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'Tom Selleck Western Collection'
(Tom Selleck, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2008 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: This is a wonderful collection of Tom Selleck's greatest westerns including: Monte Walsh, Last Stand at Saber River and Crossfire Trail.

DVD Verdict: For those that didn't know, 'Magnum P.I.'s Tom Selleck starred in three excellent Westerns made for TNT between 1997 and 2003, and now all three are being made available in one collection, 'Tom Selleck - The Western Collection.'

"Last Stand at Saber River" - Selleck is Paul Cable, a Confederate cavalryman who has come home from the Civil War (only slightly) early. He knows the war is lost for the South, he is worn out, and he only wants to take his family back to their homestead in Arizona to live a normal life. His wife, who was told that he was dead, is less than thrilled to have him back home because she is resentful that he left to fight in the war in the first place. Suzy Amis does an excellent job as Martha Cable. She is not the stereotypical beauty who runs around in a bustle under fancy dresses. She is a tough frontierswoman who has experienced many hardships and gets her husband out of some tight spots as the movie progresses.

While the majority of the movie is good at depicting the divisions between North and South that caused the Civil War and which the Civil War then exacerbated, the subplot of the inner struggles that Paul and Martha Cable face is far more interesting. It's a great movie until the end, when we get the additional time-worn subplot of a Confederate soldier who just can't give up the Lost Cause.

"Crossfire Trail" - This is the second of the TNT/Tom Selleck Westerns. Selleck revisited his early Louis L'Amour, TV-Western roots here and also re-teamed with director Simon Wincer, who directed Selleck's best big-screen effort - "Quigley Down Under" - as well as the all-time classic Western miniseries "Lonesome Dove". The result is an excellent film that, while breaking no new ground, contributes to the rich mythology and legacy of the American cowboy.

Selleck plays Rafe Covington who, at the beginning of the film, promises a dying friend that he will take care of the friend's wife and ranch. Selleck and two partners set out to do just that, and they add a new friend from the nearby town (played by Wilford Brimley) shortly after their arrival. The film is predictable: the widow is suspicious of Rafe's motives, the town bad guy has been wooing the widow in order to get at her land, the bad guy hires a hit man to eliminate Rafe, and so on. And yet, even though the viewer can see right through the plot to the end of the film, every element is so well handled that it is a pleasure to watch the movie.

"Monte Walsh" - This 2003 remake of "Monte Walsh," also directed by Simon Wincer, was Tom Selleck's third (but hopefully not last) Western for TNT, and it is probably the most stirring film tribute to the end of the Old West and the cowboy way of life. This is saying quite a bit as some fine Westerns like "The Wild Bunch", "The Shootist", and (even more recently) "Open Range" as well as other movies have dealt with the changes resulting from progress as the U.S. was about to enter the twentieth century.

Having mentioned that the film is set during a time of great change in the American West, I won't cover the plot line in great detail. Suffice it to say that, while Selleck's Monte Walsh is the hero of the picture, he is portrayed with character flaws intact as well. Montelius Walsh loves three things in life: horses, women, and drinking (and the order of these things changes at different times in his life). He is stubborn, afraid to commit to Martine (his favorite prostitute whom he does seem to love), and refuses to change. He is also hard-working and loyal to his friends, especially his best buddy Chet (played by Keith Carradine), and these qualities are what make his character heroic and the storyline affecting. "Monte Walsh" is an elegiac tribute to the passing of the Old West and the American cowboy. May both continue to live on in films! These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.