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 The Western Thread

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Seve
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Tue Aug 30, 2011 11:02 am

Cowboy
Jack Lemmon and Glenn Ford
as you might expect, a Western starring Jack Lemmon is a little bit different than the usual
more of a life changing journey than a plot driven morality play or shoot'em up
and not the comedic adventure I was anticipating
Lemmon is the idealistic greenhorn and Ford is the world weary leather tough cattle man
as Lemmon becomes more and more cynical, Ford has second thoughts and begins to reconsider his own stance
Dick York (Darren Stevens from Bewitched, a TV Jack Lemon clone?) is the guy who is always talking about girls
Brian Donlevy has a surprisingly minor role as a gunslinger looking for a change of lifestyle to escape his reputation, a thread that leads almost nowhere
and Strother Martin appears (and almost as quickly disappears) as "Cowhand bitten by snake"
it was about then that I realised it wasn't going to be a comedy
throw in some interesting Mexican fiesta action involving that old Spanish favourite, pulling the heads of chickens buried up to their neck in the dirt
and a form of bull fighting where the aim is to slip a ring over one of the bulls horns, where a horse ridden by one of the protagonists was repeatedly butted in the gut by the bull
(yes folks, animals were harmed in the making of this program)
and you have a pot-pourri of a movie that is always interesting but somehow lacks focus or ultimate dramatic significance
Lemmon gets over the girl he was besotted with, Ford and Lemmon agree that they need to find a middle ground between self centred cynicism and bleeding heart sentiment
and live happily ever after as manly men
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:50 am

I watched RIVER OF NO RETURN today. A very good Cinemascope western. The only real problems with it are Monroe, who isn't deal-breaking but seems out-of-place (she just doesn't suit a western), the somewhat iffy shots of the rafting, and a rather uncomfortable scene of borderline sexual assault. I generally liked it though - Mitchum was great, that beautiful wide frame is used expertly, and the narrative is just what I like. It almost felt like a Mann/Stewart western in terms of plot, actually.

I also watched the Bob Hope/Jane Russell/Roy Rogers, Frank Tashlin-helmed comedy western SON OF PALEFACE which was utterly hilarious. And I mean Duck Soup level hilarious.
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Fri Sep 02, 2011 1:33 pm

The Man From Colorado
Glenn Ford and William Holden in a civil war western
Ford is looking for a change of pace and a chance to show off his acting range, so he plays the villain, growing his hair longer, to suggest his wild nature, and wearing darker makeup to make the whites of his eyes more prominent when he stares madly
leaving young Holden to play the clean cut straight arrow
Ford's character starts off by "pulling a Nelson" (at Copenhagen) using his cannons to blow away a bunch of Rebs who were trying to surrender
other than that he's a by the book martinet with no sense of justice, only a slavish devotion to the rules
after the war he returns home and is offered the Federal Judges job
he gets the girl too, by virtue of being more forceful than the gentlemanly Holden, who ends up his reluctant Town Marshall
Holden has come to recognise that the war has effected Ford for the worse, but hopes steer him back on track
instead Ford becomes incrementally worse, first ignorant to any spirit of justice, later using the law as a tool for his own personal vengeance (although he is never financially corrupt)
it all comes to a head amongst scenes of biblical fire in the mining town
disappointingly, Holden is wounded in the arm and is effectively sidelined from the final conflict
so it's left to a secondary character to save the day and give Ford his comeuppance, before they both get crushed under a burning wall that collapses on them
Holden gets the girl and leaves on the train, to see the governor and set things straight for the deprived discharged soldier / miners
as an exploration of the dislocating and dehumanising effect war the film fails miserably, as the motivations of Fords character remain an unexplored mystery
however taken purely as a piece of entertainment, it's better than average
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:43 am

