Quick Look: The Western is one of the oldest genres in film history, originating in the silent film era. Fans of Western films should find plenty to like about Flickstream's Cowboy Classics channel. Cowboy Classics currently offers close to 60 Western movies dating from 1929's Thundering Thompson to 1983's Savage Journey.
In between, the selection of films follows the Western's changing styles. There area a lot of films from the Western's golden era of the 1930's and 40's. You can watch early John Wayne films such as The Lawless Frontier (1934), West of the Divide (1934), and Angel and the Badman (1947), as well as movies from many lesser known stars. There are also several low-budget films from this era starring well-known "singing cowboys" such as Gene Autry (The Big Show - 1936), Tex Ritter (Sing Cowboy Sing - 1937 and Take Me Back to Oklahoma - 1940, among others) and Roy Rogers (including The Carson City Kid - 1940, Sheriff of Tombstone - 1941, and The Man From Music Mountain - 1943).
The 1950's and early 1960's are not very well represented in the Cowboy Classics library, but the available films do include some well-known names. You can watch Burt Lancaster in Vengeance Valley (1951), Marlon Brando in One-Eyed Jacks (1960), and Jack Nicholson in Ride in the Whirlwind (1965).
Most of the films on Cowboy Classics after this time period are Spaghetti Westerns, a sub-genre of low-budget American West-themed movies that were filmed in Italy or Spain, usually by European producers, and sometimes featuring rising or faded American stars. The best-known Spaghetti Western is probably The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) with Clint Eastwood. If you want to watch this movie on the Roku, you will have to get it from Amazon Instant Video. You can, however, watch over a dozen other Spaghetti Westerns, from the 1967 film Any Gun Can Play (Vado... l'ammazzo e torno) to 1977's God's Gun (Diamante Lobo).
Don't expect to find any highly-acclaimed films like Pale Rider (1985), High Noon (1952), or True Grit (1969). This channel is for the true Western film aficionado who enjoys all movies of this genre and can appreciate the history of Western films.
Cowboy Classics is available by subscription for $1.99 per month and there's a short (about 15-second) advertisement at the beginning of each film. You can subscribe from Flickstream's website.
I've sampled several movies and the stream seems to be good, with fast load times and no pauses for buffering. Remember, though, that these films aren't in HD. The film and sound quality are what you would expect for films from these eras. If you want to sample the channel before you buy, there is a 10-minute preview of one of the films currently in the Cowboy Classics library.
The channel would benefit from the addition of a resume play option. If you exit a movie and come back later, the film restarts at the beginning and you're forced to fast-forward to where you left off. The menu could also use an update to the newer grid format used by the Roku Channel Store and channels such as Netflix and Crackle. Under the current layout, all movies are lined up left to right, requiring long scrolls to find the movie you want. Another nice addition would be to list the release date of the movie, and categorization of the movies to make it easier to find a movie of interest. Despite these shortcomings, Cowboy Classics represents a good value for the Western film buff.
--RokuGuide Reviewed on October 29, 2010
Developer's Channel Description: Sporting spurs and ten gallon hats, these classic westerns will have you dreaming of the open range.
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