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Author Topic: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019  (Read 14360 times)

smirnoff

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2019, 03:07:15 PM »
Every year, I consider showing Pale Rider to Mrs. 1SO. I talk myself out of it because I'm not sure it will hold up for me.

I think it has some really nice qualities for a western. One that stands out is the humble mining community. A group of what seems like maybe a dozen miners and their wives and their kids. They sit around the campfire to discuss common threats, they are happy when one another finds success. Michael Moriarty is kind of a neat character within that group. However I could do without the storyline between Eastwood and Mortiarty's daughter. I get if they want to write it so that she has a crush on him, but the film puts so much time into it! It's not important or interesting, and in doing away with that they could do away with the biblical parallels they try and build into the story. None of that stuff really does anything for me. At least that was true the last time I watched it.

It has scenes that I remember liking a lot. Any of the rock breaking scenes for sure. The meeting where they discuss what they should do when the believe Eastwood has abandoned them. And I like the final shootout as well.

It's probably been 7 or 8 years since I last watched it. I'm not sure how I would feel about it now either.



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Would love to get your opinion of Joe Kidd (1972)

Joe Kidd
(John Sturges, 1972)

Not too good. It has a bit of an odd plot. Joe Kidd is stuck in the middle of a Mexican Revolution and the wealthy land owner who wants to break it up. It’s a bit like a union-busting story played out in the wild west. That could be interesting, but the politics and philosphy of these things isn’t really explored or discussed.

Joe Kidd is a gunman and a tracker. He’s hired by Robert Duvall’s character (Frank Harlan) to track down the leader of the Mexican revolutionaries, Luis Chama (played by John Saxon, who I eventually recognized from Enter the Dragon). At first Kidd is set on killing Chama himself, but then after he meets the man he switches sides. Now he has Harlan in his crosshairs.

As for Elmore Leonard, he wrote this screenplay specifically for the big screen. I can see the potential, what with all the different parties involved, but unfortunately the final product just didn't come alive. The dialogue has a similar feel to that of the other Westerns he's written, but also it's fairly typical of the genre in general. Nothing spectacular.

In the end I didn’t find this film had much to offer. A few decent scenes of dialogue between Eastwood and Duvall, but no real memorable lines. The score was interesting. It was done by Lalo Schifrin, also involved with Enter the Dragon, and they sound very similar. I’m not sure it really fits, but it’s certainly of its time.



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Much as I think of Sturges as a lesser Western director, I now see how his approach influenced Eastwood the director as much as Siegel and more than Leone. The story is so lean and no-nonsense it goes from the beginning right to the end. There’s a sniper fight Smirnoff would appreciate where the images travel faster than the sound of the rifle shots, and a great bit of over-the-top nonsense when Eastwood derails a train and it crashes through a bar. Aside from that, very forgettable except for whatever fun you get watching Clint Eastwood’s badass Western persona.


It's been too long for me to remember those specific scenes, but the sniper thing does sound like something I would appreciate. The one scene I remember clearly is Eastwood swinging a clay vase on the end of a rope over the side of a building and knocking someone out with it. Part of the over-the-top nonsense you are probably referring to. :)

smirnoff

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2019, 03:21:44 PM »
I really wanted to get to Unforgiven this time around. How many times have you seen it, smirnoff? If you've seen it a bunch, we could double a Westerns chat with the Sober Second Thoughts thread. :)

Two times for sure... there may have been a third. All the viewings were pretty well spaced, and it feels like 5 years since the last time I sat down with it, so I'm for sure ready to see it again. Lemme know when you're gunna sit down with it.



I'm going to do re-watches on the 5 Leone's at least. Those videos I posted the other day, in the Leone thread, piqued my interest in seeing them again.

Cool. It's been some time since I've sat down with the Man with No Name trilogy, so I'll join you for those. I wish I had Once Upon A Time... handy too. You mention rewatching 5 Leone films, what's the fifth?

1SO

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2019, 03:36:12 PM »
I'm extremely familiar with GBU and Few Dollars More is something I studied to the point where I could probably write the screenplay from memory.

Thanks for posting that Joe Kidd review. Sounds about right. I thought you'd seen the glass half full.

Antares

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2019, 05:24:21 PM »
You mention rewatching 5 Leone films, what's the fifth?

A Fistful of Dynamite, with Rod Steiger and James Coburn.

I was shocked to find, that I never wrote reviews for the 4 main films. So this will give me the chance to rectify that situation.
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smirnoff

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2019, 07:22:16 PM »
Thanks for posting that Joe Kidd review. Sounds about right. I thought you'd seen the glass half full.

I looked up Joe Kidd on imfdb.org because I was curious to get another look at that gun you mentioned. It turned out to be a pretty good read. It seems like the movie features several rather uncommon guns, Clints rifle being one of them. I mean it features some of the ubiquitous guns seen in westerns of course (Winchester 1982, Single Action Army, etc), but the most prominent guns are seen in very few movies, or none at all in one case.
Clints Ross rifle, which was a disastrously finicky gun for it's intended market (Canadian soldiers in WWI), was at least well regarded for it's accuracy. So Clint using it for sniping makes good sense. In fact Joe Kidd is the only film to feature that rifle in a "sporter" (modified) format seen in the film. That is assuming imfdb.org is complete.

Mingo's rifle is very uncommon, as is the one Robert Duvall uses. And that pistol with the great big rifle stock attached to it is really unique too. It seems like someone went out of their way to populate the film with interesting, rarely featured weapons.

