"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Barquero (Universal, 1970)


Injecting new blood?





 
.The reverse-engineering that took place in the ‘spaghetti comes to Hollywood’ period of the late 60s and early 70s is very interesting and Barquero is perhaps the most Italian of American Westerns. It has Lee Van Cleef with his curly pipe as cynical tough guy doing good despite himself. It has garish color, corpses a-go-go and lots of close-up squints and grimaces. But unlike spaghetti westerns it has good acting, interesting characters, some thoughtful moments, Colorado scenery and tension. It’s actually a good film, which no spaghetti ever was (except perhaps A Bullet for the General but that wasn’t really a Western at all).

It was to have been directed by Star Trek maestro Robert Sparr but went to interesting director Gordon Douglas instead when Sparr was killed in a plane crash scouting Star Trek locations. Douglas is described by French film boffin Bertrand Tavernier as “a part-time auteur”, by which he meant that he cheerfully did a lot of bread-and-butter stuff the studios handed him, putting up with the one-take trash Sinatra kept churning out and doing many less-than-epic comedies, but he had a vision and occasionally was able to stamp his personality on some quite interesting films. As far as Westerns go, he directed The Iron Mistress, The Fiend Who Walked the West, Gold of the Seven Saints, Chuka and Rio Conchos, for example, all curious in their way. And Fort Dobbs in 1958 was verging on the very good.
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In Barquero we have an essentially static plot in which bandido leader Warren Oates (splendidly sliding into madness) wants to cross the river but is stuck because sturdy Lee Van Cleef has the ferry on the other side and won’t bring it back. The lack of movement is compensated for by early action as we see the violent robbery which causes the pursuit that Warren is fleeing from (the army’s behind him and that’s why he needs the barge) and a guerrilla raid as Lee and a perfectly splendid Forrest Tucker as Mountain Phil swim across to rescue a hostage. And in fact the inaction in the rest of it builds the tension.
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Warren and Lee spend some time staring meaningfully at each other across the river, adepts of two rather different kinds of Western. The bandit chief is contemplating his Charon. Marie Gomez is Lee’s cigar-smoking gal, a crack shot with a revolving rifle like Arthur Hunnicutt’s in El Dorado, although that's where her similarity to Arthur ends, fortunately. Mariette Hartley is good as the wife of the hostage who loves her husband and will do anything to save him but whose lust for Lee also drives her. Some of Warren’s henchmen are also well done, notably Kerwin Mathews as his intelligent and dandy French lieutenant and John Davis Chandler (Ride the High Country, Major Dundee, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, etc) as the unfortunate villain Fair. Forrest takes the biscuit, though. It’s a juicy part.
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Warren smokes dope like Gian-Maria Volontè and shoots the river that he cannot cross. This was one of his best roles.

Say what you like about the spaghettis (and I do), they did inject some new blood (rather a lot of it, in fact) into the mainstream Western and ‘heroes’ like Lee Van Cleef and Warren Oates replaced the noble Pecks and Fondas and Coopers. They weren’t better, but they were different. .



 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Deadwood '76 (Fairway, 1965)


"Cheap and very bad" (Brian Garfield)






Well, pardners, another turkey to report on. You see, a very good friend of mine, who is also a Western addict, sent me for my birthday (thanks, honey) one of those boxes of DVDs with 20 Westerns on 4 discs. So I've been working through them.

This one, Deadwood '76 was dismissed by Brian Garfield in his great book with four words: "cheap and very bad."

I would just say the following:

James Landis (1926 – 1991) was a poor writer and second-rate director of very few movies. But Deadwood ’76 is in fact not a second-rate film. It is a third-rate movie written by Landis along with some Arch Halls, Sr. & Jr. (who also act in it). The worst feature of it, though, is not the poor writing or turgid direction, bad as they are. It’s the quite dreadful acting.

‘Actors’ (actually, I think they are rejects from small town amateur dramatics troupes) read the words or announce them in a drone if they have learned them. If the words were OK it mightn’t matter so much but the script is ineffably banal.

