Silver Lode (1954, Directed by Allan Dwan) English Good Film

Starring John Payne, Dan Duryea, Lizabeth Scott, Dolores Moran, Emile Meyer, Alan Hale Jr., Harry Carey Jr.

(Good Film)

When U.S Marshall, Fred McCarty (Duryea), and his deputies ride into town, what was to be a joyous wedding day in Silver Lode quickly becomes a nightmare of frenzied action and hysteria. They’ve come to collect on Dan Ballard (Payne), the groom-to-be, a popular newcomer to town, and though the handbill says dead or alive, you get the feeling Marshall McCarty would prefer to take Ballard in dead. The town stands behind Ballard at first when he questions the legitimacy of McCarty’s handbill and position as a Marshall, but slowly turn on him as the day wears on. Silver Lode is another ’50s allegory for McCarthyism and compares just as easily to The Crucible as it does to High Noon. Mob mentality reigns in this town despite its population of well-meaning, upstanding citizens, and, by the end, friends turn on friends and relationships are broken. This is a solid western on the surface, expertly staged, with a wealth of subtext making it a favorite of film critics. I appreciate the characterization of Ballard. His stoic, unapologetic demeanor had even me questioning him a time or two and Duryea is, as always, a fantastic creep. I don’t hold it in the same esteem as the very best of the genre-like other critical favorites, it’s more entertaining as a discussion point than it is to watch-but there’s no denying it’s an exceptional film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Man of the West (1958, Directed by Anthony Mann) English 8

Starring Gary Cooper, Julie London, Lee J. Cobb, Arthur O’Connell, Jack Lord, Royal Dano, Tom London

Man of the West (1958) | MUBI

(8-Exceptional Film)

Violent. Impressive. Harsh.

Link Jones: You know what I feel inside of me? I feel like killing. Like, like a sickness come back. I want to kill every last one of those Tobins. And that makes me just like they are. What I busted my back all those years trying not to be.

Like Will Munny, Clint Eastwood’s character in Unforgiven many, many years later, Link Jones is a man with a violent past who fancies himself reformed, and like Will Munny, you’ll find yourself wanting Link to go back to being the man he swore he’d never be again; at least long enough to save the day. Played by Gary Cooper (56 at the time) in one of his best roles, Link used to run with the Tobin gang, a savage bunch led by his Uncle Doc (Cobb). Now Link is a small-town family man, riding a train west to Fort Worth to find and hire a school teacher for his community. Along the way, he meets Sam Beasley (O’Connell), an amiable gambler, and Billie Ellis (London), a beautiful saloon singer who catches his attention despite his already being married, but he also runs into the new Tobin gang with Uncle Doc still pulling the strings. Man of the West was made during the 1950s classic era of westerns and apparently wasn’t all that successful. Still, famed French filmmaker, Jean-Luc Godard, gave it a glowing review and perhaps he saw clearly that it’s ahead of its time. Man of the West is an early revisionist western with a compelling brutal streak. It’s hero has a checkered past, to say the least. It’s villains are unspeakably ugly and evil. The innocent get caught in the middle and the film is clearly not beholden to your cursory Hollywood, happy ending.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Tall T (1957, Directed by Budd Boetticher) English 9

Starring Randolph Scott, Maureen O’Sullivan, Richard Boone, Henry Silva, Arthur Hunnicutt, Skip Homeier, John Hubbard

Don't Get What's So Great About Westerns? Start Here - The New York Times

(9-Great Film)

Lean. Brutal. Gripping.

Willard Mims: Would I save my own skin and leave my wife here?

Usher: I think you would.

Pat Brennan (Scott), just a hired hand, finds himself in the middle of a kidnapping as three violent outlaws (Boone, Silva, and Homeier) hold up his stagecoach and ransom off its female passenger, Doretta Mims (O’Sullivan), the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Her scheming husband soon leaves her behind, so it’s up to Brennan to help her. Boetticher and Scott made a number of fine films together, none finer than The Tall T. Not a moment wasted, no superfluous detail or action, and surprisingly brutal, The Tall T seems at once old-fashioned (in the best sense) and original. Stripped down to the bare essentials, the emphasis then becomes its characters who are fascinating and well-played. Brennan’s budding relationships with Doretta and the leader of the outlaws, Usher, are unpredictable and give the film its suspense. Top-tier western.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Vera Cruz (1954, Directed by Robert Aldrich) English 8

Starring Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Denise Darcel, Cesar Romero, Sara Montiel, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, George Macready, Morris Ankrum, Jack Elam

The Ace Black Movie Blog: Movie Review: Vera Cruz (1954)

(8-Exceptional Film)

Violent. Exciting. Compelling.

Benjamin Trane: You just can’t do enough for me, can yuh, Joe?

Joe Erin: Why not? You’re the first friend I ever had.