Perhaps it's the same person that was thinking about the sound design you spoke of. Maybe it was John Sturges himself. :)

smirnoff

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #15 on: March 02, 2019, 07:24:26 PM »
I was shocked to find, that I never wrote reviews for the 4 main films. So this will give me the chance to rectify that situation.

I love to read those kinds of reviews. Big films revisited. And ones I'm already familiar with.

Sandy

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2019, 11:45:33 PM »
I really wanted to get to Unforgiven this time around. How many times have you seen it, smirnoff? If you've seen it a bunch, we could double a Westerns chat with the Sober Second Thoughts thread. :)

Two times for sure... there may have been a third. All the viewings were pretty well spaced, and it feels like 5 years since the last time I sat down with it, so I'm for sure ready to see it again. Lemme know when you're gunna sit down with it.

Great! Next time I go to the library, I'll see if it's available. :)


1SO

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2019, 01:26:45 AM »

The Groom Wore Spurs (1951)
"After the fight, you and the rancher's daughter... I think her name was Jennie."
"It always is."



Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
"I'll bring him back dead or alive. Either way, he ought to look great.."

Two different films about television cowboys were released in 1951.The Groom Wore Spurs has the star power of Ginger Rogers (way too good for this patchwork script) and a better than expected performance from Jack Carson, playing a Western actor who hates horses and has lost the ability to convincingly draw a fast gun. It's a part made for ham, which Carson is usually happy to deliver, but he tones it down, thankfully. There's good chemistry, but the writers aren't sure what to do, so they throw in a few half-baked story ideas including a sudden change into a murder thriller. Rogers takes a page from her friend Lucille Ball for a scene involving her trying to fly an airplane.

In Callaway Went Thataway, Howard Keel plays an aging, broken down actor whose forgotten films from years ago have been chopped up and repackaged by Fred MacMurray as television entertainment, where they're a huge success. (Nobody involved with this film seems to get the dig at TV being a place where terrible films can be seen as top shelf entertainment.) Now the network wants to make more and Callaway is nowhere to be found, but there's a twin (also Keel) who looks the same age as those old films. Despite the care that went into creating full characters, it's all too gentle and family-friendly. This could easily be mistaken for an early Disney movie.
BOTH FILMS: ★ ★

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #18 on: March 04, 2019, 02:51:32 PM »
The Naked Spur (Anthony Mann, 1953)

Returning to the trail to an Anthony Mann directed, James Stewart starring film would seem to be the perfect way to jump back in the saddle with my Westerns marathon for Once Upon a March in the West, a month dedicated to Westerns. But unfortunately what I found was a bit of stale bread and a weathered picture which fell flat for me despite its star power and promising premise. Iím no expert, which is why Iím watching all these westerns to begin with, so I canít comment on the career trajectory of either James Stewart or Anthony Mann, but having enjoyed their previous collaborations quite a bit, color me disappointed by this one.

The premise is beautiful in its simplicity, and complex in its duplicity. Kemp (Stewart) is on the trail of outlaw Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan), who fetches $5000 as a reward in Abilene, when he comes across the affable Tate (Millard Mitchell), whom Kemp offers $20 to help him track Vandergroat. Upon finding the outlaw, another man inserts himself: a discharged cavalryman named Anderson (Ralph Meeker), who helps capture Vandergroat. The twist? Vandergroat is accompanied by his late partnerís daughter Lina Patch (Janet Leigh). When Tate and Anderson discover the price on Vanergroatís head, they bargain with Kemp for their share, but Kemp will not so easily part with the promised money he was after all along.

The screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award, and itís actually quite easy to see why, even if I disliked the film overall. The scenario is quite sharp and ripe for a great western about revenge and the dynamics of a group of people who donít know each other having to be constantly on their guard for their own well being. It was the west for a reason and Iím sure there were many circumstances where people had to rely on people they hardly knew, with great skepticism at the heart of their manufactured relationship. For that reason, the script excels, but the actual execution is lacking something to make it stick.

The performances are universallyÖalright. Theyíre not bad, but nothing sticks out. And I think thatís the best way to describe the film altogether, which makes it a disappointment all things considered. Iíve grown accustomed enough to Stewart playing an ďedgierĒ type of character. Heís not really the villain here, so I stop short of calling him that, but he certainly has nefarious intentions, even if his motivations are mostly pure. That dichotomy is actually difficult to reckon with, and maybe the film and performance are deeper than I give them credit for with that in mind, but it doesnít come across the screen that way. And I didnít buy the romance angle either, though that seems to be the case with all these older movies. One is required, believable or not, and what a shame that is.

I was struck by just how ugly this film managed to be visually too. Shot in technicolor in the Rocky Mountains, none of the stunning vistas and great color come through, at least not in the print I saw on TCM, which I assumed would have the best existing print of the film. It felt very much like a film quickly put together without much time to think creatively about locations, composition, or even story to make it a more engrossing experience. Itís very much a surface film which comes and goes without much to remember it by. Mann and Stewart and still both great in my book, but hereís to hoping their next installment is much improved.

★★ - Didn't Like It
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Antares

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #19 on: March 04, 2019, 08:04:51 PM »
at least not in the print I saw on TCM, which I assumed would have the best existing print of the film.

Actually, with TCM, the opposite end of the spectrum tends to be true. A lot of times, they're using old, faded prints, instead of pristine remasterings.
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