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Author Topic: Westerns  (Read 37192 times)

1SO

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #370 on: December 06, 2018, 01:16:42 PM »
Son of Paleface - Regarded as the better film because of Frank Tashlin, but this was only his 2nd feature and he was still developing bringing his animators eye into live action. I don't have a preference between the two Paleface films. They mesh together in my mind.

The Big Sky - I still enjoy the film, but agree with everything you say. It's probably too high on my ranking of Hawks.

The Lusty Men - Because Nicholas Ray made some iconic films - Rebel Without a Cause, Johnny Guitar, In a Lonely Place - this one gets overlooked. It's a career high point for Ray, Mitchum, Kennedy and Hayward. This is a major reason why I'm a fan of those three actors.

Hangman's Knot - This is one I haven't seen. Was planning to watch it with you, but now there's no motivation except for the fact that eventually I watch everything.

Calamity Jane - This is an attempt to recapture the musical magic of Annie Get Your Gun. Doris Day has never been so over-the-top, but few actors have ever played any part this big. There are two wonderful musical numbers and a really fun duet. I own the movie for that (and because I found it for $5.)

Antares

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #371 on: March 14, 2019, 05:06:18 PM »
Are you coming back to this, this month? Seems like the perfect time.
Masterpiece (100-91) | Classic (90-80) | Entertaining (79-69) | Mediocre (68-58) | Cinemuck (57-21) | Crap (20-0)

Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #372 on: March 15, 2019, 07:21:01 AM »
I've been posting directly in the Once Upon a March in the West thread. Need to catch up with writing a few reviews presently.
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Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #373 on: February 16, 2021, 02:18:01 PM »
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Stanley Donen, 1954)

As I once again find myself on the Western trail, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is the perfect title to return to. Many of the titles in this Westerns marathon were films I had not seen before, but this is an exception. The rare western musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is notable for a couple different reasons that I will try to speak to in this review, but suffice it to say, itís a little controversial, but also legendary and incredible, making for an interesting conversation. Itís a film I love: fun, but maybe not so wholesome. Partially based and referencing ďThe Rape of the Sabine WomenĒ, itís a film that is problematic, but itís also interesting to examine how the film handles these ďnot so greatĒ scenarios. The last thing Iíll say about this film before getting more into it would simply be that this is a frontier western, not a traditional boot spur and revolver western, making it an even rarer breed.

Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) is the eldest of 7 brothers living in the mountains in frontier Oregon Territory. Looking for a wife, Adam ventures into town and finds Milly (Jane Powell), Adamís perfect match. Sheís strong, independent, and willing to stand up for herself. When she discovers the Ponipee brothersí homestead, she finds she has her work cut out for herself. Milly puts her foot down immediately, forcing the brothers (Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Rall, Matt Mattox, Jacques díAmboise, Mark Platt) to practice common sense hygiene and manners, two things that were seriously lacking. Taking to Milly so well, the brothers ask her to help them find wives, which leads to barn raising party where they each meet wonderful girls they wish to court. But Adam quickly undermines Milly, suggesting the men sneak into town and carry the women away. During the kidnapping, the mountain pass is blocked by avalanche, forcing the girls to adjust to life with the Pontipeeís throughout the winter until the pass thaws and they can be rescued.

Letís just start right off with it: the Pontipeeís kidnapping the women and ďforcingĒ them to fall in love with them is unforgivable. Itís horrible. It was horrible in 1850s Oregon, it was horrible in 1950s Hollywood, and itís still horrible today. There really is no other way to address this. Itís morally reprehensible however you cut it. Sure, you can make arguments about them being in love already, about how they treated them once they were on the farm, it could have been worse, but thatís more terrifying than it is relieving to say. Iím not sure how I can best reckon with this part of the story because itís not easy and I can fully understand any viewer being too turned off by this plot point to even consider anything else in the movie. And Iím not going to insert a ďbutĒ here. Itís not great, and in fact itís worse than ďnot greatĒ.

So what about the rest of the film? Well, as a musical, it has some really good numbers, including the opening song from bass-baritone Howard Keel, and the beautifully synchronized number from the brothers as they chop and saw wood. The choreography is what really stands out as remarkable in this film. The barn raising sequence, which comes in three parts, is one of the most incredible things Iíve ever seen set to film. The rhythm and staging of the gymnastics, dancing and fight scene are breathtakingly great. Each performer is given an opportunity somewhere in the film to show off their physical abilities. Itís just a very easy film to bring a smile to my face with its ridiculous behavior (kidnapping notwithstanding), fun musical numbers, and incredible choreography. It doesnít hurt that the Oregon frontier looks great in Technicolor too. The middle section of the film really carries this film to be a great film.

