Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)- Budd Boetticher

★★★★

 

From the opening seconds of “Buchanan Rides Alone” (1958), it’s obvious that this isn’t your typical Budd Boetticher/ Randolph Scott film. Tom Buchanan (Randolph Scott) rides into the border town of Agry. He is stopped by the town’s sheriff, Lew Agry (Barry Kelley), for noBuchanan Rides Alone (1958) particular reason. When Buchanan is asked to get off his horse, his reply is simply, “What for?”, while wearing a grin that stretches from ear to ear. (As well as more make-up than necessary.) From this moment on there are few scenes that don’t include Buchanan’s smile and pleasant demeanor.  His light-hearted way of strolling through life is even contagious for those watching the film. Unfortunately the town of Agry isn’t as easy going as Buchanan. The town is run by the Agry brothers. Lew is the sheriff, Amos (Peter Whitney) runs the hotel (and serves as the town crier), and then there is Judge Simon Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)Agry (Tol Avery), who is the unofficial leader of Agry town.

Judge Agry’s son, Roy (William Leslie), comes riding into town in a hurry, with his face covered in fresh scratches. His arrogant attitude and annoying demeanor stay with him as he enters the saloon. Roy butts heads with Buchanan, who somehow manages to blow him off without letting it get him down; that is, until Juan de la Vega (Manuel Rojas) comes riding into town from the Mexican side of the border, hell bent on killing Roy. After Juan shoots Roy, the sheriff and his deputies start knocking Juan around, which in turn inspires Buchanan to help the out-numbered Juan. At the end of the struggle, Juan andBuchanan Rides Alone (1958) Buchanan are thrown in jail where they await trial.

Over the next 63 minutes of this film, the Agry brothers play a series of manipulating games against each other, in order to profit off of Roy’s murder. Juan turns out to be the son of a wealthy Mexican rancher, and Judge Agry is willing to trade his captive for money. Buchanan is found innocent and released, but the sheriff has no intension of letting Buchanan walk away from the trouble he has caused. The best part of “Buchanan Rides Alone” is how during this last hour things continue to go back and forth between the two sides. Every time you think Buchanan is about to get away, things turn for the worst. Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)Every time things look bad, something miraculous happens that turns things around again.

Something this film is missing that I consider to be a key ingredient to the other films that Scott made with Boetticher: a woman. With the exception of a couple of lines worth of dialogue from Roy’s girl in the first couple of minutes and then again toward the end, this film is all men. That isn’t necessarily that awkward for a western, but so many of Scott’s other western characters are motivated by revenge for something that happened to his woman inBuchanan Rides Alone (1958) the past. In this film Buchanan barely seems to even have a past.

Personally, I don’t consider any of the other Boetticher/ Scott collaborations to be light-hearted films. This one, however, with a screenplay by Charles Lang, is almost too much fun. Buchanan, as a character, lacks the dark background that so many of Scott’s other characters embodied. He’s full of quippy dialogue that carries throughout the film, even when Buchanan has a rope around his neck. My favorite exchange, however, takes place between Buchanan and the sheriff during the trial:

Sheriff: Oh, you don’t like this town?

Buchanan: I don’t like some of its people.

Sheriff: Me included?

Buchanan: You, especially.Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)

Sheriff: Oh, you’d like to kill me maybe?

Buchanan: I’d like to give you what your boys gave me.

Sheriff: Take the law into your own hands, is that it?

Buchanan: No, just you.

If “Buchanan Rides Alone” has a downside, it’s that it’s so easy going it’s hard to have any real intensity as the film reaches its climax. I even find myself chuckling during the last shootout. There is also a scene where Buchanan has befriended one of the deputies named Pecos (L.Q. Jones), who actually has to kill another deputy in order to save Buchanan. Then Roy Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)proceeds to perform a makeshift funeral that includes the greatest (or at least funniest) eulogy in any western I’ve ever seen.

Filmed on location in Sabino Canyon, Arizona, “Buchanan Rides Alone” has the expected beauty of a Boetticher western with luscious cinematography by western specialist, Lucien Ballard. The location shooting really adds an element of authenticity to this film. The west always seems bigger when it’s filmed in the west. The last Boetticher film that I reviewed was “Decision at Sundown” (1957), and one of my biggest complaints was that the majority of the film took place in the town, thus robbing the viewers of the expansive locations. Luckily for me, “Buchanan Rides Alone” fully satisfies in this department.

