[box cover]

Springfield Rifle

Gary Cooper: The Signature Collection

It should come as no surprise that Andre De Toth's career has been resurrected by those who know their cinema. Beloved by Martin Scorsese, De Toth's films are very much studio efforts with as focus on genre fare, and which in hindsight are shown to be leaps and bounds above other programmers that were merely part of some forgotten double-bill. De Toth knew how to keep a story taut and had an eye for framing, which means one of his formulaic pictures grows in stature by its efficiency, while others simply go through the motions. Springfield Rifle (1953) is a perfect example of his gifts. It is by nature a three-star picture — a studio assignment through and through — but the craftsmanship shows that a real talent was behind it. Gary Cooper stars as U.S. Army Maj. Alex Kearny, who's put on trial for cowardice in battle and is dishonorably discharged because he wouldn't defend the horses he was meant to protect from bushwhackers. After a fist-fight with the man who got him kicked out of the service, he's put in military prison with two of the horse thieves and breaks out with them. The men behind the horse thievery are Confederate soldiers, and Kearny joins up with them, even though his wife doesn't understand why he's doing what he's doing. She can't know — Kearny signed up for counter-espionage work to smoke out both the Confederates and the man on the Yankee's side that's leaking information. And now Kearny not only has to get the inside information, he also has to protect the North's supply of Springfield rifles, which were the first to offer a quick reloading capability for the weapon, which — as the film puts it — turns one soldier into fifty. A nifty adventure yarn, there's nothing in Springfield Rifle that hasn't been seen or done before, but the able craftsmanship of Andre De Toth makes it an impressive effort nonetheless. Clocking in a snappy 93 minutes, it's the sort of film that Sunday afternoon movie watching was made for, with enough action and excitement done right to make it more than the sum of its parts. Warner presents the film, part of "The Gary Cooper Signature Collection," in full-frame (1.33:1 OAR) with DD 1.0 audio. The transfer is solid for this color title, and it looks as good as a movie should considering it likely will never merit an extensive restoration. No extras, slimcase in the box set.

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