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-

(977)

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-

(967)

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-

(956)

Yellow Sky (1948, Directed by William A. Wellman) English 7

Starring Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter, Richard Widmark, John Russell, Harry Morgan, Robert Arthur, James Barton

Shirtless Gregory Peck and John Russell in Yellow Sky (1948 ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Brash. Tense. Strong.

“Hell is empty
And all the devils are here.”-The Tempest

As far as I’m concerned, uncouth as I am, William Shakespeare’s greatest contribution was to film; the inspiration he gave to so many different movie scripts. Yellow Sky, a very fine, surprisingly brutal western starring Gregory Peck and Richard Widmark, springs from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Peck leads a band of thieves across a scorching desert until they finally reach an apparently abandoned old western town. There, they meet an old prospector who goes by “Grandpa” and his beautiful granddaughter who goes by “Mike” (Baxter). The thieves are smart enough to see that the two are holding out on  something; probably gold. Peck and his gang stick around and, in the meantime, jostle around for attention from Mike. Much rougher than most westerns from this era, even Peck is less lovable hero than forgivable rogue.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Magnificent Seven (1960, Directed by John Sturges) English 7

Starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, Horst Buchholz, Eli Wallach, Vladimir Sokoloff, Rosenda Monteros

The Magnificent Seven

(7-Very Good Film)

Fun. Rousing. Derivative.

Chris: You forget one thing. We took a contract.

Vin: It’s sure not the kind any court would enforce.

Chris: That’s just the kind you’ve got to keep.

Based on Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven moves the story to the old west, south of the border, to a small village in Mexico. Terrorized routinely by a nearby gang of thugs, led by Calvera (Wallach), the village has had enough and looks to hire outsiders to come and protect them. They find honorable drifters Chris Adams (Brynner) and Vin Tanner (McQueen) who do the work of assembling a team that includes the soft-hearted local mercenary, Bernardo (Bronson), the mysterious outlaw, Lee (Vaughn), the fortune-seeking friend of Adams, Harry (Dexter), the young hot-head, Chico (Buchholz), and my personal favorite, laconic Britt (Coburn). The Magnificent Seven works from an infinitely promising premise. There have been a number of variations of this theme; the bereaved town, the stranger who comes to save them (or in this case strangers). It’s a thrill and The Magnificent Seven adds to this an iconic score and an indelible cast of some of the coolest guys to ever grace the screen. If it pales in comparison to Seven Samurai, that’s okay, most films do.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(931)

The Second Time Around (1961, Directed by Vincent Sherman) English 6

Starring Debbie Reynolds, Andie Griffith, Steve Forrest, Juliet Prowse, Thelma Ritter, Ken Scott, Timothy Carey

The Second Time Around (1961)

(6-Good Film)

Pleasant. Well-cast. Unpretentious.

Tagline: She’s tangling with he-men who want to stay free-men… And showing you what a gal’s gotta do to get a guy to say “I do”

Widowed Lu Rogers (Reynolds) heads west for an opportunity at prosperity and independence from her domineering mother-in-law. Upon arrival, however, she finds that life in Arizona isn’t what was promised but takes up hard labor working for Ms. Aggie Gates (Ritter) to get by. Still, marriage seems the best option, and while Aggie steers her to the kind rancher, Pat Collins (Griffith), Lu can’t get the roguish saloon owner, Dan Jones (Forrest), out of her head. Modest, satisfying entertainment, The Second Time Around works best as a strong vehicle for its star, Debbie Reynolds, who excels in the role. She’s surprisingly good at the physical comedy. The supporting cast is wonderful as well. It’s always fun seeing Andy Griffith before he became a T.V icon and Thelma Ritter, one of the great character actors, is endearing.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(916)

The Bravados (1958, Directed by Henry King) English 8

Starring Gregory Peck, Joan Collins, Stephen Boyd, Henry Silva, Lee Van Cleef, Albert Salmi, Barry Coe

The Bravados - Film | Park Circus

(8-Exceptional Film)

Surprising. Violent. Gripping.

Sheriff Sanchez: We want you to know we’ll always be grateful… and in our hearts always.

Jim Douglass: Thank you… and in your prayers, please.

