned from Jaws to great success.  They understand the different opposing viewpoints each man with their own and how they cajole one another is better drama than chasing what is essentially a mechanical bull.  Each of the actors is great when giving the space to be – which only occurs again in the last 30 minutes.  Bronson is ideally laconic as Hickok but the right amount of loquacious to be interesting.

The White Buffalo is a film is better in its last half than its first half, though even in the last half it is only the acting that is its saving grace.  

The Transfer

The all-new HD Master – From a 2K Scan of the 35mm Interpositive is impressively beautiful.  Kino’s relationship with Paramount – who licensed it to KL – continues to be a fruitful one.  The image though older is still consistently beautifully rendered as a cinematically looking image.  The film looks like a pristine 35mm archival print – with minor defects giving the image more character than a spotless DNR’ed to death image.  Fans of the film will delight in the image’s uptick in quality from the prior – now out of print – Kino disc.  

The Extras

They include the following;

  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Paul Talbot, the author of the BRONSON’S LOOSE! Books
  • 4 TV Spots 
  • Theatrical Trailer

The all-new Audio Commentary by Film Historian Paul Talbot, the author of the BRONSON’S LOOSE! Books, begins with Talbot’s bonafides and opens with the film’s origins as a book with novelist/filmmaker Richard Sale.  Some of the other details include the development of the script with Dino DeLaurentis; the work/collaboration between DeLaurentis and Bronson; a discussion about Bronson’s career at the time of starring The White Buffalo; a larger discussion throughout about the post-production to bring the buffalo to life; a larger discussion about the changes made from the Novel to the Movie; a discussion of the work and personal history of Will Sampson; an account of the real Wild Bill Hickock; the studio bound work and how things like snow and atmosphere are accomplished; the work and personal history of Kim Novak; the work and personal history of director J. Lee Thompson; the work of Sampson, Warden, and Bronson during the final third of the film; the work that was done to bring the finale to life – the various locations where the production went, changes to the novel, and problems they faced; throughout the commentary track Talbot does a great job with giving us a detail account of the various actors, behind-the-scenes crew, and historical figures that either worked or were portrayed in the film; and much more.  

4 TV Spots (3:05) – The 4 Newly Mastered in 2K TV spots are a delight to watch.  

Rounding out the special features are trailers for The White Buffalo (1:52); Chato’s Land (2:10); Breakheart Pass (3:07); High Plains Drifter (2:31); Valdez is Coming (2:53) 

The Final Thought 

Kino continues to release catalog titles with great special features.  Fans of The White Buffalo will revel in the upgrade they’ve released.  Recommended.  

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray edition of The White Buffalo is out June 27th

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