After decades in prison, stagecoach robber Bill Miner (Richard Farnsworth, The Straight Story, Tom Horn) emerges in 1901 a free man without a place in 20th-century society. Times have changed, but in the face of all these changes, neither his good-humored patience nor his joy of life has abandoned him. With the vigor of a teenager, Miner sees a screening of one of the first films, The Great Train Robbery, and is inspired to once again do what he does best. Filmed with the beautiful Pacific Northwest as a backdrop, The Grey Fox is a rare and touching yarn exploring and unravelling a greatly likable and unlikely hero. Beautifully shot by Frank Tidy (The Duelists) and wonderfully directed by Phillip Borsos (The Mean Season), The Grey Fox is a richly satisfying film experience considered by most as one of the greatest Canadian films of all time.
What We Thought:
I was not familiar with The Grey Fox before watching it and I gotta say I liked it. Richard Farnsworth plays the aged robber perfectly with his gentleman charm. It’s based on a real person and events that I wasn’t aware of previously either. It’s considered one of Canada’s greatest films and landed a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Film and Lead Actor nomination for Farnsworth.
Farnsworth plays Bill Miner a stagecoach robber who was in jail for 33 years and is released in 1901. The world has changed a lot during his time in prison. He tries to do the right thing and stay straight. He digs for oysters while living with his sister. But after seeing a movie about a train robbery, he gets a gun and goes back to his old ways. He ends up in Canada after a train theft goes wrong where he takes a job mining thanks to an old friend. But it’s just a cover because with Shorty and another man, they start making robbery plans. He falls for a woman, but the life of crime and the law eventually will catch up with him.
Looking up Miner after watching the movie it says the real man staged Canada’s first train robbery on September 10, 1904 so I’m assuming the film is somewhat accurate, but like most movies probably takes some liberties as well. Whatever the truth is, the film itself has a great narrative. You very rarely see a lead of this age especially committing the level of crimes Miner did. He’s pretty much a full on gangster (for the time period) and has no issue using dynamite and raising his gun. But he’s a gentleman first and has rules and the locals seemed to love him because of it. It’s not exactly a “Robin Hood” story, but the man wasn’t out trying to hurt people.
That’s why the film works. You have a great lead actor portraying a man with values. Yes, he’s a stagecoach and train robber, but he’s not out shooting people or causing chaos. He has his plans, his rules and is in it for the money, not the violence. And again, Farnsworth is perfect in the role.
This new Blu-ray release of The Grey Fox looks great restored. It has some solid bonus features as well. If you are a fan of the film, it’s a must own. It doesn’t seem like it was easy to own before this so fans will eat up this release. If you aren’t familiar with the film, it’s a solid movie with a great lead, great backdrop and music by The Chieftains. It feels like a Western, but isn’t your classic Western because there’s not exactly a “good” guy to root for. But you do find yourself rooting for Miner because of Farnsworth’s performance.
- NEW Audio Commentary by Filmmaker Alex Cox
- NEW Interview with Producer Peter O’Brian
- NEW Interview with Composer Michael Conway Baker
- About the Restoration – Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer
Director: Phillip Borsos
Written by John Hunter
Photographed by Frank Tidy
Starring Richard Farnsworth, Jackie Burroughs, Ken Pogue, Wayne Robson, Timothy Webber, and Samantha Langevin
1982 | Color | 92 minutes | 1.85:1 | 1920x1080p (Blu-ray) | Optional English Subtitles
Dual-Layered BD50 Disc (Blu-ray)