The Naked Spur
Jimmy Stewart and Anthony Mann at the top of their game
one of the "small group of disparate people thrown together by circumstances" sub genre of western
with Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh and Ralph Meeker filling out the group along with the obligatory old timer
Ryan is the slippery villain, Meeker the wild colonial boy, Leigh the naive babe and the old timer is, of course, a prospector
that leaves Jimmy to play the good man haunted by an unfortunate past
Jimmy is less likable than usual, his character a bit hysterical at times and there doesn't quite seem to be enough back story to justify it
sure his wife sold the farm and skipped out while he was away fighting the civil war, but is that enough to cause screaming nightmares and wild eyed rants?
I would have thought some kind of massacre or death of a loved one would be needed to justify the level of intense emotion Stewart displays here
also the speed of Jimmy's recovery from being shot around the knee area is somewhat miraculous…
however apart from that it's very well put together, with revelations that ratchet up the tension and alter the group dynamic sprinkled along the way
as with most Stewart / Mann collaborations it's filmed in the mountains among much greenery, unlike the desert landscapes favoured by John Ford and others
that scenery is majestic and utilised to great effect, so, taking all things into consideration, it's a bit of a classic

Bonanza (episode "San Francisco")
in which Hoss takes on the whole of San Francisco in a fist fight... and wins (with some exuberant assistance from Little Joe, who's not so dusty either, and Pa)
the man mountain of the Cartwright family comes on like a combination of the Hulk and Ben Grim (The Thing), proving to be impervious to the black jack and undaunted at being dropped through a trap door into the harbour!
they don't make 'em like this anymore
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:49 pm

HJackson wrote:
and a rather uncomfortable scene of borderline sexual assault.

Very much Preminger's type of thing. In Harms Way features a very similar scene, although it's a more critical plot point there.

But yeah, his use of widescreen was really among the best. My main problem with it was the ending, though.
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:52 am

Only just seen the Errol Flynn posts. He was a bastard, but a funny bastard, which excuses much in my book.

He once spent a weekend with David Niven in a freezing house and persuaded Niven to break-up and burn all the antique furniture. Said the owner wouldn't mind, which was somewhat misleading.

Mind you, that was about the least of Flynn's misdeeds. He even cast Niven adrift in shark-infested waters while he screwed his girlfriend on deck. Maybe Niven just enjoyed bad company.
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Tue Nov 15, 2011 7:30 am

Erica Ambler wrote:
Only just seen the Errol Flynn posts. He was a bastard, but a funny bastard, which excuses much in my book.

He once spent a weekend with David Niven in a freezing house and persuaded Niven to break-up and burn all the antique furniture. Said the owner wouldn't mind, which was somewhat misleading.

Mind you, that was about the least of Flynn's misdeeds. He even cast Niven adrift in shark-infested waters while he screwed his girlfriend on deck. Maybe Niven just enjoyed bad company.

Flynn was one of those people around whom it seems there was never a dull moment, there are always plenty of people prepared to forgive them their many shortcomings in return for the variety they bring into their lives

sometimes that opinion changes over time, they decide the bad out weighs the good

but Niven obviously felt Flynn's entertainment value was worth the price of admission, providing plenty of material for Niven the ractonteur to use later
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:34 am

Drumbeat
Alan Ladd and Charles Bronson square of in this politically incorrect western
a "fairy tale" where under the treaty the Indians were apparently allocated better lands than they had before
and where it's the Indians who bring weapons to the peace negotiations and treacherously murder the white representatives
to be fair there are also some good Indians depicted, who know their place and place their trust in Shane, I mean Alan Ladd
however if you can put aside the twisted morality and take it at face value then it's rather good
Alan Ladd is solid as usual and Charles Bronson has one of his biggest and best pre stardom roles, as the leader of the bad Indians, displaying some roguish bravado while meeting with triumph and disaster and "treating those two impostors just the same"
(some may also recognise Dr Bellows from "I Dream Of Genie" as President Ulysses Grant)
there is plenty of good scenery and action, along with a splattering of picturesque deaths when the Indians go on the warpath, particularly the lady who takes an arrow right in the cleavage! (now that's gotta hurt!!!)
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Fri Dec 02, 2011 11:41 am

Came across the video for the Christmas single by The Killers, called The Cowboy's Christmas Ball



Not all that enamoured with the song yet, thought if its like any other Killers song (excepting the album Sawdust) I'll probably know it by heart eventually. What really got me was the Western video, which I found absolutely hilarious., but it also raised a question.