The lead, Arch Hall Jr., whose last film this was (phew), is ‘Billy May’. He’s odd looking, overweight, puffy-faced, with eyes too close together and absurd hair. His love, the Indian Little Bird (La Donna Cottier), has exactly the same qualities (they were made for each other), although her hair is dark. The closest to good acting comes from Jack Lester as ‘Tennessee’, although he isn’t good enough to overcome the dire direction or screenplay. He is first seen taking a cargo of cats to Deadwood. I wonder if Pete Dexter had seen this film when he wrote Deadwood in 1986.

Robert Dix (son of Richard) is Wild Bill Hickok. He looks fairly dandy in long hair and swallow-tail coat but that’s about it. He’d had bit parts in B-films for a long time. This was another.

The story is some preposterous twaddle about Billy the Kid going to Deadwood in 1876 for a showdown with Wild Bill. In 1876 Billy was 16, not yet famous and working, as far as we know, on a ranch in Arizona. He most certainly didn’t go up to Deadwood for a gunfight with Wild Bill. Never mind.

There are Indians and shootings and saloons and prospectors striking gold and such.

It was filmed in South Dakota and California. Billed as second photographer is one ‘William Zsigmond’. It’s Vilmos, cutting his teeth before going on to become one of the great Western photographers (McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Heaven’s Gate). So it’s interesting for that.

The Deadwood set isn’t that bad, in fact. It looks a bit like Deadwood in the gulch there jammed up against the hill. I wonder which cowboy town the set was.
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I don’t mind Westerns which play fast and loose with history. As long as they’re fun. But turgid tales badly acted don’t make for terribly enjoyable viewing. Give this one a miss, pardners and you won’t have lost much.
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Better than a dead fish

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Better than a dead fish



Reviewing yesterday Law of the 45s, a clunky but fun old 30s B-picture with Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams beating ornery bushwhackers with his fists and Colts, was a kind of celebration for me.

It was the 300th Western I have reviewed.

From one point of view, I guess, that’s a dreadful waste of what little time we are granted on this planet. If you average out film length as maybe 90 minutes, add in the time it takes to tap out a review and maybe factor in how long it took to buy the DVD (not to mention the hours required to open the new DVD boxes), then 300 films has to represent 24 hours a day for 3 weeks.

But on the other hand, people spend that on hobbies. They spend that making galleons out of matchsticks. They spend that sticking stamps in an album or even sitting on a river bank with a fishing pole, for goodness sake. And what have they got when they have finished? A matchwood galleon, a book full of stamps, a dead fish.

Whereas I, I’ve got, er, oh well, I think I’ll abandon this argument.

And to think that 300 Westerns represents a tiny proportion of the Westerns that have been made. Cinema.com quotes 500 of the best Westerns (not a very good selection, by the way). The IMDb website lists no fewer than 11,245 Westerns. Jeez! Eleven thousand? That’s probably about sixteen thousand hours’ worth (many were early one- and two-reelers). Watching and reviewing that lot would require 2100 days if I did nothing else for 8 hours a day. Including Christmas. That’s six years.

And I bet 11,245 isn’t the total of Westerns actually made. Many have been lost.

And then 11,000 DVD or movie theater ticket purchases: that’s going to cost me 135,000 euros. $170,000. That’s going to take me weeks to earn.

I think I may have bit off here more than I can chaw.

Of course, looked at positively, I have seen and reflected on some of the greatest epics of cinematic history. I’ve reviewed some fine works of art like The Searchers or Red River or The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I’ve seen the most famous examples of the genre such as High Noon, The Magnificent Seven or The Wild Bunch. I’ve followed series of films by great directors like John Ford, Fritz Lang and Raoul Walsh. I’ve seen pictures photographed by masters like Bruce Surtees, James Wong Howe or Lucien Ballard. I’ve enjoyed intelligent dialogue by such screenwriters as Charles Marquis Warren, John Huston or David Webb Peoples, based on stories by Elmore Leonard, Cormac McCarthy or Gore Vidal and delivered by actors of the caliber of Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda, James Stewart and (above all, perhaps) Gary Cooper. I’ve enjoyed music by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Elmer Bernstein and Dimitri Tiomkin.

And you don’t get that building galleons.

And I have thrilled and laughed and admired and just had a hoop-daddy of a time. Thank the Lord there are still 10,945 Westerns still to see and review.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Law of the 45s (Normandy Pictures, 1935)


The Two Mesquiteers 






The Law of the 45s is a straightforward Saturday morning talkie programmer in which Tucson Smith (Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams) and his sidekick Stoney Martin (Al St. John) thwart a dastardly lawyer (Ted Adams) and his bunch of low-down dry-gulchers. There's no sign of Stoney Brooke, though. There are only two Mesquiteers.

