Tuesday, August 20, 2013
226. Winchester '73 (1950)
Running Time: 92 minutes
Directed By: Anthony Mann
Written By: Borden Chase, Stuart N. Lake, Robert L. Richards, from story by Stuart N. Lake
Main Cast: James Stewart, Shelley Winters, Stephen McNally, Millard Mitchell, Dan Duryea
Click here to view the trailer
ONE IN ONE THOUSAND? NOT QUITE, BUT STILL REALLY GOOD!
Ahh, how nice it is to revisit the great Jimmy Stewart after such a long time. I was beginning to think that the endless supply of Humph' Bogart movies would never end. The duo of Jimmy Stewart and director Anthony Mann produced eight Westerns and this is my first and it was quite good.
The film revolves around, get this, a Winchester '73, repeating rifle, said to be a one in one thousand gun. Upon the movie's opening, it is the Fourth of July and we're in Dodge City, where a shooting competition is set to be held, where the winner will receive said rifle as a prize. The favorite to win it all? Dutch Henry Brown (McNally), the outlaw of the hour. However, that's before Lin McAdam (Stewart) rides into town, alongside his sidekick High-Spade Frankie Wilson (Mitchell). It seems that McAdam knows of Dutch Henry Brown and is even anticipating his participation in the shooting contest, knowing that Dutch Henry wouldn't miss competing for such a prized rifle. From the minute they set eyes on one another, Lin and Dutch Henry are like two rabid wolves being held at the collar by town Marshall, Wyatt Earp. It becomes obvious that the two men have a history, but the details are yet to be revealed. The shooting competition comes and goes and when it's all said and done, Lin McAdam shoots a hole through the center of a postage stamp to claim the Winchester. However, before he can have his name engraved on the butt, Dutch Henry steals the gun and makes off with it. From there, it's a horse race through the wide open plains, as the gun falls from hand to hand, including an Indian trader, an Indian chief and another skeevy outlaw. Meanwhile, the Indians are all riled up & ready to scalp and Lin is hot on tail of arch nemesis Dutch Henry Brown.
Can I just give a sarcastic "way to go" to Netflix for putting on the synopsis sleeve to this movie that Lin and Dutch Henry are brothers. I mean, that's kind of a big spoiler and becomes a big reveal at the end of the film and they just slapped it on there, as if it was no big deal. Had I watched the movie without knowing that, it would've given me a little extra added interest in the final act. As it is though, I was pretty into this movie! The movie kicks off with a fantastic hook: a shooting competition. It serves to get the viewer invested in the picture, sets up a strong hero in Lin McAdam and a worthy villain in Dutch Henry Brown. I think as long as we're talking about the characters, I might as well go ahead and start gushing now about the STELLAR cast, half of which I'd never heard of. I'm not only talking about Jimmy Stewart, who was great, but also Stephen McNally (Dutch Henry Brown), Dan Duryea (Waco Johnny Dean), John McIntire (Joe Lamont), Will Geer (Wyatt Earp), Millard Mitchell (High-Spade Frankie Wilson) and Jay C. Flippen (Sgt. Wilkes). These were all FANTASTIC supporting players and did their part to make this movie one to remember. I mean, even the character names are outstanding, as names like Waco Johnny Dean, High-Spade Frankie Wilson and Dutch Henry Brown could only exist in the confines of a Hollywood Western. Oh and I haven't even mentioned the fact that this movie comes complete with Tony Curtis in a very early role and Rock Hudson as an Indian Cheif!! I think I've realized that nine times out of ten, I'll take a B Western over popular, mainstream Western any day. It seems that the ones where the story is a little bit toned down and simplistic are the best ones and I'm thinking of this and "Silver Lode", among others.
The script was also really good and if I'd have to complain about anything, it'd be that the movie DID, sort of, lose a little bit of steam in the second act. I also wasn't crazy about the Steve Miller character or the actor portraying him. It's not that the actor was bad, but he was definitely overshadowed by better talent. I also really, really dislike Shelley Winters for some reason and NEVER buy her as a beautiful lady, coveted by multiple men. I think I always remember her character in "A Place in the Sun" and how annoying she was. That was a great performance by her, that ruined her for me in all other films. But anyway, back to the script, which was indeed a little piece of gold. It was filled with little subtleties, things that the characters never mentioned, yet somehow we just knew what they were talking about. For example, Lin giving Lola the gun and telling her (without saying it) that the last bullet need be saved for herself, in case she was captured by Indians.
RATING: 7.5/10 When I finished this last night, I was thinking '9' initially, but I think '7.5' is more suitable. A definite one to consider when TOP 20 time rolls around.
MOVIES WATCHED: 715
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 286
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