Author Topic: Once Upon a March in the West -2017  (Read 1885 times)

Sandy

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #20 on: March 03, 2017, 04:58:18 PM »
High Noon



A highly watchable psychological study on human rationalization. I'm uneasy, because I can see how I might use any one of the type of excuses of the different townspeople. The last movie I watched, Persepolis, stated, "Fear is what lulls our minds to sleep and makes us lose our conscience. Fear is also what turns us into cowards." Sometimes it's difficult to know which choices are made with a form of wisdom, but wise or no, it's still cowardice to leave one man alone to carry out justice. Maybe Marshal Kane should have left town, but that still leaves a void, with a small posse of men at large, looking for revenge. If not Kane, they'll take it out on whoever is available. Strange how the town folk don't come to that conclusion.

The bold as brass confrontation of Miller and his men confound me, unless they know a thing or two about human nature and are betting on the town leaving Kane to his own defense. But, that seems pretty far fetched. It's a plot device in an excellent allegory, so I let it slide. There is one thing I would have liked to explore and that is Kane's relationship with Helen. I want to know their story. How did it begin and why did it end? Amy is lovely, but Helen has fire. Too combustible for Kane perhaps, but it still would have been a very interesting story to be privy too.

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1SO

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #21 on: March 03, 2017, 10:58:07 PM »

Posse (1975)

Star Kirk Douglas also Produced and Directed Posse, but even after decades in the business I'm not sure what he picked up from others who worked behind the camera. It's a polished film, with expert cinematography, period detail and a nice score, but the story is told in a very matter-of-fact manner. Good guy catches bad guy, bad guy escapes to take good guy prisoner, the two realize they have a lot in common. Shades of 3:10 to Yuma, but that film had great shadings with the characters themselves. This just recalls the superior film.

What gives Posse some distinction is the climate of the time in which it was made. Like many mid 70s films set in the modern day there's mistrust of authority figures (often proven right over time), paranoia about who the real good guys are, and a sense that good people end up happier when they do what's good for themselves instead of doing for the good of the town. It's there, but I wish Douglas had a director who could really dig into those themes instead of just dropping them into our lap.
Rating: * * 1/2

Dave the Necrobumper

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #22 on: March 04, 2017, 03:44:11 PM »
I was wonderin' and holdin' onto a few just in case.

Django Kill... If You Live, Shoot! (1967)

Go in with low expectations.

1SO

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #23 on: March 04, 2017, 10:47:22 PM »

Lawman (1971)
"He was a big mouth who thought he was a good man with a gun.
There's a cold hole in the ground between the two."


One of the great qualities of the Western genre is how pliable it is. They can be blockbuster-level, popcorn entertainment with simple good vs. evil storylines or they can tackle deep moral questions, unanswerable ethical dilemmas played out in a dramatized simulation. Lawman is of the 2nd variety. On the surface, the story couldn't be more simple. The sheriff of Bannock (Burt Lancaster) rides into Sabbath to collect a list of men, one of whom is responsible for accidentally killing an elderly man in his town.

Would that it were so simple.

The wanted men and the town itself owe their livelihood to a wealthy cattle rancher (Lee J. Cobb) who is on the list himself. The sheriff of Sabbath (Robert Ryan) is a former hero, ("I remember you at Fort Bliss." "That's my trouble. Everybody remembers me at Fort Bliss,") now living out his days doing whatever the rancher tells him. The cowboys are not bad men but Lancaster doesn't care. He's gonna take em one way or the other because that's justice. As events play out his tough exterior reveals a broken soul with a reputation built more on killing troublemakers than keeping the peace.


"You say he didn't have a chance. He went for his gun first.
When he does that, he uses up all his chances."

I wish the film was better made. It's downright sloppy in places with shots that are over or under-lit, sound that sometimes echoes around the room, distracting camera moves including zooms that zoom in way too far and that fake 70s red blood. It's not a constant problem, just every now and then a moment goes by where you wish someone better was calling the shots. Meanwhile, the cast go deep into their characters uncertain attitudes. (Also on hand are Robert Duvall, Richard Jordan and a young Wilford Brimley.) You may have guessed from all the quotes that I'm also a fan of the screenplay. There's where I want to leave this, with one more quote.