The New World (2005)- Terrence Malick

★★★★★

 

With Terrence Malick’s epic adventure film, “The New World” (2005), viewers are once again acquainted with the life story of Pocahontas and her love affair with Captain John Smith. Of course we already know the story, mostly thanks to Disney’s 1995 animated feature and what weThe New World (2005) remember from grade school, but  Malick’s film goes beyond the simple retelling of the factual events. With his typically stunning visuals and always interesting narratives, “The New World” is now the best way to enjoy this more than 400 year old story. (With the appropriate amount of fiction mixed in.)

The film opens in 1607, as Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) arrives in the new world under the command of Captain Newport (Christopher Plummer). Although Newport soon heads back to Europe, Smith stays in the new colony of Jamestown. He is sent on a trading expedition and is captured by a tribe of Native Americans, but before they kill Smith, the chief’s daughter, Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher), throws herself over Smith, thus saving his life.

The New World (2005)They fall in love despite their cultural differences and begin a romantic relationship. Things are further complicated when Smith returns to Jamestown to find his people starving and freezing because of their inability to survive in the new world. Pocahontas lovingly brings them The New World (2005)food, which in turn enrages her father, forcing him to banish her and form an attack on Jamestown. Instead of the film ending at this point in the story, Malick wisely continues past the myth of the story and into the reality. Smith is requested back in England, and he leaves Pocahontas behind in order to continue to search for a route to the Indies. Pocahontas remains in Jamestown, and believing Smith to be dead, forges a new relationship with John Rolfe (Christian Bale).

The New World (2005)

Whenever talking about “The New World”, it is important to clarify which version is being watched, as there are three different choices. I have often watched the 135 minute film that was first seen when the film made it’s wide release in January of 2006, but I have never seen the 150 minute version that first premiered in November 2005. This was my first viewing of the later released 172 minute film, now dubbedThe New World (2005) “The Extended Cut”. I am often a fan of seeing longer, more detailed versions of my favorite films, so there were many additions to this cut that I did enjoy. If you have never seen this film, I do believe that “The Extended Cut” is the best film version avalible.

Full of passion and intensity, “The New World” is a film that any director could have made, but few could have done well. Visually this film is astonishing, but we as film goers have come to expect that from Malick. There are many people that believe that the overall look of a film is the influence of the cinematographer, combined with his director’s vision. This was the forth directorial film for Terrence Malick, and despite the fact that all four of the films are beautiful masterpieces to watch, each one had a different cinematographer. For “The New World”, Malick choose Mexican cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki. These two artists seem destined to find one another, with their innovative styles and groundbreaking techniques. Before The New World (2005)teaming for this film, Lubezki was already renowned for his work on such films as “Ali” (2001), “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (2001), “Sleepy Hollow” (1999), “Meet Joe Black” (1998) and “The Little Princess” (1995). Needless to say their collaboration on “The New World” is the single greatest part of this production. Every moment of screen time is devoted to making everything as strikingly beautiful as possible, and they The New World (2005)succeeded admirably. Malick and Lubezki have since rejoined forces on the 2011 drama, “The Tree of Life”  (which earned both men Academy Award nominations for their work), the soon to be released, “To the Wonder” (2012), and both of Malick’s upcoming projects, said to be in post-production (one untitled and the other is called “Knight of Cups”).

With the exception of Malick’s first film, “Badlands” (1973) I don’t consider his films to be “actor driven”, or for that matter, even require an abundance of acting talent. Of course he always tends to use talented people in his films, so perhaps it’s just that they make it look easy. In “The New World” most of the acting is exactly what you would expect. Colin Farrell is well suited for the role of John Smith, with his rugged physical exterior and large emotionally filled eyes starring into the void. Christian Bale is a much smaller role, but undeniably leaves his presence on the screen as well, despite his lack of screen time. It is Q’orianka Kilcher, however, that stands out mostThe New World (2005) among the seasoned professionals around her. What she lacks in experience she more than makes up for with professionalism. The role is well suited for her, and with her background in dance, she gracefully glides through many of her scenes as if performing in a ballet through the wild grasses of Virginia. At the time of release, Kilcher was only 15 years old, but somehow she carries her scenes (and the film) without making the viewers doubt anything about the realistic feeling of this film.

