Junior Bonner/B+,B+

Anchor Bay/1972/110m/WS 2.35,PS 1.33

   Not a whole lot happens in the few days in the life of these rodeo folks in Sam Peckinpah's Junior Bonner, but this small gem of a film is all about subtext. Almost everybody has some history with each other. And around all the action of the rodeo scenes, the personal drama of the Bonner clan is playing out.

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Junior and Ace ride in the parade.©Anchor Bay

     Once again exploring the theme of a changing society and the last of a breed of men, Peckinpah glues the camera to Junior, the former rodeo champion looking for another victorious ride. The challenge of beating the best bull, staying afloat for a precious eight violent seconds, wraps up Junior's life in a fragmented time capsule. When Junior returns to his home town of Prescott, Arizona, he is greeted by bulldozers attacking his daddy's ranch. There's a strange, fine moment when the doze and Junior's Cadillac face off against one another in a perfect image of understanding the relentless nature of change. The liveliest scenes are when Junior and his Dad hook up together and that's a tribute to the screen magic of the actors.
     Junior Bonner is a great part for Steve McQueen. His natural charm makes the rodeo cowboy a thoroughly appealing figure. A man of few words who knows what he wants, Bonner and McQueen are soul mates. Robert Preston maybe speaks with a bit too much Music Man is his voice as poppa Ace Bonner, but Preston's vivacious personality matches beautifully with McQueen's laconic style. Ida Lupino plays Elvira Bonner, Ace's estranged wife, with marvelous dignity. These two old pros exchange sparks with the ease of many movie years behind them. Joe Don Looney rounds out the Bonner family with an impressive and expansive performance as Curly Bonner. Peckinpah's great supporting players are make their presence felt and give Junior Bonner that added edge of reality. Ben Johnson is splendid as rodeo man Buck Roan. Dub Taylor pours the drinks at the Palace Bar with abandon.
     Peckinpah and director of photography Lucien Ballard are a great team. Whether shooting Bonner's memory of his Sunshine bull ride chromatically or cranking down the camera to capture the destruction of the Bonner ranch, Ballard's eye is impeccable. Peckinpah cuts with his usual brilliant precision pieces the images together in a graceful flow. Jerry Fielding contributes a rollicking country rodeo influenced blue-grass score.
     Junior Bonner is a fine widescreen DVD. The source material is clean making for a smooth transfer ride. Detail is excellent and artifacts are at a minimum. Color levels are consistent with plenty of intensity. Ample light output and good contrast make for a punchy picture. The Dolby Digital 2-Channel sound is clean with dialogue clearly standing out against background sounds.  This is a no frills DVD with only 12 chapter selections offered on the menu.

































































































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Laser discs and DVDs are evaluated on the following current home theater equipment:   Stewart 6' x 11' Videomatte 1.33 Gain Screen, 2 Runco 980 Ultra Projectors stacked, Faroudja LD100 Line Doubler, Lexicon DC1 Surround Processor/Switcher, 2 Pioneeer Elite CLD-97 Laser Disc Players with AC-3 Modification, Sony 7000 DVD Player, Toshiba SD-3006 DVD Player, Total Media Systems Reference Home Theater Suite, LR Fronts, Center, LR Sides, LR Rears, 2 Velodyne F1500R Subwoofers, Sunfire Cinema Grand5 Channel Amp, Sunfire 2 Channel Amp, Lexicon RF Demodulator, Lexicon T-500 System Remote Control, Speaker Wire and Interconnects by Straight Wire. 


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