Mini-reviews: Westerns (2 of 3)
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Russell Crowe makes for a sinister baddie and the pacing of this western is excellent. My favorite part is the last half hour. A keeper that I look forward to revisiting in future. Among the best modern westerns I’ve seen. A remake of 3:10 to Yuma (1957)
Go West (1925)
The friendly cow that keeps following Buster Keaton about, and meal times at the ranch, were the highlights. That ending was impressive, god knows how difficult it must have been to set up. An under-appreciated comedy western.
Way Out West (1937)
I haven’t watched a lot of Laurel & Hardy, if this is what I can expect, I’ll definitely be looking up more of their stuff. Basically great for the entire hour it lasts. Scenes that stood out: Removing the family locket from around his neck, and his head is too fat to get it off, wading through the pond, the dance number, tickled in bed, eating the hat, the mule on a rope, head in the trap door, and stuck inside a piano.
The only weakness was the opening scene, which didn’t really fit with the rest of the film.
The Naked Spur (1953)
Wow, this didn’t feel like an old movie at all, it had the pacing of a recent film. Stars James Stewart, in one of his western collaborations with director Anthony Mann. They made 5 westerns which are talked of as classics of the genre:
Winchester '73 (1950), Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953), The Far Country (1955), & The Man from Laramie (1955).
The Naked Spur is a film where the group of characters share an equal screen time, they go on an adventure through the mountains. Beautiful scenery, and one of the better westerns from the 50s, which at 90 minutes never gets boring.
The only thing I have against these Anthony Mann westerns is there's a hostility and violence towards the Indians, and seldom any understanding, but maybe that's how it was back then?
Winchester '73 (1950)
Anthony Mann/James Stewart western. As the title indicates, the main character in the film is actually a gun. Great photography at night of horses riding. Memorable scenes: shooting contest, the card game, the twist ending.
Favorite quote: “He taught quite a few folks how to shoot, only trouble was he taught em how, he didn’t teach em what to shoot at. Maybe he figured a man should know that, without telling. Yeah, that was his big mistake, he lived just long enough to find out”
The Man from Laramie (1955)
Anthony Mann/James Stewart western. Loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear, an engaging and well-told story of a stranger (James Stewart), who refuses to listen to those who warn him to stay away from their town.
Favorite quote: “I can’t rightly say any place is my home.” “But everybody should have some place to remember and feel like they belong to?” “I always feel like I belong where I am”
“I thought sometime we would have more to say to each other than just Hello”
Bend of the River (1952)
The weakest of the Anthony Mann/James Stewart westerns I saw. The scenery is great, which you would expect from this director, but not as entertaining or gripping as The Naked Spur (1953), The Man from Laramie (1955), or Winchester '73 (1950). There’s a lack of urgency to the story, so the movie, even at only 90 minutes, drags quite a bit. A somewhat tedious watch. The twist ending in the last 5 minutes was surprising.
Favorite quote: “So, following that star?” “Sometimes it’s better than having a man with a star following you!”
The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
Very short western at only 75 minutes, about taking the law into your own hands. I liked the conflict of the story, and the photography of riding along the mountain edge. But a lot of superfluous dialogue in the first 40 minutes.
The film improves about half way through. A good western, albeit a bit preachy.
Favorite quote, about liquor: “Warms you up though, like fire creeping in the short grass, I guess I’ll just let her spread a little while”
My Darling Clementine (1946)
The title song is great, and good performances. It starts off well, Henry Fonda riding into town, but the story is uneven after that-and struggled to hold my attention. Not the best version of the Wyatt Earp tale. The villain lacks personality.
The Searchers (1956)
It has its memorable scenes, such as the battle by the river, shooting the Indian through the eyes who is already dead, or the Indian woman given as a gift, and John Wayne laughing about that. Plus the scenery is spectacular. I can’t say I was as impressed by The Searchers as others have been. It feels like a film another generation have fond memories of, but I found myself falling asleep on several occasions from boredom. The film does have something to say about racism, which is still a hot topic. While anti-hero Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) is the most interesting character, unfortunately I wasn’t as drawn to the characters as I had hoped.
Duck, You Sucker (1971)
Sergio Leone directed western. Also known as A Fistful of Dynamite. Quite violent, yet with surprising developments, and well worth a watch, if you like the director’s other work. However it does feels as if Sergio Leone is on autopilot and hasn’t added much new here to his bag of tricks, so I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece.
There’s an unforgettable opening scene on a stagecoach with close-ups of wealthy people’s mouths and eyes, who discuss the peasants, calling them animals and halfwits, which stayed with me.
There's also a bridge scene that is surprisingly realistic, and the introduction of the James Coburn character is memorable too.
You could argue, however, that the main characters, played by James Coburn and Rod Steiger, are a little too close to the ones from The Good The Bad and Ugly (1966), which is what prevented me from giving it a higher rating.
Ennio Morricone’s score is top-notch.
Lonesome Dove (1989)
6-hour TV miniseries based on the Pulitzer prize winning novel by Larry McMurtry.
A slow-building and dialogue-driven western. The first 30 minutes are quite boring, but I decided to stick with it, since it has popularity and acclaim. Despite the cliffhanger ending to first episode, I honestly feel the mini-series is a tad overrated and long-winded, but that could just be me who is not used to the pacing of a mini-series. It wasn’t as gripping as I had expected, and tested my patience, yet worth it, as the last 90 minutes is the best part, and very powerful.
The mini-series has its moments, the insulting barman, the army wanting to take the horse without permission, the boy who is bitten by snakes in the river, the scenes where Robert Duvall character must defend himself in the desert against Indians, the bandits who steal the horses, the attempted robbery with girl throwing rocks, and of course the ending which I won't reveal.
Favorite quote: “I figured if you didn’t come on your own accord, then I didn’t have any use for you anyway”
Agree or disagree? Any thoughts on the above titles? Seen any westerns this year?