The New World (2005)

Between the release of Malick’s second film “Days of Heaven” (1978) and his third film “The Thin Red Line” (1998), there were 20 years for Malick to work on other projects. Sometimes it was just a screenplay or story, and other times he focused on a film that he hoped to make one day. He started work on what would become “The New World” back in the 1970’s, but had to wait 30 years for his vision to become a reality. Luckily it was eventually made, and its lasting influence and beauty will continue to inspire viewers from now on.

13 Rue Madeline (1947)- Henry Hathaway

 ★★★★

 

There are many determining factors when it comes to picking which movies I watch. Since there are more films that I want to see than there are hours to see them, I have to pick and choose carefully, which can cause quite a problem. Sometimes I get a film because I know I will like it, and sometimes it’s because it’s considered a “must see” by everyone. I will watch a movie because it’s nominated for a prestigious award, or I will 13 Rue Madeline (!947)give a film a try simply because I have always been a fan of one of the actors and it doesn’t really matter how good the movie turns out to be; its just nice to see them in action again. (This means you, Michael Keaton.) Then of course there are the films that have been recommended by a friend. This is the case concerning the spy thriller, “13 Rue Madeline” (1947). I thought I had seen this film a long time ago, but as the events unfolded before me on the screen, I decided that I must have been mistaken. I would never forget a movie this intriguing. It was recommended by the always enjoyable Silver Screenings, back in December (you can read their post here), and unfortunately it took me this long to finally get around to giving it a chance. I implore you not to wait as long as I did.

Directed by the great Henry Hathaway, “13 Rue Madeline” starts off as a typical WWII spy film. James Cagney plays Bob Sharkey, a leader in the training program for the “077” 13 Rue Madeline (1947)group. His mission is to train those who are willing to put their own lives in danger by going behind enemy lines for whatever task in necessary. The added problem he encounters with his newest group of recruits is that he knows one of them is a Nazi spy. After extensive training (and figuring out which one is the spy), Sharkey sets up a mission that is only partially real. He sends the Nazi-spy on the mission, carrying incorrect data for the D-Day invasion, in an attempt to lead the Nazis in the wrong direction. Unfortunately things don’t go according to plan, and in order to make the mission a success, Sharkey has to parachute in and finish the job.

The second half on this film picks things up quite a bit. It isn’t a cute entertaining spy film anymore, it becomes a full blown battle where the stakes couldn’t be higher. Obviously this isn’t based on a true story, but many aspects of the film have elements of truth to them. The first half of the film is more of a mystery, where the goal becomes figuring out which person is the Nazi agent, but the second half is what13 Rue Madeline (1947) makes the movie special. It is suspenseful and intriguing, and is also very inspiring to watch.

This is not your typical late 1940’s movie. It has a very real feel surrounding the entire plot, and despite the Hays Code, there is quite a bit of brutal violence included as well. (At least for that time period.) The best part of this film, however, is Cagney. He was 47 years old when this film was released, but he has a bounce in his step that makes him appear 15 years younger. He also has the ability to out-think, out-maneuver, or overpower a Nazi, while making it look easy. His performance in this film obviously meant something to him, and his extra effort pays off. Cagney is immensely entertaining to watch, and in the final moments of the film, it is clear what makes him one of the greatest actors of all time. 13 Rue Madeline (1947)His toughness seems to have no end. The supporting cast is also good in this one, with strong performances from Richard Conte, Annabella and Frank Latimore, but Cagney still easily steal the show.

As I watched this film, I couldn’t help but see that with such a good story this film could be a successful re-make today. The suspense, the action and even the violence could easily translate this film into something audiences would still be interested in seeing today. Unfortunately, Cagney is unavailable right now, I don’t know that anyone else could pull it off as well.

