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.

Film Review – THE PROWLER (1951)

Prowler, The (1951; USA; B&W; 92m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Joseph Losey; w. Hugo Butler, Dalton Trumbo, Robert Thoeren, Hans Wilhelm; ph. Arthur C. Miller; m. Lyn Murray.  Cast: Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes, John Maxwell, Katherine Warren, Emerson Treacy, Madge Blake, Wheaton Chambers, Robert Osterloh, Sherry Hall, Louise Lorimer. When Susan Gilvray (Keyes) reports a prowler outside her house police officer Webb Garwood (Heflin) investigates and sparks fly. If only her husband wasn’t in the way. Taut thriller is driven by Heflin’s commanding central performance. As his machinations start to unravel the pace quickens to an evocative finale in a desert ghost town. Keyes is a little mannered in her performance, but the production values are strong and the cinematography perfectly captures the noir atmosphere. [PG]