Monday, August 01, 2005

Ride the High Country

This Wednesday, TCM is screening what may be Hollywood's last great western. It is a beautifully filmed action melodrama, and an emotionally moving existential drama of human character and commitment.

With current television screens of width and clarity, it should be a real treat to watch. And since it is currently only available on VHS, not DVD, Turner may be the only widescreen opportunity we have for a while.

Virtually ignored during its brief release by MGM, mostly due to a non-supportive exhibition system, Ride the High Country is now rated a Four Star movie by every critic. Of course, I was already on board in 1962 and following is a brief excerpt of my original review.

“High Country”
Above Standard

Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea star in a story about two aging ex-lawmen with nothing to show for their work but a now-declining skill with six-guns. Despite his age, and with no knowledge of his weakening eyesight, McCrea is hired by a bank to transport some yield from a mountain diggings named Coarse Gold.

Seeing an opportunity, Scott offers to help McCrea, hoping to convince him that their current state of poverty, after years of upholding the law, entitles them to this final, illegal reward. The moral issues the picture deals with seem simple enough, but they run deep. They are clear cut, but never pedantic.

The script by N.B. Stone, Jr. and the direction of Sam Peckinpah are imaginative, inventive and exciting. The performances of McCrea and Scott are superbly moving. They have all the charm and authority of the best of the old greats still working. And they are backed up by a richly talented and appealing supporting cast.

The film does have flaws. Some of the traditional elements come across as cliches. Some of the off-beat touches are not so good but seem to be just there for the sake of being off-beat. Much of the behavior of the characters is not sensibly motivated. But, as with some women who are beautiful not only despite their flaws but because of them, this film succeeds in justifying itself through an intuitive, yet tangible, rightness about almost everything it presents.

It is an unfortunate example of the limited thinking on Hollywood that when a really entertaining picture such as "High Country" is made, its chances of getting proper attention are minimized by being released through an unimaginative and out - moded distribution set-up. Currently in Los Angeles, this excellent film has been relegated to the bottom half of a double-bill of which the pathetically unfunny and ineptly made "Boys Night Out" is the feature attraction.


At December 04, 2012 12:05 AM, Anonymous Kevin said...

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