Posts tagged “Lee Marvin

Camelot (1967)

A few months ago I caught Jackie (2016) which for a prolonged scene/montage we saw Jacqueline Kennedy beginning to grieve, preparing for her late husbands funeral. Playing throughout the scene and on the soundtrack is the stage version of Camelot as performed by Richard Burton. We learn later on that JFK saw himself as Camelot, clearly inspiration for him politically and ideology. The track – Camelot stayed with me for sometime after I came out of the cinema. I had to download it to satisfy the ear-worm that was now taking up residence in my head. It’s been about 6 months since I saw both the film and first listened again to the track. It’s been on a number of times in the car. Listening to the track out of context of the musical which I knew still nothing about. I find myself singing along to the track, picking up odd lines, still not ready to take it to karaoke yet – I will be one day. Listening to the lyrics I began to understand part of what the world that Richard Burton was trying to paint to his Guenevere, as if he was selling her his form of paradise. The climate in the kingdom of Camelot is ideal throughout the year. It’s all in decree by the king himself, making sure its all orderly, very British, allowing us to get one with the more important things – like afternoon tea.

Translating this back to the later film I have already got a better understanding of the film and the short-lived presidency of JFK, who dreamed of a utopian new America, which a large number bought into during the cold war, that’s ignoring his many critics who would rather him be out off office. Still that leads into the realm of conspiracies which I’m not going into/entertain. Anyway moving away from the more recent film connection, I first attempted to watch this musical over a year ago. It didn’t go well if I’m honest, it lasted less than 5 minutes before I gave up. The idea of Richard Harris singing it didn’t sit with me beyond the description in the listings. Then somewhere down the line I saw Paint Your Wagon (1969) where again I found actors who aren’t really suited to this world of the all singing and dancing numbers. But I stayed with it due to my curiosity for the film. Both Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood would never have claimed to be singers. They were passable with a lot of training to put it politely, they were having a ball making the film. The much can be said for Camelot, a cast that is not really known for their singing abilities.

I think this time around with Camelot (1967), with the later film and the curiosity again I actually told myself to sit through it, plus wanting to see Camelot and sing along to the number above. It’s not really a song that on the surface is too hard to sing (not suggesting training went into the performance) however it has that William Shatner sound of talking the words which he aced with his rendition of Rocket Man. Could this be a speaking musical – if such a term exists? The main casting of this film is rather unusual yet I stuck with it. I found Harris to be a decent King Arthur without chewing up the set. Vanessa Redgrave‘s Guenevere wasn’t such as easy fit, more suited to drama’s I guess this was a finding her style role, seeing if she could, which to a certain extent she does. The musical numbers aren’t the grandest songs in musical history.

I did find myself still drawn to the Jackie connection, how did the Kennedy’s connect to the musical? For me it was the idea of uniting all the counties, each fighting among themselves. Arthur decides to unite the fighting knights to fight for right. Inviting all the knights of the realm/country to join him, lay down their arms and join him around the famous round table. One that I saw a recreation in Winchester a few years ago, hanging up and looking like a precursor to a dart board. Flyers go out across the country and before too long we see men riding in full armour towards the kingdom. Thats not before one of the flyers reaches France into the hands of Lancelot Du Lac (Franco Nero) yes a french knight played by an Italian whose not even trying to do the accent, probably because it would have sounded worse. I for one was constantly thinking about him dragging a coffin through a town in Django (1966). He just was poorly cast for a Frenchmen, probably seen as way to boost his international profile Hollywood. Better working with Sergio Corbucci, the role would have been better served by Omar Sharif in terms of accent – maybe. However Nero did bring an air of mystery, the practically unknown to everyone until Arthur remembers what Merlin Laurence Naismith predicted that he would sit with him around a table (not knowing it was round). This is naughty love interest for Guenevere that soon takes hold as she starts to pit others against him in hopes of driving him away or to prove to herself if he’s worthy of her affections, that were too quickly won by Arthur and his selling of paradise.

It’s this idea of paradise that he wants to spread across the country, the start of modern Britain, lawmakers and government not just by one monarch which is essentially a dictatorship without the advisors. Bringing all these knights likes Senators of the 50 states of America together in Washington for greater good than they’d been doing before obviously inspired. Was JFK essentially dreaming of a better world that was now entering the 2nd decade of the Cold War. He oversaw the Cuban missile crisis, encouraged the space programme among other things. Now the use of Camelot in Jackie makes a lot more sense, enriching the film in terms of the relationship that’s now being grieved for. It’s a reminder of what’s essentially a reminder, a memento of stage production, and inspiration for a man. I come away with all of this after a film that is definitely watchable, lots if a fun and songs you don’t really need to have a great voice to have fun with.


Seven Men From Now (1956) Revisited

seven-men-from-now-1956If it wasn’t for John Wayne having a scheduling conflict we may not have had the Ranown cycle. He was supposed to be playing the lead in the latest Budd Boetticher film that his company was producing. However he was about to start on The Searchers (1956) instead of leaving his director and film without a lead he recommended a good friend of his – Randolph Scott the role. It was the start 7 film partnership that would form the Ranown cycle created by the actor and director. Making their own Monument Valley out of Lone Pine, another iconic and ready-made stage for the myth of the West to be played out in.

