Saturday, June 1, 2013

Things To See 1: Ride The High Country

It is in the spirit of using this blog that I begin suggesting something people should see.  This is not, naturally, an original idea, but a worthwhile one and the choices are my own (and, of course, it fills up the times when I'm not writing long-winded diatribes.

I would like to start by offering Sam Peckinpah's brilliant 1962 Western Ride The High Country.  People often associate Peckinpah's work with his love of old west transition, more specifically The Wild Bunch.  But High Country retrospectively echoes many themes and even scenes later found in Bunch.  It opens on an elderly lawman, played by Joel McCrea, who expects the surrounding applause to be for him, only to be shuffled off the street for a rigged camel vs. horse race.  Later, he is told to watch crossing the street for this newfangled thing called the automobile.

Old West values slowly disintegrate as his partner and he, Randolph Scott, head off on two days ride to collect gold from a mining community; unbeknownst to the lawman, his partner plans to sweet talk him into taking the money for themselves.

To give away anymore would be as criminal as Scott's plans, but be assured values are compromised and twisted, gunfights are aplenty, young overtakes old and it features one of the most heartfelt and fist-pumping blaze of glories ever filmed.

The same year beget John Ford's excellent The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence which, in far more literal Ford fashion, was about the taming of the West.  Its widespread appeal and Gene Pitney song (never used in the film) may have made it more well known, and it certainly signified a major transition in the Old West on film.  It also coined a legend of it's own:

" When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

This may well be the kind of legend that gets printed.  It's certainly a fine primer, or even a spiritual prequel to, The Wild Bunch.


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