Christmas and Westerns? I'm trying to think of Westerns that have a Christmas theme but all I can think of is 3 GODFATHERS, which I think was set at Christmas, or John Wayne just says "merry christmas" in it.
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Fri Dec 02, 2011 11:47 am

Erica Ambler wrote:
He once spent a weekend with David Niven in a freezing house and persuaded Niven to break-up and burn all the antique furniture. Said the owner wouldn't mind, which was somewhat misleading.

Mind you, that was about the least of Flynn's misdeeds. He even cast Niven adrift in shark-infested waters while he screwed his girlfriend on deck. Maybe Niven just enjoyed bad company.

laugh laugh
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Sat Dec 03, 2011 6:46 am

colly wrote:
Came across the video for the Christmas single by The Killers, called The Cowboy's Christmas Ball

Not all that enamoured with the song yet, thought if its like any other Killers song (excepting the album Sawdust) I'll probably know it by heart eventually. What really got me was the Western video, which I found absolutely hilarious., but it also raised a question.

Christmas and Westerns? I'm trying to think of Westerns that have a Christmas theme but all I can think of is 3 GODFATHERS, which I think was set at Christmas, or John Wayne just says "merry christmas" in it.

I think that's about it colly, apart from...

CHRISTMAS MOUNTAIN: THE STORY OF A COWBOY ANGEL
A heartwarming Christmas tale featuring Mark Miller and his boisterous comic-sidekick, the immortal, eternally lovable, Slim Pickens.
Imprisoned, down-on-his-luck drifter, Gabe Sweet (Mark Miller) is forced to seek redemption by undertaking a Christmas charity mission on behalf of the town. There's only one problem - the "charity" is as empty as the hearts of the townspeople themselves. But, with the help of a dearly-departed Angel wannabe (Slim Pickens), Gabe quickly learns that the ones truly in need are the ones who already have the most.
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:38 am

I fucking can't stand The Killers and Brandon Flowers. Almost as bad as Coldplay.
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:44 am

Sharky wrote:
I fucking can't stand The Killers and Brandon Flowers. Almost as bad as Coldplay.


:affraid: Where does that come from????


Last edited by saint mark on Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:53 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:52 am

Sharky wrote:
I fucking can't stand The Killers and Brandon Flowers. Almost as bad as Coldplay.

well that's just fine and dandy, but this is the Western movie thread, not the "music I can't stand" thread

please try to stick to comments that have some connection to the topic, however tenuous
;)
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:58 am

I was replying to Colly's post.
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Sat Dec 03, 2011 3:51 pm

saint mark wrote:
Sharky wrote:
I fucking can't stand The Killers and Brandon Flowers. Almost as bad as Coldplay.


:affraid: Where does that come from????

Armond. ;)
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Sat Dec 03, 2011 3:54 pm

No, this time that's entirely from me. 2008 wasn't a great year for Sharky, but it was made even worse by Day & Age.
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Sun Dec 04, 2011 7:46 am

Sharky wrote:
I was replying to Colly's post.

yes and Colly's post was tenuous (it was about music but the song had some connection to the broader theme)

yours was completely irrelevant (about music with no connection to the Western theme at all, just a simple statement of opinion with nothing to back it up that might lead to further meaningful discourse)

and I know we've had discussions about the sexuality of Errol Flynn and Randolph Scott, but at least they starred in westerns and the posts had some additional content which could be discussed

I know you can do better
;)
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Tue Dec 06, 2011 8:45 am