If you were some cheap gunsel with a big name running out in front of you, they'd all be buying you drinks,
rubbing up against you, fixing up what they're going to tell their kids and the ones who weren't there.
But if you're a lawman, you're a disease. They need you, but they hate you."
Rating: * * * - Good
« Last Edit: March 04, 2017, 10:51:07 PM by 1SO »

1SO

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #24 on: March 05, 2017, 12:01:21 AM »

Mackenna's Gold (1969)

You want to disappoint Mr. and Mrs. 1SO, here's how you do it. For 40 minutes, the only recognizable faces in Mackenna's Gold are stars Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif. Then Eli Wallach appears to join up his gang with theirs and everyone can look for the gold together. Suddenly, familiar faces pop up everywhere. In the screenshot above are Peck and Sharif, Keenan Wynn, Lee J. Cobb, Raymond Massy, Burgess Meredith, Julie Newmar, Anthony Quale, Wallach and on the end sits Edward G. Robinson. The film has become a western Ocean's 11.

15 minutes later, almost all of them are gone in another direction. A couple of them show up later for one more scene, but the main cast goes down to Peck, Sharif, Newmar and a couple of people whose names I don't know. BOOOOOOOOOO!

The film itself is strange, with a lot of weird camera shots that doesn't work, bad effects (miniatures and obvious set backdrops cut poorly against location footage) an obnoxious performance by Sharif and one by Peck that's too laid back to register. I've seen a lot of Westerns, but this is the first to feature a musical ode to buzzards and an extended scene of nude swimming. (Sharif, who awkwardly finds ways to cover himself, and Newmar who puts it all out there.)
Rating: * *

Knocked Out Loaded

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #25 on: March 05, 2017, 05:22:19 PM »

Wichita (Jacques Tourneur, 1955).

Wyatt Earp arrives in Wichita to get a business started, but sooner rather than later he finds himself being appointed as sheriff. Wichita was becoming a cattle town and many men at the end of the trail wanted a slice of the glamorous life. As a consequence there was disturbance and Earp declared it illegal to carry firearms in public. Businessmen and politicians alike pulled in their horns and turned against Earp as a consequence.

Nothing much of these proceedings are true, according to Wikipedia anyway, but this 60+ years old movie takes on issues that feels as current today. From an outside perspective (I am Swedish) the U.S. legislation on firearms seems a bit careless and the problems Earp faced still exists to this day. Another similarity is how business folk and politicians interact in order to preserve power and economical benefits. These matters were the take away from the movie. The script felt written with a rather coarse pencil, while the acting was adequate. Maybe Tourner was better suited for darker themes? (It is a pity he made no film in 1945.)

30
I might remember it all differently tomorrow.

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #27 on: March 06, 2017, 10:03:22 AM »
Northwest Passage (King Vidor, 1940)

The beauty of the Western genre is, even though it may be summarized into just 7 different plots, it can still run the gambit. In this next installment in my never ending marathon of the genre, we get a taste at the frontier western. Some may not consider this a part of the genre, and it is a stretch, but for me, even though much of this film takes place in New Hampshire and Canada, it still has the same principles as many of the other films already reviewed here. Northwest Passage is a film about rugged men pushing forward into uncivilized lands. When I think about the old West, I think of uncivilized lands, which is why there were so many outlaws and bandits, so many mythical lawmen. If I open my imagination up enough, I can find a place for Northwest Passage as a western. That, however, doesn't necessarily mean it is a particularly good one.

After getting kicked out of Harvard College, Langdon Towne (Robert Young) heads home to Portsmouth where he runs into old friend Hunk (Walter Brennan). After failing to impress the father of Elizabeth Browne (Ruth Hussey) with his ambitions to become a painter, Langdon and Hunk get into a fight at the local tavern. After fleeing into the wilderness, they encounter Major Rogers (Spencer Tracy), who hires them on as part of his rangers. Rogers' Rangers trek through the northern wilderness to seek revenge against the Indians. But on their way, they encounter numerous perils, including hunger. As they work through the landscape toward Fort Wentworth, where they are to rendezvous and receive supplies, some of the men begin to doubt they'll ever make it.

I'm perfectly fine with classifying this as a Western, even if it feels a little different from what most would consider. Trade in the dust and sand and ghost towns for wilderness and you have the same basic concept. Maybe I just say that because it was a chance to see Spencer Tracy and Walter Brennan. Each are fine here, especially Brennan, as always. This is actually the first time I have seen Tracy and I enjoyed his performance as the rugged, confident leader. The other two notable performances, Robert Young and Walter Brennan, were also good, though stood out a little less. This is definitely Tracy's film once we are introduced to his character. Young is forgettable and standard, while Brennan is himself as always. I am starting to really enjoy every time he shows up in one of these Westerns.

The story itself here, however, is fairly unexciting, even given its promising premise. The trek through the wilderness is met with a few interesting and exciting moments, like when they must cross a rapids section of the river, and using his ingenuity, Major Rogers puts on a display of great strength and fortitude. But a major issue the film had was its treatment of Native Americans. From what I can gather, the treatment reflects that of the source material, but that is hardly an acceptable excuse. The main plot of the film centers around a group of British Rangers (this is pre-US) settling out to essentially exterminate a tribe of Indians for the purposes of British expansion. And the characters certainly show no appreciation for their culture, merely mowing their way through this lesser culture for the purpose of advancement. The racial treatment here is very problematic, and impossible to ignore.