 

 

Vicki (1953)- Harry Horner

 ★★★

 

“Vicki” (1953) is a film noir that is based on Steve Fisher’s 1941 novel, “I Wake Up Screaming”. In the film, Vicki Lynn (Jean Peters) is a model who has been murdered. Police Detective Ed Cornell (Richard Boone) takes the case and is obsessively determined find her killer. ThroughVicki (1953) flashbacks, we discover that Vicki was a beautiful waitress who was discovered by talent promoter, Steve Christopher (Elliott Reid), while she is working the nightshift in a New York diner. With the help of columnist Larry Evans (Max Showalter) and a famous actor named Robin Ray (Alexander D’Arcy), Vicki is turned into an overnight star. Not long after, she decides to go to Hollywood, thus terminating her working relationship with all three men. Detective Cornell seems determined to convict Christopher, especially when he discovers that Christopher and Vicki’s sister, Jill (Jeanne Crain), are falling in love. There is, however, more than meets the eye with this case, as it turns out that everyone wanted something from Vicki.

Harry Horner (father of composer James Horner) was a production designer, who during his career, won two Academy Awards for his work on “The Heiress” (1949) and “The Vicki (1953)Hustler” (1962). When it came to directing, he did a fair amount of work on T.V., but only made a handful of films, including “Vicki”. This is actually quite an enjoyable film because of the mystery involved. The crime itself is over before the film begins, but the suspense of figuring out which character is the killer makes it quite entertaining.

The cast is fun to watch in this one because each character does a great job of being mysterious, in an attempt to keep the audience guessing. Each of the men seems to be infatuated with Vicki, yet each one of them also appears to be hiding something darker and more sinister within. Even Vicki’s sister is a suspect because of her jealous nature. The only real disappointment for me was with Richard Boone’s performance, which I Vicki (1953)consider to be over the top. He tries to be one of those driven detectives that we have read about in countless novels, and in the end it comes off as laughable. His dialogue isn’t bad, but because of his delivery (and his general aloofness) it is hard to take him seriously.

“Vicki” is actually a re-make of the 1941 film noir, “I Wake Up Screaming”, starring Betty Grable, Victor Mature and Carole Landis. From what I have read, the plots of these two films are almost identical, except for the spelling of her name (Vicki vs. Vicky). I have purchased the 1941 version as well, in order to compare the two films.

New Releases for Blu-ray and DVD for March 26th, 2013

So many movies… so little time. (And money, I suppose.) It isn’t every week that has this many notable films being released, to the point that I don’t know if I have enough time to cover them all. I won’t waste any more time with an introduction, let’s just get right to it.