100 Rifles
Jim Brown tops the bill ahead of Raquel Welch and Burt Reynolds
apart from Sydney Poitier I think Jim Brown was the only black actor to headline any none "soul cinema / blaxploitation" movies during this period (Bill Cosby had a couple of shots I guess, but was more of a TV star)
this spaghetti influenced Hollywood western moves along and provides plenty of entertainment, but the director lacks the necessary technique to make it something better
Jim Brown has one of the most powerful physiques ever to grace the big screen and his acting is adequate (better than Chuck Norris, possibly even JCVD, maybe on a par with Dolph?)
Raquel has one of the meatiest parts of her career, as a feisty revolutionary chick who wrestles manfully with a Mexican accent
the only disappointment is her reluctance to reveal her best assets, even big Jim can't manage to pry her blouse free in the sex scene
Raquel's acting is also hard to take seriously in that scene, her expression of passion looks more like one of pain (look at the size of that thing! Jim, your ... is just too big, ouch!)
Burt Reynolds provides a nice turn as the rascally comic sidekick
and Fernando Lamas does a good job as the moustachioed villain who meets a nasty end
the only real problem with the movie is that the Yaqui Indians kick the Mexican armies butts so many times you start to wonder how the Mexicans ever managed to impose their tyranny in the first place
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:10 am

The Virginian (1929)
Gary Cooper becomes a star in possibly the first talking western
I'm used to these old films starting with titles played over a static background and music
this one begins with the titles played over footage of a cattle drive and no music, just the sound of cattle mooing and occasional cowboys singing to themselves, which seems rather modern
in fact there is no musical soundtrack at all in this movie, which makes me wonder if there was some accompaniment that would have been played in the theatre as was the custom in silent times, or was the novelty of sound considered so exciting that they didn't want to distract from it with any added music?
Cooper plays the Virginian with his trademark "young Coop" combination of brash yet bashful, wearing the trademark white hat of the times
while Walter Huston leads the black hatted villains as "Trampus"
the dialogue is somewhat stilted and delivered in a rather deliberate fashion, as might be expected in an early talky
the pacing of the film is rather too linear and slow, with a lot of time spent on setting up the romance without moving the story along in any other way, only when that's sorted do they start moving the dramatic aspect of the plot forward
the pivotal character is the likeable but footloose "Steve", who falls in with Trampus and is persuaded to go for the easy money of cattle rustling
Cooper and co inevitably catch up with him and some good old fashioned frontier justice is meted out
the nature of this frontier justice is the main dramatic subject of the movie, Cooper is conflicted by his personal friendship with Steve
and the female romantic lead, a school marm from back east, is conflicted between her more civilised upbringing and her feelings for Coop
after that has been dealt with there is a rather rushed and somewhat illogical showdown between Coop and Trampus to wrap things up
why the previously wily Trampus should choose to call Coop out all of a sudden is a mystery
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:52 am

Seve wrote:
The Virginian (1929)
Gary Cooper becomes a star in possibly the first talking western

I believe that honour's taken by IN OLD ARIZONA.
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Thu Dec 29, 2011 12:07 pm

Gunfight At The OK Corral (1957)


OK Western. Lancaster and Douglas are a great partnership, and both give strong performances as Earp and Holliday. Wyatt Earp, although a real-life western figure, was a generic clean-cut hero, and is played by Burt Lancaster with the standard hero persona. But Doc Holiday, one of the grittiest western characters ever, was the trickier of the two to portray, and putting Kirk Douglas, a very talented actor, in the role was a very great move, as he has done justice to the gambling-addicted ally of Earp. Of course, many people watched the film solely for witnessing the eponymous set piece, and I have to say, it was a great build-up to the anticipated climax. The shoot-out was directed by John Sturges without any music to let viewers feel the raw ferocity of the ricochets and gunshot sounds. Another high point of the film is its theme song, which is although corny-sounding today(I bet even back then), does not sound too bad.

One of the best tellings of the Earp story, but nowhere near as good as My Darling Clementine.

How The West Was Won (1962)

Told by several directors and set over several generations of a family heading out with the spread of America from east into west, this western starts with the first steps out into the Midwest, a full wagon train move out to California and on into the civil war. I can see what it could have been because the film certainly had the potential – all-star cast and a go at a plot that charts the development of America from the early settlers moving west into the full settlement of the west coast. On paper it looked like nothing could go wrong but in reality it is not as good as it should have been despite having just about enough going for it to make it worth watching.