Friends, indeed. Much of the underlying drama in Vera Cruz centers around this so-called friendship. Ben Trane’s (Cooper) older, seems wiser and less violent, but that doesn’t stop him from being mercenary when he can. He’s an ex-confederate soldier trying to start again below the border, during the Franco-Mexican War. His new partner, Joe Erin (Lancaster), has been there longer and built up a reputation as the most lethal crook around. They’re hired by Emperor Maximilian (Macready) himself to escort the beautiful-and treacherous-Countess Marie (Darcel) to Vera Cruz. There’s a good deal of plot in this film for a western and a number of relationships. The two male stars’ is the most interesting. The relationships between the stars and their love interests aren’t hard to figure out and their outcomes are more or less predictable. Trane and Erin’s relationship is more tenuous and I, for one, wasn’t sure how it would shake out. Vera Cruz, though slight in running time, feels like a great big western. Expansive setting, a large cast of characters, an abundance of plot, as mentioned. Despite finding Cooper unimpressive and rather stiff in westerns, he gets the job done here, and Lancaster wasn’t afraid to put his star power on the line to play crazed characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014, Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour) Persian 7

Starring Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Dominic Rains, Rome Shadanloo, Ana Lily Amirpour

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night' Gets Stunning New Trailer - Bloody  Disgusting

(7-Very Good Film)

Cool. Affected. Intriguing.

The Girl: I’m bad.

A film marketed as the first Iranian Vampire Western is sure to be looking for cool points, therefore, it could hardly achieve the effortless cool of an old Steve McQueen flick. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is calculated; the soundtrack, the black and white photography, vampires. It’s a cavalcade of hipster touchstones. That being said, hipsters are people too, and I’m probably one, at my core. This is a hypnotically interesting movie. In a town simply called “Bad City,” corruption and moral decay abound. Arash, a young man with a good heart in a bad situation, meets the Girl (Vand), ominous and beautiful. A vampire, she lurks through town, righteous and violent, much as Clint Eastwood used to in old spaghetti westerns as the Man with No Name. Spaghetti westerns are clearly the biggest influence on this bizarre work; desolate town, sparse dialogue, visual storytelling, moral anti-hero. By its end, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night does what it set out to do. It’s a cool movie.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Day of the Outlaw (1959, Directed by André De Toth) English 8

Starring Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, Tina Louise, Alan Marshal, Venetia Stevenson, Jack Lambert, David Nelson, Elisha Cook Jr.

Day of the Outlaw | Trailers From Hell

(8-Exceptional Film)

Bleak. Brutal. Beautiful.

Doc Langer: Well, I gave him a big shot of morphine. It deadens pain, makes the patient feel fine, but as soon as this dose wears off, he’s going to start coughing. Each cough’s going to rip the lungs a little bit more. A few hours after he starts coughing, he’s going to die.

The snow falls. The wind rages. A dying horse can be see almost crawling, slowly, on its knees. Set in 19th century Wyoming, this is a brutal environment, and Day of the Outlaw has a story to match it. Robert Ryan plays Blaise Starrett, a hard man and a steamroller. He’s in the middle of a land dispute with Hal Crane, and, perhaps more to the point, he’s having an affair with Crane’s wife, Helen (Louise). The two seem destined for a showdown that’s been a long time coming, but when it finally does come, their confrontation is interrupted by the arrival of a gang of outlaws, led by Jack Bruhn (Ives). Now all the townsfolk, even Blaise and Hal, have to work together to save their homes. Beautifully shot in black and white, perfectly capturing the relentlessly harsh setting, Day of the Outlaw is an outstanding, unique western. Like Rawhide years earlier, it blends the western genre with elements of a home-invasion thriller.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Bend of the River (1952, Directed by Anthony Mann) English 7

Starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Julie Adams, Rock Hudson, Howard Petrie, Chubby Johnson, Harry Morgan, Royal Dano, Lori Nelson, Jay C. Flippen

Bend Of The River | Movies ala Mark

(7-Very Good Film)

Exciting. Complex. Proficient.

Glyn McLyntock: You’ll be seeing me. You’ll be seeing me. Everytime you bed down for the night, you’ll look back to the darkness and wonder if I’m there. And some night, I will be. You’ll be seeing me!