The bad guy wants the whole valley, you know how they do, and kills ranchers who refuse to sell out at low prices.

Big Boy’s horse is big and white, as is his Stetson. There’s a fair maid for Big Boy to woo ‘n’ win (Molly O’Day) and her pa is mighty pleased with the idea because Big Boy has saved the ranch.

Oh, you know.

There are two songs the cowpokes croon round the camp fire.

It was based (amazingly) on a novel. The writer’s name was very good: William Colt MacDonald. He was of course famous for the Three Mesquiteers series.

Good for Big Boy to get to lead in a Western anyway.

57 minutes of fun.

 

Yuma (Aaron Spelling Productions, 1971)


Sure 'nuff



 
 


Yuma is a standard early 70s made-for-TV Western, wholesome family viewing. Clint Walker leads as marshal of Yuma. Of course we all know Clint as Bodie Cheyenne on one of the best Western TV shows but he also did a few good features, notably the excellent Fort Dobbs in 1958. He had a great voice and his deep, slow, Western drawl (even though he was from Illinois) is distinctive. And, of course, his 6 foot 6 inch height (and nearly the same across) is equally famous. He was admirable as the strong, silent Westerner.

He is supported by a competent cast of character actors led by Edgar Buchanan (in his last ever Western) and including Barry Sullivan as principal baddie and Morgan Woodward, pitching his big-rancher part somewhere between Lorne Greene and a character from Dallas. I thought the Apache chief might have been Neville Brand for a minute but it was Rudy Diaz.
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You already know Clint is the good guy, of course. How could it be otherwise? But the standard ploy is used for proving it: he is nice to children. An early scene where the hero protects a battered animal or an abused child is unmistakable code for ‘goodie’. He also, of course, is a hit with the hotel owner Julie Williams and sure ‘nuff, by the end, marshal, Julie and the boy are a family unit.

There is a straight steal from Hondo in the final scene as the marshal throws the kid in the water to teach him to swim and threatens that Julie will follow as she can’t swim either. Let's not call it a steal; let's say it was an affectionate quotation.

The movie is directed by journeyman Ted Post who had put in the years doing TV shows, including some Western ones (The Rifleman, Wagon Train, Gunsmoke and so on, though not Cheyenne). It was written by Charles Wallace, who had done almost only Westerns.

It’s an obvious TV movie as you can tell from the rhythm: frequent mini-climaxes to the action followed by fades-to-black for the commercial breaks. But it’s OK. It’s filmed in Old Tucson so we get some nice AZ scenery and saguaros in pleasant color.

It’s predictable, staid and ever so slightly juvenile. But I’ve seen a lot worse.



 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dan Candy’s Law aka Alien Thunder (Onyx Films, 1974)


The Mountie doesn't always get his man





 
Dan Candy’s Law, also known as Alien Thunder, is not really a Western at all, or at least not by the purists’ standards. It’s an all-Canadian effort filmed in Saskatchewan with people saying owt-howse and so on. Films in which a Mountie always gets his person aren’t really Westerns.
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Still, we are in the West of North America at some time in the 1890s and it is a straight revenge/chase plot in which a loner hunts an Indian. And anyway, I'm not a purist.

Donald Sutherland, 39, is a post-MASH, pre-Day of the Locust Constable Dan Candy, determined to hunt down a Cree, Almighty Voice (Gordon Tootoosis, whose first film this was) who had shot down Candy’s pardner, Kevin McCarthy. Sutherland, in his only ever Western (until 2012) is at full steam.

And Chief Dan George is in it, as Almighty Voice’s leader, Sounding Sky. This was after Little Big Man and and he hasn’t aged a bit. He looks well under 100. He was a Canadian, of course. Actually, he was 75 and two years later did The Outlaw Josey Wales. He'd started in the Disney picture with Glenn Ford, Smith! in 1969, when he was a mere stripling of 70. He was very fine in everything.

