DVD Review: Get 'Hearts' on a shoestring

One of the greatest home video developments in recent years has been a few studios' embracing of “manufactured on demand” DVDs — a way for film buffs to get their hands on favorites that have been deemed (rightly or wrongly) not likely to financially justify a regular release. These are bare bones — usually without any restoration or extras — but it's better than having no access to them at all.

Warner Archives has been the leader in this with over 1,000 titles, including (recently) “Hearts of the West,” a wonderful 1975 movie with Jeff Bridges and Andy Griffith.

It's the 1930s, and Iowa farm boy Lewis Tater (Bridges), a naive aspiring writer of Western fiction, finds himself in Hollywood, doing stunts and even a little acting for a director (Alan Arkin) of quickie B westerns. He also acquires a sort of a mentor (Griffith) and a girlfriend (Blythe Danner).

“Hearts of the West” is a perfectly constructed and cast Hollywood entertainment — mostly funny, but also exciting or emotional at times — with winning performances from the stars and a dozen or so familiar character actors.

This was one of several fine features Bridges made in the '70s when — thanks to “The Last Picture Show” — he was perceived as a star in the making. For whatever reason, most of them had tepid box office results. (Others include “Rancho Deluxe,” “Fat City” and “Stay Hungry”). His Oscar win for 2009's “Crazy Heart” (followed the next year by a nomination for “True Grit”) should have been the perfect excuse for a more substantial release, but the image quality here is acceptable, particularly at this price: It's overpriced on Amazon, but much cheaper if you buy directly from Warner (www.wbshop.com), where frequent sales bring it down from 20 bucks to 10 or 15.

Hearts of the West (Warner Archive, DVD, $19.95)

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