But we do have to reckon with the kidnapping part, and thatís very hard. I have, ultimately, dinged the film a full star for this, not that the punishment really resolves anything, or absolves the film of its crimes, but the rest of the film is too dang gone good for me to ignore. Again, I can debate away the morality of the characters: Milly set the boys straight; they were in love already anyway. Anything I can say is only an excuse, not a viable reason. For that reason this rests right below my favorite films of all time, because honestly, without it, itíd be one of my all-time favorites, which makes this so hard.

★ ★ ★ ★ - Love It
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1SO

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #374 on: February 16, 2021, 09:58:56 PM »
As I once again find myself on the Western trail, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is the perfect title to return to.
People think we always agree, but if I was returning to Westerns, Iíd be looking for the classic elements of sheriffs and shootouts. Iíd want a reliable western star and something familiar. 7B47B uses Western as a period setting, a time and a place because itís too weird a story to make contemporary. (Heck the original story is B.C. Roman, back when ďRapeĒ meant abduction and not sexual assault.) It's not in my Top 5 Westerns of 1954. (All 5 are in your Marathon.)

I wouldnít beat yourself up too much about the plot. Be thankful itís a musical and not a realistic period piece. Musicals sometimes use questionable plots like this, but theyíre sweet and innocent in nature. Itís like how often Noir uses murder but doesnít want you to dwell seriously on the taking of a life. Theyíre just actors and theyíll die over and over again. Westerns have a history of treating women far worse than this, and with Indians itís even worse and more common.

Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #375 on: February 17, 2021, 07:51:43 AM »
I think I was able to mostly put the morally questionable stuff to the side, still rating it 4/5 and loving the hell out of it, but I have to admit to having to grapple with it while I was watching it again, having seen it a few times before and having never spent much time reckoning with it.

As for this being the entry back onto the trail, I think knowing it was one I'd seen before and loved is mostly what I meant. It's welcoming to come back to something familiar and something I knew I would love instead of a random crap shoot that may or may not be good.
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Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #376 on: February 22, 2021, 01:14:46 PM »
Silver Lode (Allan Dwan, 1954)

The joy of doing a deep dive into a single genre, especially one as popular and voluminous as Westerns, is that the genre itself runs the gambit. There are tons of films to check out when given the generic label of ďwesternĒ, which means big budget, small budget, comedy, drama, romance, etc. Westerns arenít really a genre even, just a specific time and place in which a story can unfold, and even in that regard, the possibilities are endless. I open with all this commentary because Silver Lode is a very small film, one that I am willing to bet very few casual fans of the genre may have seen. And as such, itís a hidden gem for everything it does right, while also being an incredibly small and underwhelming production in terms of values. Silver Lode is a great example of what you can get with a great story probably produced on the cheap and in a hurry. Itís an easy recommend to any fan of the genre, but anyone looking for the greatest films of all time will likely see the warts instead of focusing on the beauty hidden deep within.

Dan Ballard (John Payne) has been a stand up resident in Silver Lode for two years, becoming a friend and contributor to the community. But on his wedding day, a gang of US Marshalls led by a man named McCarty (Dan Duryea), comes to town with a warrant for Ballard for the murder of McCartyís brother. Swearing of his innocence, Ballard tries to gain the sympathy of his bride (Lizabeth Scott) and the other townspeople. But as McCarty and his gang begin to present evidence, a series of events unfolds in the most unfortunate manner for Ballard to be able to prove his innocence. Given his newly dire circumstance, Ballard must now fight tooth and nail to prove his innocence, instead of being given the benefit of the doubt from the townspeople, who after two years are now beginning to turn on him.

Itís very interesting to compare taste across multiple subjects. Often various aspects of a film are weighed completely differently, which is one of the many charms of movies and trying to evaluate and discuss them. For instance, Iím often a big fan of production values like beautiful sets/costumes and cinematography, including locations, while others might focus more on the acting performances, or camera movements, or screenwriting/plotting. All are integral to the success of a movie, and I value them all very highly (and would like to think I can identify and praise any aspect when done extremely well). With Silver Lode, the screenwriting is the greatest achievement, taking a very lean story, but positioning it just so, and developing minor details and scenarios that play out nearly picture perfect. Itís a wonder to see Ballard navigate the many pitfalls to find his way to innocence and justice. Itís among one of the best storylines/executions in the marathon to date.

However, I will say it plays out much like a B-movie western, which isnít meant as an insult, there are some great B-movies out there, this one included. But what I mean is that the acting is nothing significant, and you can easily tell this is being shot with limited locations likely on a backlot of a studio somewhere with building/rooms that have been used for countless other westerns of the era. Hard to criticize a studio for being thrifty, but I think this style does create a ceiling to a film that doesnít necessary transcend in any other area. What results is a very strong film, and one I can happily recommend to genre enthusiasts. Itís a wonderful artifact of a style of filmmaking that no longer exists sadly. And I do mean sadly. Not every movie needs to be Gone with the Wind, for instance. There is great value in the quickly made, craftsman-style films of the studio era. Silver Lode is a prime example of this. Perhaps Iím being too hard on a film like this though, as itís nearly at the pinnacle of its potential given the restraints. There is much to be said about something like that. I may need to rewatch at some point out in the future to grow my appreciation of an otherwise very strong film.