We have Québécois Jean Duceppe as the Mountie Inspector, or Inspecteur, wiz a vary Franche accsont. His boss, the Brit General, is a complete idiot. The acting’s OK.
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The direction, by another Quebecker, Claude Fournier, is, however, very leisurely, not to say plain slow. Pursuit movies are hard to pace and this one often moves slower than a walking horse. He later went on to greater things, such as directing an episode of The New Avengers. No, that’s unkind. There are some quite moving performances in Alien Thunder and an attempt at atmosphere.

The rotten Mill Creek DVD I saw it on has such a poor-quality print that it’s difficult to pass judgement on the visual aspect of the film, the photography or the color. Difficult, but not, of course, impossible. Old Claude photographed it himself and let us say that it is good in parts.

And actually, at one point Donald says, “I’m just doin’ what I gotta do” so it's a Western withowt dowt.
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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Any Gun Can Play (Fida Cinematagrafica, 1966)


See it if you absolutely must






You can tell it’s a spaghetti within the first 15 seconds. It starts with a shot of horses’ hooves and then an ultra-close-up of faces. Bingo. Spaghetti. Why they were so obsessed with horses’ hooves is hard to say.
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This one is directed by Enzo G Castellari, an actor in various Z-films who ‘graduated’ to directing such art movies as this, his first, or Sette Winchester per un Massacro, and Go Kill Everybody and Come Back Alone, and other masterpieces of this type.


It stars New Yorker Edd Byrnes (Ed Byrne was a gambler in Georgetown, Colo shot by Sheriff Pat Desmond but this fellow is no relation) in very 1960s hair (he combed it endlessly, you remember, in 77 Sunset Strip). Co-starring are Uruguayan ‘George Hilton’ (Two Sons for Ringo, Halleluja for Django, and so on, and so on) and good old standby Mexican Gilbert Roland, in his sixties, who provided the caddish mustache in any number of low-grade stuff and was famously The Cisco Kid.
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So much for the acting.

As for the rest, it is standard spaghetti. Bad music, dubbing, absurd gunshots, facial close-ups, acrobats, all the clichés they love. I sometimes think that Cinecittà must have trawled the scuole medie (lower secondary schools) all over Italy in a recruiting drive to assemble the scriptwriters. The dialogue is so corny that only 13-year-olds could have written it. No fewer than six writers are credited to this film (I won’t bother to list them all). I think their combined age can’t have been more than 78.

There is a train. I wonder where they got it. It trundles across the flat lands (as we know, the trains in Spain stay mainly in the plain).
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There’s a cheesy pop ballad over the opening and closing titles, as per usual.
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The plot involves so many baddies (they are all baddies) double-crossing each other that the ending, after a ‘tense’ (ha ha) three-way Good, Bad & Ugly-style face-off, does at least come as a slight surprise.

It was made in 1967, released in ’68 but already the genre was becoming stale and tired and repeating itself.
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See it if you absolutely must.

 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The birth of the Western

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The start of it all


 
 It is often said that the Edison company’s The Great Train Robbery of 1903, directed by Edwin S Porter, was the first Western. It wasn’t the first Western, or even the first Western film. But it is the most famous very early Western movie, partly because it still exists and can be bought on DVD. And it contained some sophisticated techniques, such as inter-cutting and the traveling matte shot as a train passes the window of the station office. The scene where a cowboy fires his revolver into the camera is said to have caused faintings all over the USA. Its story of a train hold-up was to become a staple and it set the pattern for a host of Westerns which followed. In fact it is really rather good. But of course it sprang from a whole long tradition of Western stories and images.


Even while the West was still wild the myth was active. Pulp novelists told lurid tales of frontier life. Beadle & Adams Beadle’s Dime Novels series, for example, started as early as 1860. The dime novels were the TV of their day, immensely popular and containing something for every family member. Western and frontier stories dominated them (in the 1870s and 80s crime and detective stories became popular but Western tales still led). Wikipedia will tell you more.

 
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Exploiters like New Yorker EZC Judson (1813 – 1886) appreciated the commercial value of the “Wild West”. Judson is better known by his nom de plume Ned Buntline. A rabble-rouser and drunkard, Buntline traveled the country lecturing on temperance and it was on this tour that he met Buffalo Bill. Buntline’s dime novel series ‘Buffalo Bill Cody - King of the Border Men’ was a huge success. In 1872 he also wrote a play, ‘Scouts of the Prairie’, which opened in Chicago starring Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro. Slammed by the critics, the show was a huge commercial success and played to full houses all over the States.

