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Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Western Team At Half Strength

All Elements But Writing In Place: Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)

The Scott/Brown/Boettichers needed that fourth name, writer Burt Kennedy, to cinch a western win, as those he didn't pen are clear the weakest. Buchanan is one, Charles Lang the credited scenarist, though Kennedy later claimed he was brought in to effect narrative/dialogue rescue. Still, it's better than run-of-the-saddle Scotts going back to a war's end when Randy put on spurs to exclusion of all else characterization. You can ride along with  Buchanan till bog of a third act makes hash of good stuff that came before, a weak finish recalling for me what kept BRA out of the Tall T class. These S/B/B's being made so quick (two-three weeks) probably kept such from mattering so much, and the lord knows, showmen didn't care so long as prints arrived on schedule and terms were fair. What a shame the series didn't get critic kudos so rich deserved, later cineaste recognition a scant compensation, though it did allow for bows taken by Boetticher and Kennedy in autumn years. Buchanan has begun showing up, with others of the group, on Sony's HD channel and Retroplex. So far, all look terrific.


Blogger Kevin K. said...

I've never been a fan of Westerns, but "The Tall T" and "Ride Lonesome" are terrific movies. Not a false note anywhere, and wonderful portrayals of the "code" of the Old West. Too, there's something quite moving about the middle-aged Randolph Scott (and his characters) still going up against the youngsters that are horning in on his territory. He's not bigger than life than John Wayne, allowing me to get lost in the stories.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I was fortunate enough to acquire a digital 3D print of THE STRANGER WORE A GUN (1953). Nicely done.

Encouraged to get the Boetticher box set which I have enjoyed immensely.

Also tracked down Scott's THE BOUNTY HUNTER and made a nice 2D to 3D conversion. Too bad the real 3D one is lost.

1:44 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Scott always works well with folks I show him to. They seem to find him a most believable westerner, more so even than Wayne.

Regret to hear that "The Bounty Hunter" is lost on 3-D. There are so many Warner Scotts that I tend to get them mixed up.

4:18 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon shares some thoughts about "Buchanan Rides Alone" and others of the Scott/Boetticher/Kennedy canon:

I also enjoyed your comments about "Buchanan Rides Alone". Now, is that the one where a huge portion of the film concerns a kind of silly stand-off with a town across a wooden bridge? I can't remember for sure! The ones you remember are definitely the ones written by Burt Kennedy, and though I cannot slight the handling of Boetticher, I tend to feel that writers are always given short shrift, almost always. So it's nice to see you, an unconventional critic, giving such props to Kennedy in that department. My favorite of theirs (B & B) is probably "Seven Men From Now", though I know it wasn't a Brown-produced film, but a Batjac; but "The Tall T" runs a very close second (and I'm hoping that's the one with Richard Boone, because that's the one I'm thinking of! Simply a great film.)

9:34 AM  
Blogger MikeD said...

About 10 years ago Budd Boetticher and Burt Kennedy were guests at the Lone Pine Film Festival. I would say both men received the praise that they deserved from the crowd. Somehow I wound up having one on one conversations with both at the Friday night party. Both were very nice guys and seemed to appreciate the attention the festival brought them.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I don't think it was that much later years that they got recognition in France. Andre Bazin called Seven Men From Now "the least intellectual [i.e., arty/pretentious] and most intelligent of westerns." and he died in 1958. That may well have been in first release.

2:16 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer reflects on finer points of "Ranown" westerns with Randolph Scott:

For me, the Brown-Scott films are the very apotheosis of the Western. The best of them--"The Tall T," "Seven Men from Now," and "Comanche Station"--deal with the essential Western theme of the desire for freedom, with the vast spaces in which it can be enjoyed, and the need for family and community, and the laws which make them possible. The Scott character forms a nexus between these two worlds, laconic in the face of danger, but someone who has known suffering and loss. Often his adversary, as with the character played by Richard Boone in "The Tall T," is not unlike him in courage or perspective. What separates them are the choices they've made, the Scott character willing to sacrifice his own yearning on behalf of love or honor, the other unwilling to put off the gratification of his desires any longer, when there is no assurance that happiness can be found in this world unless a man's willing to seize it. The Scott character realizes that happiness can never be obtained in this way--it is destroyed in the act of possessing it--and this, too, lends an element of transcendence. That he is in his fifties and aging, however gracefully, lends a certain poignance as well. He has paid a price for his choice, in his aloneness, if not his loneliness. The films are extraordinarily violent for their time, and this became the basis for Sergio Leone's aesthetic of violence in his "Man With No Name" films. There is an emotional sterility to the Leone films, however, in that violence becomes for him an end in itself, while in the Brown-Scott films, it is the cathartic resolution of a moral struggle.

I couldn't have appreciated this when I first discovered these Westerns with Randolph Scott late one night during an Easter break from junior high school, but there was something very different about them which resonated with me. So many years have passed since then, yet the wonder of the films remains, even as my understanding of them has deepened.


4:20 PM  

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