Film Review – RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962)

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RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (USA, 1962) ****
      Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Release Date: 9 May 1962 (USA), 25 May 1962 (UK); Filming Dates: 16 October–22 November 1961; Running Time: 94m; Colour: Metrocolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (as CinemaScope); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Sam Peckinpah; Writer: N.B. Stone Jr.; Producer: Richard E. Lyons; Director of Photography: Lucien Ballard; Music Composer: George Bassman; Film Editor: Frank Santillo; Art Director: Leroy Coleman, George W. Davis; Set Decorator: Henry Grace, Otto Siegel; Make-up: William Tuttle, Mary Keats; Sound: Franklin Milton.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Gil Westrum), Joel McCrea (Steve Judd), Mariette Hartley (Elsa Knudsen), Ron Starr (Heck Longtree), Edgar Buchanan (Judge Tolliver), R.G. Armstrong (Joshua Knudsen), Jenie Jackson (Kate), James Drury (Billy Hammond), L.Q. Jones (Sylvus Hammond), John Anderson (Elder Hammond), John Davis Chandler (Jimmy Hammond), Warren Oates (Henry Hammond).
      Synopsis: An ex-lawman is hired to transport gold from a mining community through dangerous territory. But what he doesn’t realize is that his partner and old friend is plotting to double-cross him.
      Comment: Highly regarded Western makes the most of its slender storyline through a multi-layered script with strong characters and great performances from two stalwarts of the genre. McCrae and Scott are former lawmen of a bygone west, reduced to being hired guards to transport gold from a mine in the mountains. Along the way they take in young Starr and Hartley, who escapes her strictly religious father and falls in with young miner Drury and his psychotic family. The theme of men out of their time trying to recapture their pride is beautifully played by the stars, whose humorous interplay is the key attraction. Scott delivers perhaps his best performance in a flawed character role, whilst McCrae’s self-pride and sense of justice represent the old values. Peckinpah directs with flair and Ballard’s photography is gorgeous. The final film of Scott. Selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1992. Aka: GUNS IN THE AFTERNOON.

Film Review – SHANE (1953)

Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Brandon De Wilde, Van Heflin, and Jack Palance in Shane (1953)SHANE (USA, 1953) *****
      Distributor: Paramount Pictures (USA), Paramount British Pictures (UK); Production Company: Paramount Pictures Corporation; Release Date: 23 April 1953 (USA), 4 September 1953 (UK); Filming Dates: July 1951 – 16 October 1951; Running Time: 118m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording) | 3 Channel Stereo (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1/1.66:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: George Stevens; Writer: A.B. Guthrie Jr., Jack Sher (based on the novel by Jack Schaefer); Producer: George Stevens; Associate Producer: Ivan Moffat; Director of Photography: Loyal Griggs; Music Composer: Victor Young; Film Editor: William Hornbeck, Tom McAdoo; Art Director: Hal Pereira, Walter H. Tyler; Set Decorator: Emile Kuri; Costumes: Edith Head; Make-up: Wally Westmore; Sound: Gene Garvin, Harry Lindgren.
      Cast: Alan Ladd (Shane), Jean Arthur (Marian Starrett), Van Heflin (Joe Starrett), Brandon De Wilde (Joey Starrett), Jack Palance (Jack Wilson), Ben Johnson (Chris Calloway), Edgar Buchanan (Fred Lewis), Emile Meyer (Rufus Ryker), Elisha Cook Jr. (Stonewall Torrey), Douglas Spencer (Axel ‘Swede’ Shipstead), John Dierkes (Morgan Ryker), Ellen Corby (Mrs. Liz Torrey), Paul McVey (Sam Grafton), John Miller (Will Atkey – Bartender), Edith Evanson (Mrs. Shipstead), Leonard Strong (Ernie Wright), Ray Spiker (Axel Johnson – Homesteader), Janice Carroll (Susan Lewis), Martin Mason (Ed Howells), Helen Brown (Martha Lewis), Nancy Kulp (Mrs. Howells).
      Synopsis: A weary gunfighter attempts to settle down with a homestead family, but a smouldering settler/rancher conflict forces him to act.
      Comment: All-time classic Western is also one of the best films ever made. Stevens fashions a visual treat utilising the skills of cinematographer Griggs capturing the splendour of the Wyoming landscapes of vast flat valleys and steep mountains. Stevens uses the changing weather to add tone and mood to support each scene and set-piece. He also gets wonderful performances from the cast. Ladd as the mysterious Shane, who is idolised by a remarkable De Wilde, Heflin and Arthur as the farmers Ladd helps against rancher Meyer who is trying to run the farmers off his range. Palance is the embodiment of villainous cool as the hired gunfighter with a reputation. The story builds in tension towards the inevitable showdown climax. But it’s the sub-texts beneath the standard plot that make this stand out as a true classic – from DeWilde’s hero-worship idealism of Ladd’s flawed character to the unspoken conflict of feelings Arthur has between Ladd and her husband Heflin. It’s all delivered with fine nuance and sincere conviction and embellished by an evocative score from Young.
      Notes: Won an Oscar for Best Cinematography. Final film of Jean Arthur. Followed by a TV series (1966) with David Carradine in the title role.