  • “Lincoln” (2012): Steven Spielberg has made so many great films in his career that we have come to expect them all to be inspiring andLincoln (2012) beautiful. Luckily with “Lincoln” he hasn’t let us down. This Best Picture nominee is stunning to watch because of the care that has been put into bringing this amazing story to life. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have three time Academy Award winner Daniel-Day Lewis as your leading actor, especially when he delivers one of the best performances in his already brilliant career. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones both give inspiring performances as well, and with all of these talented people working together, “Lincoln” has been elevated into the arena of “must-see” films.
  • “Monsieur Verdoux” (1947): Certainly one of the most unusual films thatMonsieur Verdoux (1947) Charlie Chaplin ever made, “Monsieur Verdoux” is a dark-comedy film about a man that becomes unemployed, and in order to gain income, takes to marrying (and then murdering) wealthy women. The original idea (and possible script) for this film came from Orson Welles, who wanted to direct. In the end he sold the rights to Chaplin, who starred, directed, produced and wrote the final film. (He did credit Welles with the “idea”.) This film has been hard to find over the years and is now being released through The Criterion Collection, which with its newly restored 2K digital restoration, should be most exciting to see.
  • “Killing Them Softly” (2012): Brad Pitt is so much fun to watch, especially when he’s this bad! In this film, from director AndrewKilling Them Softly (2012) Dominik (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”), Pitt plays a hit-man who is called in to regulate after three street criminals hold-up a mob protected card game. This film also stars James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta, but unfortunately “Killing Them Softly” received mixed reviews upon it’s initial release, making the film a disappointment at the box office.
  • “Panic in the Streets” (1950): From director Elia Kazan, this noir film takesPanic in the Streets (1950) place in New Orleans and centers on a possible epidemic. Only a U.S. Public Health Service employee (Richard Widmark) and a police Captain (Paul Douglas) can prevent this deadly virus from spreading. Jack Palance gives a memorable performance as the film’s villain, and Joseph MacDonald adds his stunning cinematography to this must see film.
  • “Parental Guidance” (2012): What happens when the out of town grandparents come to help out? Typically nothing, unless theParental Guidance (2012) grandparents are Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. This comedy film proved to be a huge hit with audiences this last winter, and with winning supporting performances from Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott, it is sure to continue its success on DVD and blu-ray.
  • “A Man Escaped” (1956): There is no denying that writer/ director RobertA Man Escaped (1956) Bresson is one of the greatest French filmmakers of all time, and his 1956 film “A Man Escaped” is certainly one of his best films. So why has it taken so long for this film to receive a worthy and wide release? The Criterion Collection is responsible for this masterpiece getting the attention that it deserves, and with what I can only assume is a beautiful restoration, this film could be the highlight of our week. The story revolves around a WWII French resistance prisoner who plans a escape. I know it sounds simple, but the greatness of this film comes not from the plot, but in the artistic execution from the film’s creator. This is definitely one that shouldn’t be missed.
  • “McLintock!” (1963): Few comedic westerns are remembered for their greatness, but with the combined talents of John Wayne,McLintock! (1963) Maureen O’Hara and director Andrew V. McLaglen, this film pulls out all the stops and has become one of the most treasured and enjoyed films in Wayne’s career. Wayne and O’Hara play an ornery, estranged married couple, but they are about to get exactly what they deserve: each other. As if you needed an additional reason to see this film, “McLintock!” comes complete with adventure, laughs and the unquestionably most memorable mud-slide fight scene in movie history.
  • “A Royal Affair” (2012): This historical drama film was nominated for BestA Royal Affair (2012) Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Academy Awards, and centers around the mentally ill King of Denmark, during the 18th century, and his wife’s well known affair with the royal physician. “A Royal Affair” stars Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander and Mikkel Folsgaard, and was directed by Nikolaj Arcel.
  • “Jurassic Park” (1993): I won’t waste your time explaining anything about this film for you, I will simply remind you that this wasJurassic Park (1993) the good “Jurassic Park” film. Be advised, this film will be released in theaters again, this time in 3D, on April 5th. Of course that means that it will probably be released on blu-ray 3D some time in the next year, all in anticipation of next summer’s “Jurassic Park 4” (2014).
  • “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997): This was the “Jurassic Park” film that wasn’t very good, despite how much effort we put into wanting it to be great. I don’t know if this one will be getting the 3D treatment; I suppose it depends on how many of us go to see the original film in 3D.
  • “Jurassic Park III” (2001): This was the “Jurassic Park” film that disappointedJurassic Park III (2001) us all, but in retrospect is better than “The Lost World”. (Especially with that giant birdcage.) At last we get to see these classic action films on blu-ray. (It sure did take a while.)
  • “Futureworld” (1976): It was either last week or the week before that the classic sci-fi film ” Westworld” (1973) was released, and now we get the sequel! I’ll be honest and admit that I have never seen “Futureworld”, but it seems like it would at least be entertaining to watch. The film stars Peter Fonda, Blythe Danner and Arthur Hill.
  • “The Devil and Miss Jones” (1941): We all love Jean Arthur, especially when she’s with Charles Coburn. This film is a cute comedyThe Devil and Miss Jones (1941) about a wealthy businessman who goes undercover in his own store to determine which employees are attempting to organize a union. Of course before he’s done, Jean Arthur will find a way to make Coburn see the light. Directed by the talented Sam Wood, “The Devil and Miss Jones” is a wonderfully delightful film that is a welcomed addition to any movie library. (Particularly mine.)
  • “Ironweed” (1987): Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson star in this drama filmIronweed (1987) about two homeless people who fall in love, despite their misfortunes during the depression. Both Nicholson and Streep were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances, and the film received generally positive reviews overall upon it’s initial release.
  • “China Gate” (1957): Written, produced and directed by the great Sam Fuller, “China Gate” is an intense drama film concerning two Korean War veteransChina Gate (1957) (Nat King Cole & Gene Barry) who end up in the French Foreign Legion. Barry has a child with a Eurasian woman (Angie Dickinson), but because of race discriminations, he leaves them behind. Soon they are all entangled in a plot of mystery and intrigue that will force everyone to deal with their prejudices towards each other. Fuller was no stranger to controversy, and this film fell right in line for him. His hard hitting subject matter combines with his always marvelous cinematic ability to make for an extremely entertaining and memorable film.
  • “The Sun Shines Bright” (1953): This John Ford film has been listed as one ofThe Sun Shines Bright (1953) his personal favorites. I have never seen the film, and heard almost nothing about it as well. I do, however, know that it stars Charles Winninger and Arleen Whelan, and that portions of the film are based on the same material that Ford used for his earlier film, “Judge Priest” (1934). It certainly looks to be a winner to me.