Frank James and the Fords also played themselves in theatrical melodramas.
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Some people, like the biographer WW Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) in Unforgiven, became expert in the lore. Biographers or hangers-on fascinated by the charisma of gunmen appear in several films. Think of Bob Dylan in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid or Hurd Hatfield in The Left-Handed Gun.
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Already, and while the West was still wild, what Richard White calls “the imagined West” was merging fact into myth.
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Wild West shows became popular and re-enacted stage hold-ups or massacres by Indians or gave displays of sharpshooting. These traveling shows, much in the tradition of the circus, with their animals and stunt riders, glamorized the West especially for Eastern (and even European) audiences. The ‘props’ of Western life – the costumes and guns and horses – became half the point, and they grew more decorated and flamboyant. Pawnee Bill, Dr. WF Carver, Buckskin Joe and others made money and their name with these exhibitions.
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But by far the most famous was ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’, launched in 1883. It toured all over the US and was also hugely popular in Europe. Such elements of the show as Custer’s Last Stand or the Attack on the Deadwood Stage passed directly into the consciousness of spectators as the “true” West. Some of the very Indians who would later die at Wounded Knee were on display for the thrill of the cheering crowd. The Western movie of the 20th century absorbed these iconic images and reworked them for the silver screen.

In fact Buffalo Bill star Annie Oakley made a movie and there were two films of Cody’s Wild West show, in 1894 and ‘98.

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The folk music of the nineteenth century contributed to the myth as did, of course, early literary sources such as James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking series (‘The Last of the Mohicans’ appeared in 1826), Francis Parkman’s ‘The Oregon Trail’ and Mark Twain’s great ‘Roughing It’ in 1872.
 













This imagined West was reinforced pictorially by painters and photographers like William Henry Jackson (1843 – 1942). Jackson worked as a publicist for the railroads but he was also a photographer on his own account who wanted to sell his work and his pictures reflected what people wanted the West to be as much as what it really was. A favorite theme of his was the transformation of desert wilderness into a civilized Eden for Americans. You can browse some Jackson photographs here
























Painters too created an idealized West. The most famous was undoubtedly Frederic Remington (1861 – 1909). An unattractive, racist bigot, he nevertheless is admired today for the quality of his work. “Jews, Injuns, Chinamen, Italians, Huns – the rubbish of the Earth I hate – I’ve got some Winchesters and when the massacring begins, I can get my share of ‘em, and what’s more I will.” Friendly fellow. But just look at his paintings: luminous, elegiac, magical. Just put Frederic Remington into Google images and you’ll see what I mean. Or try this Better yet, visit any of the excellent art galleries scattered about the US. My favorite is the art wing of the museum in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming.  There you’ll see not only works by Remington but also by other great Western artists.
 
 
 
.In Great Falls MT you can visit the house and gallery of CM Russell, another of the artists who painted what he saw yet imagined the West and reinforced our idea and ideal of it.

.As soon as motion pictures came along, Western stories were a natural subject for the producers and directors. The popularity of the frontier myth and interest in the reality were well-established and the action and derring-do by now established as essential ingredients of the “real” West were obvious candidates for cinematic treatment. A one-minute film, Cripple Creek Bar Room Scene, appeared in 1898 and a similar Poker at Dawson City the year after.
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Suddenly the Wild West was real, right there on the screen.

Hallelujah.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Major Dundee (Columbia, 1965)


 
A great work of art cut to ribbons?





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Major Dundee was Sam Peckinpah’s first big-budget Western. Ride the High Country and, especially, The Deadly Companions had been relatively modest affairs. In Major Dundee Sam could spread himself for the first time, and he sure did. It is said that Peckinpah was given a $4.5m budget which was reduced to $3m but he spent $4.5m anyway. It didn’t necessarily mean it was a better movie. The director/writer chose remote locations, abused and fired crew like there was no tomorrow and drank heavily. When martinet Dundee (Charlton Heston) becomes obsessed with his foray into Mexico, sinks into alcoholic depression and drags his exhausted men after him at whatever cost, you wonder if this wasn’t Sam himself we are talking about.

