One of the more curious offerings in the Criterion Collection series is this 1956 Western, which offers a strange riff on Othello set against the vast grandeur of the 19th century Wyoming frontier.
Glenn Ford stars as Jubal Troop, wandering cowboy that gets hired by a cattle operation run by crass but good-natured rancher (Ernest Borgnine). Jubal earns the admiration of the rancher and is quickly promoted to foreman, much to the anger of malcontent cowhand Pinky (Rod Steiger). Complicating matters is the rancher’s oversexed French-Canadian wife (British actress Valerie French, with an on-again/off-again Quebecois accent), who seems attracted to every man except her husband. Pinky takes on an Iago-worthy manipulative role that inevitably brings violent tragedy to all connected parties, including a wagon train of Mormon-inspired religious pilgrims that somehow get sucked into the maelstrom.
Jubal is thrown off-kilter due to unsatisfactory performances: Ford was too old and too stolid for his role, while Steiger and French produced wildly overstated performances that nearly turned the film into an unintentional comedy. The film’s saving grace is its spectacular CinemaScope views of the Grand Teton Range, which are beautifully presented in this new 4K restoration.
This new DVD release has no special features, but it provides a lengthy essay from film historian Kent Jones that seems to place a little too much artistic value in this strange production.