★ ★ ★ - Like It
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1SO

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #377 on: February 22, 2021, 01:52:36 PM »
Silver Lode's beauty ain't that deep. It's all over Duryea's sweaty, grimy face.

I get your point about the production value, but I wonder what is the right level of sheen for this script. You don't want to make Shane out of it because it's closer to the tight atmosphere of 12 Angry Men. It's set outdoors, but you don't want a wide Western expanse. Perhaps a little more detail within the sets so that it doesn't look like they just used the furniture from the film that shot there last month. Because of the low budget, I focus mostly on the performances and the script, which is why I won't shut up about this one.

BTW, love the image you used. Captures the flavor better than any screenshot. 

Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #378 on: February 22, 2021, 02:51:49 PM »
Because of the low budget, I focus mostly on the performances and the script, which is why I won't shut up about this one.

I get your point, but I also didn't particularly love any of the performances, so another reason for me to like it a little less than you. But knowing you loved this movie, I couldn't help but think about why while watching the film and writing my review, which clearly was influenced by this mindset. I watched it and knew exactly why you love it.
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Re: Westerns
« Reply #379 on: February 24, 2021, 11:35:04 AM »
Track of the Cat (William A. Wellman, 1954)

SNOW WESTERN ALERT! One of the rarest of sub-genres makes an appearance with Track of the Cat, the snow western is not often the first thing someone thinks of when it comes to westerns. Dry, brown deserts with lawlessness and gunplay are at the top of the mind, but the wonder of the western is the ability to have numerous sub-genres. The snow western has long been a favorite of mine, as we get to venture up into the mountains and get a different look at life on the frontier during these times where modern conveniences were decades off from existence. Nowadays, people take winter vacations to the picturesque mountains to spend time in heated log cabins, luxuriating around the fireplace, or enjoying time in the hot tub after a long day of skiing, but back in the frontier days, it was a dangerous time where survival was top of mind. With harsh winter conditions snowing you into your abode for the winter, and the threat of wildlife right outside, I canít imagine it was an easy life style. But that being said, at least the picturesque mountains and snow were still a part of the landscape.

The Bridges family have a ranch in the mountains, and winter has set in. When one morning their hired hand, Joe Sam (Carl Switzer) hears the cows mooing, a certain sign of a panther on the prowl, Curt (Robert Mitchum) and his brother Arthur (William Hopper) set out into the snow-riddled mountains to find it. Curt soon returns home for more provisions, walking in on the domestic drama at play at home as younger brother Harold (Tab Hunter) is courting Gwen (Diana Lynn), which causes friction with old maid sister Grace (Teresa Wright), Ma (Beulah Bondi) and alcoholic Pa (Philip Tonge). While Arthur is left alone in the wilderness, he is attacked and killed by the panther, leaving Curt out on his own to track down the cat, and return home to settle the stir crazy disputes at home.

For such an opportunity as this, a snow western, I must say I was let down in more than a few ways. First off is the use of both landscape and color photography. A little research suggests that Wellman wanted to make this film in black and white, and after watching it I would say he might as well have. There is no pop of color or other stunning incorporation of contrast or bold colors, other than Mitchumís red coat. A missed chance indeed. The landscape is another missed chance. For a film about tracking a panther in the snow covered mountains, there are few shots of the majestic peaks, and to be honest, far too much time is spent inside the house following the various familial dynamics at play, downplaying the entire adventurous pursuit of the panther by Curt, at once sidelining both the picturesque mountains and the most interesting and dynamic performer in the cast, Robert Mitchum. It really is a missed opportunity in my eyes.

That being said, there is still plenty to glean from the film on the positive. First and foremost, getting the chance to see Robert Mitchum work is always a joy. I donít think this role/performance is nearly his best, but he is a magnetic star and his on screen presence is undeniable. The domesticity of the proceeding, while not the direction I would have enjoyed a story like this to take, do have a certain intrigue and universality among them. Teresa Wright, an actress I quite like, is kind of forgettable as the old maid sister, but I enjoyed seeing the back and forth with Gwen and Harold and Ma and Pa, even if Tab Hunter is just a pretty face and not a very good actor. In the end, thereís just not enough action to carry the film from start to finish. I wanted more time with the wilderness, not nearly enough exciting happens out there, especially for a film titled Track of the Cat. I also wanted a little more in the domestic drama given that we get just enough to be intrigued, but not enough to carry the whole film. It splits its attention and as a result neither scenario is fleshed out enough to satisfaction, leaving two incomplete movies. Wellman should have either picked a lane or committed more to both.

★ ★ - Don't Like It
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