Also this week, there will be releases of a few different, lesser known John Wayne films. I am unfamiliar with all of these films because of their lack of previous availability, and do hope to one day find each one. (Right now I can’t find any of them for less than $24.99, and that is just too much for me.) These titles include:

  • “A Man Betrayed” (1941)The Lawless Nineties (1936)
  • “Westward Ho” (1935)
  • “The Lawless Nineties” (1936)
  • “Wyoming Outlaw” (1939)

3:10 to Yuma (2007)- James Mangold

 ★★★★★

 

Some would say (and by some I mean me) that it’s hard to re-make a great movie. The original “3:10 to Yuma” (1957) directed by Delmer Daves, is a great movie, making a re-make quite an undertaking. Fortunately, director James Mangold was up to the challenge. Based on the3:10 to Yuma (2007) 1953 short story (“Three-Ten To Yuma”) by Elmore Leonard, the film tells the story of down-on-his-luck farmer, Dan Evans (Christian Bale), and his chance meeting with notorious criminal, Ben Wade (Russell Crowe). Wade is captured in Bisbee, Arizona, and is going to be transferred to the town of Contention, in order to catch the 3:10 P.M. train for Yuma Prison. Dan volunteers to help transport Wade for the sum of $200, thus helping improve his chances of surviving though the current drought. Wade’s gang of misfits, headed by Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), are aware that their fearless leader has been captured and promise to cause as much trouble as possible along the way.

One of the interesting things about “3:10 to Yuma” is how the film is shaped by the director. In this case, James Mangold is an established director with a handful of films under his belt that all revolve around strong characters. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)“Copland” (1997), “Girl, Interrupted”, “Walk the Line” (2005) and even “Identity” (2003) are all films that succeed because of the strong characters and their ability to relate with one another. Mangold used this to his strength on “3:10 to Yuma” and made the film focus on the characters, giving each one plenty of background and depth. As a result, almost everyone who steps on the screen becomes extremely interesting to watch.

Russell Crowe is the highlight of this film, as far as the acting is concerned. He plays the villain perfectly, and not just because it’s written well. From his walk all the way down to the evil squint in his eyes, Crowe is perfectly poised to play Wade. Throughout the course of the film his3:10 to Yuma (2007) demeanor doesn’t change drastically, but because of the small subtleties that Crowe uses, the audience can easily see the changes that have occurred within him as a man. Crowe is so dead-on in this role that he appears to overmatch the often overwhelming Christian Bale. It’s not that Bale is bad in this film, Crowe is just better. Bale’s character is a sadder, more depressing man to see, and it takes the entire film to show that Evans is truly a man that we should honor and revere. Like so many stories before, the better man is less likable, and the villain with a good heart steals the show.

I love the term “supporting characters” because basically that should include anyone who isn’t the star, whom despite the size of their role, finds a way to improve the overall film. “3:10 to Yuma” has an abundance of supporting characters who are all marvelous. Ben Foster is pure evil as Charlie Prince, and even though I 3:10 to Yuma (2007)have always found him to be a likable actor, in this film he is flat-out terrifying. Peter Fonda is also fun to watch as the aging bounty hunter with a darker past, completely consumed with a need to see Evans hang. Logan Lerman comes in as William, Dan’s eldest son, who refuses to stay out of the trouble. He delivers a strong performance, particularly when showing his maturity through the course of the film’s events. Gretchen Mol and Vinessa Shaw are the only females roles of the film, yet each one of them is extremely vital to the overall feel, especially in their interactions with the character of Ben Wade. Both women pull it off in what seems effortless, although certainly wasn’t. And then, just for a bit of fun, Luke Wilson pops up to be a nasty little man with a hankering for torture. He doesn’t have much screen time, but still finds a way to make us smile.3:10 to Yuma (2007) Overall, this cast really pulls out all the stops in order to make sure that every scene is done to the highest possible quality, and they succeed admirably.

