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.
Wild Bunch, The (1969; USA; Technicolor; 145m) ****½ d. Sam Peckinpah; w. Walon Green, Sam Peckinpah, Roy N. Sickner; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Jerry Fielding. Cast: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Strother Martin, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Jaime Sanchez, L.Q. Jones, Emilio Fernandez, Albert Dekker, Bo Hopkins, Dub Taylor, Paul Harper, Jorge Russek. An aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the “traditional” American West is disappearing around them. Ultra-violent statement from Peckinpah symbolising the passing of the Old West and the introduction of modern warfare. Immaculately shot and edited with a percussive doom-laden score by Fielding. Veterans Holden and Ryan in particular are superb and are well supported by a strong stalwart cast. Opening and closing shootouts are brutal.