Review: Raoul Walsh’s Western Noir ‘Pursued’ on KL Studio Classics Blu-ray

Throughout, Walsh pushes his lancet through heroism, the righteous kill, even romantic love.

PursuedNineteen forty-seven was a crucial year for Robert Mitchum’s rising star. The enduring popular classic, of course, is Jacques Tourneur’s seminal Out of the Past, and he headlined Edward Dmytryk’s Oscar-nominated prestige thriller Crossfire. It’s in Raoul Walsh’s noirish, Freudian western Pursued, though, that we see Mitchum crossing the divide between what Hollywood expected of the young man and the godlike figure they got in return.

The performance is a total menu of Mitchum’s various modes: an uneven mix of the young, beefy neurotic with a few too many shirt buttons undone; the high-riding titan who would star in Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter; and the varnished-oak elder statesman who still has a few moves left in him, in Dick Richards’s Farewell, My Lovely and Peter Yates’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle. But it’s an unevenness that’s part and parcel with the scrambled, genre-hopping style of complicated übermensch auteur Raoul Walsh.

Glancing at some of the best-known films of Mitchum’s six-decade career, it’s easy to figure that Walsh was some kind of unreconstructed hard-ass, swilling whiskey with one fist, driving railroad spikes with the other. His public image, eyepatch, and flinty demeanor didn’t seem to contradict this, nor did his recurring themes of brute force, conquest, victory, and male bravado as a value equivalent to any other virtue. He transformed General Custer into a dashing, unfairly maligned boy-hero in They Died with Their Boots On, perfectly suitable for Errol Flynn’s swagger, while Me and My Gal put a slap-happy spin on police brutality and drunken revelry.


An appreciative relationship with Walsh’s films requires a bit of work, multiple chemical baths in his seemingly snub-nosed themes and attitudes. After sufficient exposure, the bloom of a shrewd, committed visionary emerges, which, once seen, cannot be unseen. Auteurism, which is often mistaken for a game of “spot the recurring theme,” validates Walsh not because he keeps trying to draw from the same well of content and narrative, but because his preferred thematic business is indivisible from his (similarly identifiable) mise-en-scène. In Walsh, as with any master, the themes are evident in the hills, the walls, the faces, the fists, and the guns.

Pursued, like many Walsh westerns, epics, and noirs, tells the story of a man seeking to gain ground between his self-determination and the choices that have been made for him long ago. As it begins, Jeb Rand (Mitchum) is on the run from faceless pursuers. Thor (Teresa Wright) comes to his aid in his hour of need, and it’s unclear if Jeb is on the lam for wrongdoing or a misunderstood right. The scene, a common one in ’40s crime movies, can scarcely hint at the intricate, tightly enmeshed truths that are gradually parsed out as the movie backtracks and restarts, from Jeb’s long-ago childhood as, fittingly, a bullied, cowering child.

What unspools is a lengthy, episodic rise-and-fall tale, with a nesting-doll structure that spells doom for its characters simply by inscribing the limits of their self-determination against what other plans the universe has in store for them. If Hitchcock ever made a western, it would undoubtedly preserve a grain of hope for its principals. By contrast, that sort of sentimentality is unthinkable in Walsh. At times pointing up the soundstage artifice of Pursued (sort of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance avant la lettre), Walsh pushes his lancet through heroism, the righteous kill, even romantic love. The remedial simplicity of the plot’s resolution paradoxically fits the universe the film inhabits: capricious but grave, fickle yet unfailingly precise.



Kino Lorber’s transfer is from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative, dupe negative, and comp print. As such, there are occasional shots that show slight damage or aren’t quite as sharp or detailed as the rest of the film. But by and large, the presentation looks fantastic, with a high contrast ratio and crispness that ensure that every last detail in the gorgeous New Mexico vistas and Robert Mitchum’s chiseled, world-weary face is nicely revealed. The 24-bit mono audio track has nice depth in both the more aurally chaotic fist and gunfight sequences and Max Steiner’s score, while the dialogue is clean as a whistle throughout.


Film historian Imogen Sara Smith wrote about the rise of the noir western in the late 1940s in her book In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City, and in her audio commentary, she pays homage to one of her favorites and, perhaps, the granddaddy of them all. She discusses Pursued’s Freudian themes of repressed memories and tortured family dynamics and how the film helped lay the groundwork for the darker, more psychologically complex westerns of the 1950s. She also discusses the careers of Robert Mitchum, Raoul Walsh, and screenwriter Niven Busch and how each brought something unique to the various westerns they helped make. Furthermore, Smith talks at length about increased use of flashbacks in ’40s Hollywood, really helping to contextualize the growth in popularity of a narrative device that can sometimes, by today’s standards, seem more like a crutch rather than a tool. This is truly a fantastic listen top to bottom. The disc also comes with a short intro to the film by Martin Scorsese, who says as much about Walsh and Pursued in two minutes as any human could hope to, and a slew of trailers to other films Kino Lorber has released on Blu-ray.



Kino Lorber have outfitted one of the first, and finest, noir westerns with a beautiful transfer and an essential audio commentary from Imogen Sara Smith.

 Cast: Robert Mitchum, Teresa Wright, Judith Anderson, Dean Jagger, Alan Hale, Harry Carey Jr., John Rodney, Clifton Young  Director: Raoul Walsh  Screenwriter: Niven Busch  Distributor: Kino Lorber  Running Time: 101 min  Rating: NR  Year: 1947  Release Date: June 4, 2024  Buy: Video

Jaime N. Christley

Jaime N. Christley's writing has also appeared in the Village Voice.

Derek Smith

Derek Smith's writing has appeared in Tiny Mix Tapes, Apollo Guide, and Cinematic Reflections.

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