Glyn McLyntock. What a name. It could only have been born out of the pages of some dime-store western novel, which is the case here. Played by James Stewart, Glyn is an old raider, an ex-criminal, out to prove to himself and his new group of friends-Jeremy Baile (Flippen) and his two beautiful daughters- that he’s reformed. He’s helping a group of settlers establish a life out in the wilderness of 19th century Oregon, but when a greedy businessman holds out on their supplies, it’s up to Glyn to get them for his new adopted town. Complicating matters is Glyn’s new friend, Emerson Cole (Kennedy), also an ex-raider, not nearly as reformed. Excellent western drama with a number of exciting action sequences. Better still, the complex characters portrayed by Stewart and Kennedy. Rather than the simple classic westerns that dominated the ’40s, it’s hard to tell where this story is going. Add to that, the good guys and bad guys eschew the black and white characterizations of those films and instead occupy the gray in-between area.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Far Country (1954, Directed by Anthony Mann) English 7

Starring James Stewart, Walter Brennan, Ruth Roman, Corinne Calvet, John McIntire, Jack Elam, Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan

The Far Country (1954) — The Movie Database (TMDb)

(7-Very Good Film)

Gripping. Lean. Rewarding.

Jeff Webster: I don’t need other people. I don’t need help. I can take care of me.

From the moment Jeff Webster (Stewart in one of his five collaborations with director, Anthony Mann) drives into Dawson City, Yukon, he’s indifference personified. Something must have happened in his past to make him like this, but, as far as I can clearly recall, it’s never clearly explained. He’s a hard man; the type the people of Dawson City desperately need, if he could only care enough to help them. It’s the close of the 19th century and Yukon is booming with gold. A corrupt judge, Judge Gannon (McIntire) with dozens of men on his payroll is moving in on claims hardworking miners have already staked. Anthony Mann and Stewart’s collaborations are referred to as psychological westerns. The designation fits but it almost spoils how deceptively simple they are. The setup in all five films are a dime a dozen. Here, a jaded antihero doesn’t want to get involved but has his hand forced. You, no doubt, have seen a film or two like that before. I think the key is that this setup is infinitely satisfying. As long as you keep refreshing it with new characters and a fresh take, it can always be effective. Anthony Mann, as far as I can see, really introduced the antihero to the mainstream westerns. Classic westerns tend to revolve around irreproachable male figures. John Wayne and Henry Fonda were saints in a large portion of their westerns. We are definitely rooting for Stewart in The Far Country but we’re rooting for him to finally do the right thing as much as we are for him to fight. Judge Gannon makes for a truly despicable villain and it all builds to an immensely satisfying finale. Preeminent character actor, Walter Brennan, plays Jeff’s partner, Ben.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Gunfight at the O.K Corral (1957, Directed by John Sturges) English 6

Starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Jo Van Fleet, DeForest Kelly, Dennis Hopper, John Ireland, Jack Elam, Lee Van Cleef

Classicman Film en Twitter: "'Gunfight at the OK Corral' (1957 ...

 (6-Good Film)

Solid. Dramatic. Rousing.

Wyatt Earp: All gunfighters are lonely. They live in fear. They die without a dime, a woman, or a friend.

You can see the outlines of a more thoughtful western in Gunfight at the O.K Corral. Wyatt Earp, as portrayed in the film, is unmarried (historically inaccurate, for those who care) and we see the toll his duty, his profession take on his personal life represented by miss Laura Denbow (Fleming). He’s a marshall in title, but above all, he’s a man who brings law and order to western towns without scruples. Why does he do this? It’s a thankless job. One that pays in notoriety rather than material wealth. This is the root of John Sturges’ take on Wyatt Earp and it’s an interesting take, but apparently, Sturges had his hands tied to a degree by Paramount and producer, Hal B. Wallis. The result is a film that feels compromised and unfulfilled intellectually while still delivering as a rousing, solidly made western superficially. Kirk Douglas plays Doc Holliday and the strength of this movie is the compelling, budding friendship between him and Earp. The ending, eponymous gunfight is also nicely done.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Mercenary (1968, Directed by Sergio Corbucci) English 5

Starring Franco Nero, Jack Palance, Tony Musante, Giovanna Ralli, Eduardo Fajardo, Franco Giacobini

Jack Palance as Curly in The Mercenary (1968) | Once Upon a Time ...

(5-Okay Film)

Jumbled. Undeveloped. Uneven.

Kowalski: When our story began, Paco was only a peon. But one… with a difference.

Sergio Leone made great spaghetti western epics by stretching about twenty minutes of plot into 3-hour films. He understood revenge is an infinitely compelling character motivation. The Mercenary, directed by Sergio Corbucci (a talented director of many excellent westerns, some great), tries to condense several hours worth of plot into an hour and fifty minutes. The film follows Paco (Musante), who goes from peasant to revolutionary, through the eyes of a seemingly indifferent Polish mercenary, Kowalski (Nero), and a garble of flashback, obscure narration, and Mexican history. The result is an often confusing film with scattered moments of inspiration and sometimes greatness. The score, for instance, by Ennio Morricone, is as beautiful a piece of music as you’re ever likely to hear. Jack Palance plays the villain, Curly, sporting one of cinema’s worst haircuts (he resembles Little Debbie and it’s frightening). Unfortunately, The Mercenary squanders his performance.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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