Blu-ray Review: Pony Soldier - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Rescued from the vaults and released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time as a limited edition, Pony Soldier originally hit theaters in 1952. It’s a northwestern set in Canada, though it was filmed in scenic Sedona, AZ. Set in 1876, the film was a starring vehicle for Tyrone Power, who portrays a member of the North-West Mounted Police (later the Royal Northwest Mounted Police), Duncan MacDonald. He’s on a mission to rescue two Caucasian hostages from the clutches of a group of Cree Native Americans.

Much of Pony Soldier focuses on an ongoing rivalry between the Cree and Blackfoot tribes. Duncan teams with a half-white/half-Blackfoot scout named Natayo (Thomas Gomez), a man who is continually a target of disrespect due to his heritage. Quite a bit of comic relief emerges during MacDonald and Natayo’s interactions. Natayo is a pretty shrewd negotiator, managing to get quite a few perks in exchange for his guidance and information.

Pony Soldier cover (192x250).jpgThroughout the brisk 82-minute running time, the film does dip into the now-politically incorrect stereotyping so prevalent during that era. The Native Americans are “savages.” The casting department didn’t always concern themselves with authenticity when choosing actors for the various roles. That said, there’s also a certain amount of respect afforded some of the Native American characters. Power has some nice moments with a young Cree orphan played by Anthony Earl Numkena, with whom he trades whistles. In the end, Pony Soldier is an easily watchable, albeit very dated, B-movie.

Though I imagine the Blu-ray presents a great visual improvement over previous home video editions, this transfer isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off. It’s an acceptable image, framed at 1.33:1, but it shows its age with a frequently muddy look that’s lacking in fine detail. Colors are sometimes oversaturated, like the bright red Mountie coats. Sharpness varies considerably from shot to shot. More consistent is the DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, which is unremarkable but entirely serviceable for a film of this age.

Supplemental features are light but, customary for Twilight Time releases, there is an isolated score track. Alex North’s music is presented cleanly in DTS-HD 2.0. The booklet includes an essay by Julie Kirgo. As always with Twilight Time, the Blu-ray is strictly limited to a production run of 3,000 copies and is available exclusively through their distributor, Screen Archives.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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