A boring narration by Spencer Tracy is delivered in dull style by the actor and works against the material. The story itself tries to cram so much western history into the tale that it becomes a series of choppy vignettes that are only able to hint at all the pioneering spirit that went into the making of the American West. Furthermore, by putting Debbie Reynolds at the center of the piece only emphasizes the superficial aspect of some of the casting choices. Reynolds is so modern in behavior that she makes it hard to see her as a pioneer woman, but more like an MGM musical comedy actress who was stretching herself to play more serious roles.

The Civil War sequence was most impressive, with Baker and Peppard as mother and son before the conflict giving genuinely moving performances, she as an embittered mother resigned to losing her son to war and he as a naive farmboy anxious to join the fight. The liveliest and best staged sequence is the railroad attack that climaxes the film with some stunning camera-work of runaway trains and perilous stunts that grip the attention. The tacked on corny ending with Reynolds lifting her voice in song seems jarring after the realism of the action scene, symptomatic of the entire film which seems to be an uneven combination of sentimental corn and rousing action or battle scenes.

The direction is solid with one or two impressive set pieces along the way. The Cinerama stuff I just hated from start to finish – thank god it burnt out as quickly as it did. The main impact it has is to produce two dark lines down the screen for much of the film while also (in some scenes) it genuinely feels like three bits of similar looking film stuck together. The cast are impressive on paper but few can really turn in impressive performances due to the material and, although nobody is bad, nobody stands out other than being famous faces. I did enjoy the majority of them – Baker was the standout of the lot; Stewart was fun while turns from Cobb, Malden, Peck, Peppard, Wallach, Widmark and many others are solid and good. Shame that Wayne got edited down to almost nothing – and what was left was so simplistic that it hardly seemed worth leaving in.

Overall this is an OK western with lots of stars giving solid performances. I did enjoy each individual segment but the lack of a epic sweep to the material and the inability to connect the stories (even the family link was pretty averagely done if you ask me) seemed to undercut the potential it had. Still worth a look but certainly not the magnificent, layered epic that it has somehow managed to be remembered as.




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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Mon Nov 05, 2012 10:53 pm

Just rewatched The Far Country. What a terrific film it is.
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Tue Nov 06, 2012 5:43 am

From the comments section of the Bogdanovich article you linked to.

Quote :
Its the tough simplicity of Scott's code (mirrored in the taught, disciplined ways the films were shot and play) juxtaposed against moral shadings, conflicted motivations and chaos that surrounds Scott.

This is the key dichotomy of Boetticher's work. On the surface, his movies have much of the superficiality of other low-budget westerns of the time. The sight of a perfectly coiffed and made-up Nancy Gates dismounting a horse after a day or riding is a good example. But this is off-set by the features' moral and emotional complexity.

In Comanche station, Scott's character saving Nancy from the Indians is a cathartic act, done in the hope of finding some forgiveness for himself for his failure to save his own wife. At the same time, he has to protect the woman from Ben Lane and his gang, whose loyalties are never truly clear, even though Scott instinctively feels that Ben has no intention of delivering Nancy to her husband alive. Then there is the one sentiment both Scott and Ben Lane share, their resentment (and borderline disgust) of any man who would hire another to save his wife. Which is rather brilliantly put into perspective in the final scene of the movie.
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PostSubject: Re: The Western Thread   Tue Nov 06, 2012 9:09 am

Erica Ambler wrote:
Just rewatched The Far Country. What a terrific film it is.

The most enjoyable Mann/Stewart Western for me. Love John McIntire in it.

Oddly enough, I just watched Mann's THE TIN STAR. Hadn't seen it in nearly a decade. Terrific pairing of Fonda and Perkins, with one leading the other along to stand up and kick ass as Sheriff. Pretty atypical Mann Western in many respects, though Fonda has a little of the "haunted past" thing going on.
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