Kino Blu-ray Review: William A. Wellman’s ‘The Ox-Bow Incident’ & ‘Yellow Sky’

Director William A. Wellman could do a lot really well, but what he was best at was Westerns and any movie that dealt with planes. In fact, any movie that involved action, Wellman was game. They didn’t call him “Wild Bill” for nothing. Two of his finest Westerns were The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) and Yellow Sky (1949). The films make for a perfect double-feature and were included in Kino’s first wave of 20th Century Fox titles. The label has been releasing MGM/UA movies from Fox for a couple of years now, but Fox is now opening up its vaults to allow Kino to get some of Fox’s own classics out in high-definition.

The Ox-Bow Incident is truly one of Wellman’s great contributions to cinema. I wrote about the film back in 2011. When revisiting the film in 2016, it’s hard to ignore how relevant it remains. Mob justice can happen – and does happen – at any time, in any place. That Wellman and everyone involved in the film could get to the heart of what drives mob justice in just 75 minutes is another testament to his greatness.

Yellow Sky might have been made six years later, but it share some common traits with The Ox-Bow Incident. Yes, the film does begin with Gregory Peck, Richard Widmark and the other actors walking into the exact same bar as Henry Fonda and Henry Morgan (also in Yellow Sky!) walked into at the beginning of Ox-Bow. However, there is a big similar theme: the danger of making assumptions.

Yellow Sky, Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter

In Yellow Sky, Stretch (Peck) and his gang underestimate Mike (Anne Baxter) and her grandpa (James Barton), thinking they could easily take over their gold mine. Grandpa and Mike assume that there’s nothing behind Stretch other than his lust for money. There’s more to both sides. (There’s nothing more to Widmark’s character – he just wants the money.) This all plays out in much like a stage play, in one small setting.

Yellow Sky was based on a novel by W.R. Burnett (Little Caesar, The Asphalt Jungle) that was unpublished at the time the film was made. The novel eventually became Stretch Dawson, named after Peck’s character.

The Blu-ray releases prove that Fox has done much better work at restoring and keeping their own films looking great compared to the MGM/UA library. Yellow Sky was more impressive than Ox-Bow, although Ox-Bow was billed as a new restoration. Extras-wise, they replicate the DVDs, although Kino added trailers for other Westerns, in addition to each films’ trailer. Yellow Sky‘s only extra is a commentary from William Wellman Jr. The Ox-Bow disc includes a commentary, as well as the complete Biography episode on Henry Fonda.

Overall, these releases were a great kick-off for Kino’s 20th Century Fox releases and it’s amazing that it had taken both of these wonderful films so long to make the leap to Blu-ray.

Thanks to Kino for providing these Blu-rays for review!

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