Saturday, September 5, 2015
329. Man of the West (1958)
Running Time: 100 minutes
Directed By: Anthony Mann
Written By: Reginald Rose, from the novel The Border Jumpers by Will C. Brown
Main Cast: Gary Cooper, Julie London, Lee J. Cobb, Arthur O'Connell, Jack Lord
Click here to view the trailer
MAN(N), I'M JUST NOT THAT IMPRESSED
Sorry for the delay. After the episode I had on Sunday night and my little visit to the E.R., I think I may have contracted a cold from the hospital, as I've been pretty miserable since Wednesday. A steady diet of DayQuil and NyQuil for this guy and today, I finally dragged myself out of bed to write about Man of the West. Don't expect Shakespeare here folks...
The film started out just fine. An aging Gary Cooper riding into town on a horse, a mysterious stranger to the townspeople. Someone recognizes him and he shrugs them off, saying his name is "Wright" and heading to the nearest train station to purchase a ticket to Ft. Worth. On the train, he's engaged by yet another man, this time changing his name to something different altogether. From the get go, we know something is amiss, Cooper's character carrying a bag, presumably full of money, and lying twice about his name. We don't know if he's good or bad and that's when a band of outlaws jump the train during a stop and rob it. Cooper's character, whom we later learn is named Link Jones, is knocked out by one of the bandits and Link along with Miss Billie Ellis (London) and another man with a sprained ankle are left behind as the train pulls off. Knowing the nearest town is a hundred miles away, the trio wander. Link eventually leads them to a small homestead, where he tells them he once lived. He seems not to know if the residence is occupied now, so he goes in for a closer look, stowing his two companions away in a nearby barn. It turns out that the homestead IS, in fact, occupied by the men who robbed the train and furthermore, the men are from a gang that Link used to belong to. Remember, it's a small world after all. It turns out that Link used to be an outlaw, but has since reformed himself, almost getting sick to his stomach at the thought of his old life. Link pretends to be back in the fold, as the outlaws pretty much hold the trio hostage, eventually....well, eventually doing things that would spoil the story...
I honestly can't pinpoint why I didn't like this, as the plot was actually pretty good and the actors were on point. The only thing I can think of, is that I think it's finally time to admit that I just do not like westerns. Like sci-fi, there are a few exceptions to the rule (Once Upon a Time in the West, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), but for the most part, I'm just not a western type of guy. The whole thing just seemed to old fashioned for my taste and even saying that this was "old fashioned" is kind of stupid, since most westerns ARE old fashioned - that's one of their key traits. Like I said, this started out just fine. It was almost a mystery movie, in that we didn't know what Gary Cooper was or even who he was. Was he a good guy or a bad guy? Where did he get all that dough? All signs seemed to point to him being a baddie and then at about the twenty minute mark, we find out that - no, he USED to be bad, but now he's good. This was just a boring revelation, if you ask me. I'd have liked to see the movie draw out even more with the audience in question. Have us believing that Link is a bad guy right through the train robbery, having the outlaws recognize him and leave him alone, since he used to be a part of the gang. If they leave him alone, then we're convinced he's one of them and when the train speeds off and leaves them behind, we're now worrying for the state of Julie London and Arthur O'Connell, because they're now alone with an outlaw. Hell, keep us believing that Link is a bad guy, even as he saunters up to the homestead and reunites with his former gang. He pretty much pretends to still be one of them anyway, so as long as we're all pretending, leave us out of it. Then, when Link goes to the barn to collect his two companions, maybe it's here that he comes clean? And when he does come clean, maybe we, the audience, don't really believe him. Keep us in suspense, give us doubts. Instead, we got the answers right out of the box and the rest of the movie ended up being pretty flat & dry, not unlike it's scenery.
Oh, but how awesome was Lee J. Cobb? I always keep an eye out for the 12 Angry Men cast and I'm always pleasantly surprised to see them turn up in other movies. I can still remember being surprised when Martin Balsam showed up in Breakfast at Tiffany's, that Lee J. Cobb showed up in The Exorcist and now showing up in this. I always love to see those twelve actors - I'm always impressed by all of their talents. Cobb here was a powerhouse and about the only 100% enjoyable thing in the whole film. I can give or take Gary Cooper and the rest of the cast was sort of *meh*. Julie London though? What a looker and I'm shocked I haven't heard more from her.
RATING: 5/10 Call it down the middle and leave it at that. There's one Mann left and I'm hoping The Naked Spur turns out to be the cream of the Anthony Mann crop.
MOVIES WATCHED: 961
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 40
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