There is some stunning color cinematography here, certainly an attraction. The wilderness makes for some beautiful shots throughout. One of stranger elements to this film is how it is really only the first part of a supposed trilogy, which never came about. This film was adapted from the first part of a novel, with the promise of the rest to follow, but the budget for Northwest Passage versus the money it made prompted producers to scrap the following projects. For this reason, the film feels partially incomplete, and renders the title of the film rather silly. I would be interested the see where the story takes us beyond its conclusion here. I don't see Northwest Passage as necessarily incomplete, but rather lacking in anything notable, expect perhaps its beautiful raw wilderness vistas and Tracy and Brennan's undeniable presence.

**1/2 - Average
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Corndog

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #28 on: March 06, 2017, 12:06:15 PM »
Virginia City (Michael Curtiz, 1940)

I have come to know that anytime Michael Curtiz directed a film, for the most part I'm sure, I should watch it. I have come to know that any time Errol Flynn starred in a film, for the most part I'm sure, I should watch it. The same can be said of a few of the other co-stars in Virginia City, most notably Humphrey Bogart and Randolph Scott. There is no doubt about it, the filmmaking team for Virginia City is a huge draw, and I was not disappointed by any of them. As I mentioned at the conclusion of my review of Dodge City, Virginia City seems like a natural sequel to that film, also from Curtiz and Flynn, but it is not. Instead, what we get with Virginia City is a thrilling original film built around a really strong concept for a western.

Kerry Bradford (Errol Flynn) is a Union officer imprisoned at notorious Confederate Libby Prison, run by Vance Irby (Randolph Scott). After he and his prisonmates orchestrate an escape, Bradford returns to Union lines, only to be sent on a mission to Virginia City, Nevada to investigate a possible windfall of money from Southern sympathizers to the Confederates. On the way, Bradford falls for Julia Hayne (Miriam Hopkins), an entertainer in Virginia City, and also the Confederate spy who suggested raiding the rich Comstock Lode near Virginia City to aid the Confederacy. Bradford also has an encounter with notorious bandito John Murrell (Humphrey Bogart), only narrowly escaping. Once in Virginia City, Bradford must contend with a familiar face, Irby, the bandito Murrell, and the woman he is falling for, Julia, all before the South attempts to rise again with its new source of income.

For my money, this is the best performance from Errol Flynn that I have seen (I must admit, I have only seen a handful). He feels so genuine and truly invested into his character, which only makes his charisma and heroism pop off the screen even more. To be certain, he is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast, all of whom also give very good performances. Randolph Scott as Flynn's rival works perfectly. The two play off each other quite well, especially within the love triangle with Miriam Hopkins. There are some thrilling sequences in this film, and some really great ideas. Curtiz' camerawork is quite good, especially during the daring stagecoach robbery scene, undoubtedly inspired by John Ford's Stagecoach.

The first half of this film is truly great, engaging cinema, with full bodied characters and true, riveting stakes. But for some reason, it seems to lose its way a little bit in the second half. Once the film turns its head away from the Civil War spy games at play in a Western setting, and the film becomes more of a chase, with Bradford attempting to catch up with Irby, who is getting away with the gold, it is far less exciting and interesting. It comes with the story of it all, but it lacks in execution, with the stakes and energy seeming to fall somewhat flat in the latter portions of the film. Flynn and Scott are still giving riveting performances, but it feels as though all of the air has been sucked out of the film.

Maybe the mastery of the first half of the film overshadows the rather bland and standard second half, giving the film no chance to sustain the type of intrigue and sense of fun spy games as the first half. But ultimately, the first half of the film feels almost too perfect to not consider this a very good, entertaining foray into the western genre for these two common collaborators (Curtiz and Flynn). It is a strong script, setting up all the twists, turns, characters and relationships. And it is definitely a film I would recommend for fans of Flynn or westerns. I would like to revisit it someday if only to enjoy the first half of the film again, really top notch filmmaking and among my favorite time spent in this marathon thus far. It's really just too bad it couldn't sustain it to become one of the truly memorable westerns of all-time.

*** - Very Good
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DarkeningHumour

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #29 on: March 06, 2017, 12:42:11 PM »
I could be tempted into watching an Errol Flynn picture. I would be interested in comparing it with the two I have seen. How does he fare here relatively to his better known roles? And would you say the tone of the movie is somewhere along the lines of Robin Hood with six shooters?
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