Michael Atkinson in The Village Voice sees in this mid-1960s picture a Vietnam parable: “Major Dundee is virtually without rival as a reflection of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, because it simultaneously gloats on irresponsible bloodshed, abhors military slaughter, and couldn't give a good goddamn about life or death.” This is easy to say about any film with violence in it from that period and I don’t think it’s quite so obvious as that. Yes, Major Dundee is nihilistic and violent but that was whiskey-sodden Sam for you.

That can't be tea, surely?

The film was slammed by critics and performed poorly at the box office. Peckinpah’s reputation suffered a hammer blow. He lost The Cincinnati Kid to Norman Jewison and didn’t direct another Western till The Wild Bunch. Whether that was because Major Dundee was an artistic mess, the fault of a drunken and over-reaching director and writer, or whether it was because Columbia, furious, savaged it with cuts, as Peckinpah and his supporters claimed, is debatable. James Coburn and RG Armstrong, on the making-of DVD, slam the studio for the cuts, and many others have said the same. Sam himself claimed that the uncut version was one of the best things he did. I’ve seen the 2005 version, supposedly authentic, and as a viewer I’m not so sure. In the uncut version the film tends to be slow and is long (2 hours 10 minutes). There are scenes which you feel could and probably should have been excised. Less is more, as when an editor forces you to cut 200 words from an article you have written and you think you are forced to sacrifice all the good bits: actually, it becomes a better article.

Sam Peckinpah was certainly one of the genre’s greatest creators but Major Dundee was far from being his finest work.


Heston preens

It’s the story of a late Civil War Union expedition into Mexico to pursue Apaches in which Major Amos Dundee (Charlton Heston) is forced to use Confederate prisoners under Lt. Benjamin Tyreen (Richard Harris). The conflict between the two alpha males (very realistic because apparently Harris was always trying to upstage and outdo Heston) is exacerbated by their both falling for Austrian Santa Berger who happens to be in a poor Mexican village. “He is corrupt,” says Dundee to Berger of Tyreen, “but I will save him.” Tyreen is and Dundee does, of course.

 
They fight French lancers as well as Apaches so there’s no shortage of action. Coburn says that nowadays they have action films but this was a film with action.

As for the principals, I don’t think (though many would disagree) that Harris was ever any good in Westerns except perhaps as English Bob in Unforgiven and it was a pity Anthony Quinn didn’t take the role as planned. And Heston tended to pose and preen a bit, although he does Tough quite well. He was very fine in Will Penny but didn’t otherwise excel. Some of his Westerns (Pony Express, Arrowhead) were really poor. I always think there's something 'sour' about his performances.


However, the support acting is outstandingly good: RG Armstrong is fine (he always was) as a preacher good with a shotgun. Ben Johnson, LQ Jones and Warren Oates are, as usual, splendid as cavalrymen (and adding a Fordian touch to the whole, even if they are Confederates). And, especially, James Coburn is great as the grizzled one-armed scout Samuel Potts. I think he was the best actor on the set.
 
 The best actor on the set
 
Jim Hutton also did a good job with the part of the by-the-book Lt. Graham who learns soldiering and so did Michael Anderson Jr. (a good actor) who was winning as the young Trooper Ryan who narrates the story. Slim Pickens has a sadly small but strong part as a drunken horse stealer and Michael Pate is Sierra Chariba. Pate seemed to have cornered the market in Indian chiefs, rather oddly for an Australian. So, classy acting and a veritable roll-call of fine Western character actors.

Fordian cavalry
 
And the extras! It’s cast of thousands. He took two weeks to shoot just the Apache ambush at the river and the biggest army of stuntmen ever then assembled. Sam Leavitt (Peckinpah had wanted Lucien Ballard) did wide-screen color photography of the Durango locations and the restored print shows the quality well. There is some lovely light and long shadow. Some of the music (Daniele Amfitheatrof and Christopher Caliendo in the 2005 version) is original and striking.

There are, um, whatever the opposite of echoes is in the movie that prefigure
The Wild Bunch five or so years later, such as the sad farewell with the band playing as the soldiers leave the village.
Yes, there are clichés and yes, the lead characters are a little bit two-dimensional. Coburn says that Peckinpah was a genius for three hours a day. But all in all it’s a good film and a must-see in either version – or both. But I don't think it's a great work of art ut to ribbons.