The Bravados begins as so many exceptional westerns do, with a mysterious stranger riding into town. Here, the mysterious stranger is Jim Douglass (Peck). We know his name but not his motives and he arrives in town not long after a gang of violent thugs are arrested. The suspicious townsfolk wonder if he’s there to help the bad men escape, but once they do escape, Douglass is called on to recapture them. Having his own private reasons for wanting the criminals dead, he accepts. Gregory Peck is surely one of the best of the old stoic leading men. No matter how colorful his supporting cast or surroundings, he’s never upstaged. This is a juicy role for the actor and not quite his typical heroic lead. Douglass is a violent, complicated man. Perhaps one of the few antiheroes Peck ever played. The story’s also a good one; gripping and ultimately surprising.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Gunfighter (1950, Directed by Henry King) English 8

Starring Gregory Peck, Jean Parker, Helen Westcott, Millard Mitchell, Karl Malden, Skip Hoemeier, Richard Jaeckel

THE GUNFIGHTER (1950) - Local bad boy (Skip Homier) trues to goad ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Thoughtful. Serious. Affecting.

Peggy Walsh: When did you get this idea, Jim?

Jimmy Ringo: Well I didn’t get it, it just kinda’ came over me. The way gettin’ older comes over ya. All of a sudden you look at things different than the way ya did five years ago. All of a sudden I knew this was the only thing in the world I wanted.

I’d seen The Big Country and Duel in the Sun. I’m a fan of both, but those felt like anomalies in Gregory Peck’s filmography. I’ve never looked at him as an actor fit for westerns. Over the past week, I’ve watched three films that have changed my mind. The first was The Gunfighter and it’s likely the best. He plays the notorious Jimmy Ringo. Ringo wanders into town looking to talk with his estranged wife and son. He’s older now. Being a famous quickdraw isn’t as appealing as it once was. Everywhere he goes, some young gun wants to kill him; to take the mantle from him. Essentially, he has death following him and he can’t outrun his reputation. It was pointed out to me, and it’s an interesting point, that The Gunfighter would seem to be material typically portrayed in a film noir. Classic westerns are generally fun, adventurous, shoot ’em-ups. The Gunfighter is a foreboding character piece. The hero is a world-weary criminal. It’s one of the best of the classic westerns with a strong central performance by Peck, filled out by an excellent supporting cast (particularly Millard Mitchell).

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(908)

El Dorado (1966, Directed by Howard Hawks) English 8

Starring John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Arthur Hunnicutt, Charlene Holt, Michele Carey, Christopher George, Ed Asner, R.G Armstrong

Image result for el dorado film

(8-Exceptional Film)

Fun. Endearing. Rousing.

Apparently, its director, the legendary Howard Hawks, claimed this film wasn’t a remake of Rio Bravo, one of his earlier works and one of his best. I’m not sure who he was trying to fool. It clearly is, and more than that, I don’t know why he felt the need. No one’s complaining. At least not now, forty years later. I’m certainly not. Rio Bravo is a bonafide classic. So is El Dorado. It stars John Wayne as Cole Thorton, a gun for hire, who strolls into the troubled town of El Dorado to find an old friend, J.P Harrah (Mitchum), is the sheriff. Harrah fills Cole in on the situation: a greedy businessman, Bart Jason (Asner), is hiring men to bully land away from a local family, the McDonalds. Time passes before anything comes of this situation and when it comes, Harrah has devolved into the town drunk after a woman leaves him. It’s up to Cole, Harrah’s loyal friend and Indian fighter, Bull (Hunnicutt), and a young hotshot named Mississippi (Cann) to protect the McDonald family while helping Harrah to come to in time to turn the tide. Jason has a lot of men led by a mercenary, McLeod (George), who knows what he’s doing. Fantastic classic western made in a time when revisionist westerns ruled, El Dorado is terrific fun. The ending is slightly unsatisfying. Not that it’s a bad ending; it might even be the right ending, but like its characters, I wanted to see Thorton and McLeod face off. As it stands, the good guys basically cheated. Also, you’ll have to ignore a quick interlude in which Caan pretends to be a “chinaman.” Other than that though, this is one of my favorite westerns.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(868)

The King and Four Queens (1956, Directed by Raoul Walsh) English 6

Starring Clark Gable, Eleanor Parker, Jean Willes, Jo Van Fleet, Barbara Nichols, Sarah Shane

Image result for the king and four queens

(6-Good Film)

Risqué. Alluring. Tame.

Scoundrel, Dan Kehoe (Gable), wanders into some random, dusty town in the American West and learns about a house full of women guarding an immense fortune that their deceased husbands stole years back. Attempting to worm his way into their house, their hearts, and their pockets proves more difficult than he expects. Not because of the four women themselves but the mother-in-law, Ma McCade (Van Fleet), a harsh, old bird who turns out to be the only one who actually knows where the money is. The setup is there for a fun, bawdy western, and nobody plays a better scoundrel than Gable, but ultimately The King and Four Queens plays it pretty safe and never manufactures much in the way of suspense. Instead, it’s satisfied to merely have Gable flirt with the beautiful ladies on screen. That’s enough to entertain but not to make the film essential.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-
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