I have already been in more than one debate about this film verses the original, with me maintaining that the original is the more superior film.  I do have to admit that while I still believe this to be true, after watching this re-make now, the gap between them is much closer than I had previously thought. Where this film lacks for me is in the cinematography. Phedon Papamichael is certainly an accomplished man in his craft, producing some glorious work in many films, including the Best Picture nominated “Sideways” (2004) and “The Descendants” (2011), both directed by Alexander Payne. With that being said, I think he may have been the wrong choice for this film, as a cinematographer with a background in big, expansive exteriors would have been better. It’s a western after all, and the location should serve as a character of its own. This film, however, seems to stay focused on the characters instead of their location.

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

I haven’t seen the original “3:10 to Yuma” (1957) in quite some time and can’t wait to get the new blu-ray release through The Criterion Collection in May, 2013, in order to compare the two films. Hopefully I will be able to write a little something on that one as well.

Road House (1948)-Jean Negulesco

 ★★★

 

“Road House” (1948) is a crime film that doesn’t get the attention today that it deserves. This is probably because it’s characterized as a filmRoad House (1948) noir, and although it does have an element of noir to it, I think it is better to just call it a crime drama. In this film, Jefty Robbins (Richard Widmark) runs a successful road house, complete with a full bowling alley, a bar and his new sultry singer, Lily Stevens (Ida Lupino). Jefty’s house manager and life long friend, Pete (Cornel Wilde), knows that Jefty has a tendency to hire attractive singers just for his own amusement and tries to convince Lily to leave town, but to no avail. The truth is that Lily is different from the other girls that have passed through. Jefty isn’t looking for just another week of fun. This time he plans to go all the way, but what he didn’t count on was Pete falling for her as well. Now the two Road House (1948)friends are pinned against each other for Lily’s affections, but when Jefty is faced with losing Lily he pulls out every nasty trick in the book to ensure that Pete and Lily don’t live happily ever after.

This is a decent little film that throughout the first 50 minutes drags slightly, but picks up quite a bit for the film’s climax. Of course the slow beginning mostly happens because the first part of the film spends so much time getting us acquainted with the characters, and there is no real room left for any action or drama. In some ways “Road House” is overrun with character development. Celeste Holm plays a supporting character (Susie) who alsoRoad House (1948) works at Jefty’s, and she is given plenty of backstory, dialogue and screen time, despite the fact that she is really quite unnecessary. Sure she comes into play at the end, but it almost seems like a waste of Holm’s talents to be in this film, somewhat superfluously.

It also seems that some of the other characters change throughout the film in an awkward way. Lily starts the film the way you would expect a femme fatale in a typical film noir to be. She’s mysterious, walks slowly, dresses provocatively, smokes, drinks and has all the best dialogue.  Then half way through, she turns out to be just a regular girl looking for love. There’s nothing tricky or conniving about her, and her loyalty to the man she loves is Road House (1948)quite endearing.

Then again perhaps this was director Jean Negulesco’s goal in making this film. Maybe he didn’t want us to understand what the characters were really thinking, thus keeping the audience guessing. If you were to watch the first half of this film and then predict what was about to happen, you would probably be wrong because, when it comes to the story, “Road House” doesn’t fit into the normal film noir mold. It’s better classified as a crime-romance film, where everyone’s passions for each other are just too much to be kept under control.

The most obvious noir quality to this film is the cinematography by Joseph LaShelle. He Road House (1948)truly is one of the greatest black and white cinematographers of his era. LaShelle won an Academy Award in 1944 for “Laura” and then was nominated eight more times in his career; although not for “Road House”. I think the cinematography is the highlight of this film, especially during the film’s climax in the forrest. LaShelle was able to accomplish so much with so little during the last ten minutes, and long after the film ends, it’s the last ten minutes that stays embedded in the viewer’s mind.

“Road House” is also a decent role for Widmark, who was still at the beginning of his beautiful career. One thing I have learned over the last few years is that practically everybody who loves classic movies loves Richard Road House (1948)Widmark. It’s probably because even when he’s supposed to be bad, we still love him. Towards the end of “Road House” he becomes quite despicable, but then he pulls out that maniacal laugh and you can’t help but smile. Then again, does Widmark ever star in a film that doesn’t make us smile?