Western

Andrew Marton – The Wild North (1952)

Synopsis:

In 1952, many “outdoors” adventure films would be shot on the studio back-lot, with fake-looking backgrounds and interior sets masquerading as exteriors. The Wild North benefits greatly from the fact that much of it was shot on authentic locations (the American state of Idaho standing in for northern Canada). The film also benefits from a clutch of strong leading performances from Stewart Granger and Wendell Corey, plus the ravishing Cyd Charisse (cast – some might say miscast – as a native Indian). The whole film is smartly presented by Andrew Marton, whose last film prior to this was another outdoor adventure with Stewart Granger, the 1950 version of King Solomon’s Mines. Read More »

Sam Peckinpah – The Deadly Companions (1961)


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Quote:
With its small cast, character-driven story, and modest production values, Sam Peckinpah’s first feature film seems very like another of his TV Western dramas–just one that happened to get shot in Panavision. The director’s favorite TV actor, Brian Keith, plays a surly loner named Yellowleg who ventures into Indian country with a dance-hall girl (Maureen O’Hara), the corpse of her little boy, and a pair of marginally human specimens (Steve Cochran and Chill Wills) who more than justify the title. Everybody has, or seems to have, a guilty or shameful secret: Why does Yellowleg keep his hat on? Was Kit (O’Hara) a widow, or a whore? Action, menace, and ethical dialogues come and go pretty much according to TV rhythms, and the visuals and editing are conventional. But there’s enough quirky character work and offbeat mood-making to hint at the singular filmmaker soon to arrive big-time. –Richard T. Jameson Read More »

George Waggner – Gunfighters (1947)


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Quote:
After being forced to shoot a friend in a duel, fast-gun Randolph Scott swears to take off his gunbelt forever but finds himself drawn to the middle of a range war when he’s blamed for the murder of his best friend. Now Scott must prove to the dead man’s kid brother (John Miles) that he’s innocent. Naturally, Scott is forced to strap on guns once more to bring an end to the tyranny of local land baron Griff Barnett, his devious foreman Bruce Cabot, hired gunslinger Forrest Tucker (in a really underwritten, wasted role) and mean, crooked deputy Grant Withers. To complicate matters, Scott becomes involved with the land baron’s two daughters, nice girl Dorothy Hart and conniving Barbara Britton who is in love with Cabot. Alan Le May’s script from Zane Grey’s TWIN SOMBREROS seems to need a bit more “polish”, but Scott is terrific as always, plus the gorgeous Sedona locations (abetted by Vasquez Rocks, Jauregui Ranch and Monogram Ranch) in Cinecolor are enough to recommend this one. Read More »

John Ford – 3 Bad Men (1926)

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Synopsis (contains spoilers)
Set in 1877 during the Dakota land rush, 3 Bad Men gracefully blends the epic with the intimate. This seriocomic tale centres around three outlaws who redeem themselves by protecting pilgrims who need thier help to reach what 3 Bad Men explicitly calls the promised land.

The ostensible celebration of the pioneering spirit in 3 Bad Men is darkened not only by the necessity of the outlaws’ deaths but also by the fact that the promised land is morally tainted. The ground reserved for new settlers is former Indian homeland, seized by the white government that conquered the Sioux nation in the aftermath of the Custer massacre. Ford leaves that aspect largely implicit, reserving the role of overt villian for the corrupt sheriff of the town of Custer, Layne Hunter. Read More »

Otto Preminger – River of No Return (1954)

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Plot Synopsis
by Hal Erickson
Director Otto Preminger’s only western, River of No Return is set in Canada during the 19th century Gold Rush. Farmer Matt Calder (Robert Mitchum) is released from prison after serving a sentence for shooting a man in the back to protect a friend. He arrives in a small town to retrieve his young son, Mark (Tommy Rettig), who has befriended a sultry saloon singer, Kay (Marilyn Monroe). Matt is also friendly with Kay, and thanks her profusely for looking after Mark, but distrusts her paramour, Harry Weston (Rory Calhoun)- a gambler with the morals of an alley cat. Matt and Mark return to their rural homestead, but soon glimpse Kay and Harry on a sinking raft, apparently en route to make good on a gold claim; Matt rescues the two of them, but doesn’t count on Harry doing an about face, beating him up, and stealing his horse and gun; Kay stays behind to look after Matt. Meanwhile, the Indians go on the warpath, and the defenseless trio decides to seek refuge by fleeing the farm and sailing down the river on a raft. En route, the son – thanks to Kay’s doing – is unexpectedly disillusioned about the father’s original crime. Moreover, as Matt approaches town, he begins to plot a decisive revenge against Harry. Read More »

Michael Curtiz – The Boy from Oklahoma (1954)

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Plot:
Will Rogers, Jr. tames the Old West with a rope and a grin in this breezy adventure directed by Oscar® winner Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, 1943) and costarring Nancy Olson, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Merv Griffin in a rare screen appearance. Wandering across the New Mexico territory, law student Tom Brewster (Rogers, Jr.) mails his final exam from Bluerock, a corrupt town whose sheriff was recently killed. So when the stagecoach is robbed and the letters stolen, Tom is offered the lawman’s position when it’s learned he won’t carry a gun. Read More »

John Ford – Stagecoach [+Extras] (1939)

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A Ford-Powered ‘Stagecoach’ Opens at Music Hall; Mickey Rooney Plays Huck Finn at the Capitol
In one superbly expansive gesture, which we (and the Music Hall) can call “Stagecoach,” John Ford has swept aside ten years of artifice and talkie compromise and has made a motion picture that sings a song of camera. It moves, and how beautifully it moves, across the plains of Arizona, skirting the sky-reaching mesas of Monument Valley, beneath the piled-up cloud banks which every photographer dreams about, and through all the old-fashioned, but never really outdated, periods of prairie travel in the scalp-raising Seventies, when Geronimo’s Apaches were on the warpath. Here, in a sentence, is a movie of the grand old school, a genuine rib-thumper and a beautiful sight to see. Read More »