It’s been just under a year since I reviewed made my last entry regarding this series of films, as I remember some films were stronger than others, now I have come full circle and back to the beginning with Seven Men from Now (1956) which really set-up the formula which was reworked in the majority of the seven films. We begin with a stormy night, getting the drama going straight away, a tall and water-soaked figure walks away from the camera to the rocks in search of shelter. It’s the ever reliable and stoic Scott playing Ben Stride who finds a campfire, keeping two men warm. It’s all cosy now, asking for a cup of coffee, when we learn he has lost his horse sometime ago in a gunfight, he’s been walking all day, tired and wet from a very long day. The two men grow suspicious when they discover he was a sheriff, reaching for their guns, the camera cuts away amidst gunshots, before we see Scott riding away with two horses, him on the back of one. The only survivor, but was it out of murder or survival. I carry this dark thought with me for a few minutes, questioning his motives, is he the man I know on the screen or someone whose out of a ride for revenge.

As always he rides alone and prefers it, enjoying the company of no one unless he really has to, which comes in the form of the Greer’s a couple traveling to California. Annie (Gail Russell) and John (Walter Reed) a poor excuse for a man who is struggling to get his wagon out of a muddy patch of ground. How has he gotten this far without being killed by gunfighter’s, cowboys or even worse Chiricahua’s who are on the loose. Surrounded by danger from the unseen and his own lack of manhood. Yet Annie has stayed with him, there must be more to him than meets the eye. Stride the gentlemen he is begins to ride with them, out of duty for the couple who have somehow survived this far into the West.

So as much as he wants to be alone with his tortured thoughts as he acts as guide and security for the traveller’s. We learn later on more of his past when they stop at a way station and the arrival of Bill Masters (Lee Marvin) and Clint (John Beradino) join him, they know more than the Greer’s who are just happy to be resting. We learn that the sheriffs wife was killed during a Wells Fargo robbery, a crime that Stride couldn’t stop, loosing his position in town soon after. He’s not only lost his wife but his position in society. He’s only a man with a debt to settle with the men who killed his wife.

There are similar back-stories throughout the Ranown cycle that have created these complicated characters for Scott to play, this is just the first of them, he’s digging deep into the psychology of the men he plays. Before we learn more we see who Masters is when they face a raiding party of Chiricahua’s who up until now have been spoken about. They are soon taken care of revealing his true colours, shooting a captive man in the back. Was he one of the seven shot down leaving six for Stride to take aim at, or was he being protected, funny how he was shot in the back though.

This is one of Marvin’s larger supporting roles before rising up to top billing. We can see how this clearly more physical actor can psychologically get under the skin of our hero. Sharing the Greer’s wagon shares a story, comparing one woman to Annie, who naturally pales in comparison, taking aim at both husband John and Stride who he was aiming at more. He doesn’t need a bullet to get under his skin, whilst John’s too cowardly to defend his wives honor. This Western is not just one of action and guns, its one of the mind, making it stand out from the standard B western.

Technically we can see that the look of the films in the series is being established, the imagery of Lone Pine. Visually it’s a bit hit and miss, editing is not as slick as it can be. The cinematography is starting to show signs of something greater, however the focusing can be distracting when we cut to a new scene. That’s not to take away from what is otherwise on-screen and in the script.

I’d forgotten how short and sweet these films really are, it’s a lean film coming in at under 80 minutes. We are soon back in civilisation where more characters are met, led by Payte Bodeen (John Larch) who is possibly the leader of these men. We also learn where the money is that has been with the Greer’s the whole time. The guilt of Strides past has never really left him, taking the money into his own care, taking responsibility, ultimately taking action for the loss of his wife and position. It’s a twist I forgot was even in the film, showing that it’s been a long time since my last viewing and just how well the film works as it moves to the finale as we see the characters all being revealed for who they are, they’ve all been hiding something from us and ultimately themselves.  I’ll leave you with a clip from Blazing Saddles (1974) which just shows how much I have missed Randolph Scott on my screen and the imprint he has made on the genre.

Hell in the Pacific (1968)

Hell in the Pacific (1968)I was going to review another of Lee Marvin film that I watched at the weekend – Point Blank (1967) sadly I couldn’t find anything extra to really bring to a Revisited review so I passed on the opportunity. Moving on from there I had another Marvin film that I wanted to watch more out of interest for whom he’s paired opposite – Toshiro Mifune in Hell in the Pacific (1968) here we have two strong leading actors from countries that during WWII were fighting on opposite sides, brought together in the guise of a war film of that period. It doesn’t take us long to lose the setting of the war to reveal something far deeper than Yank vs. Jap.

Almost immediately I was drawn to the lack of dialogue between these two men, something that you rarely find in a film of this genre or even period, a very brave move by the director. Of course the silence can’t last for long, they have to and will communicate as the first test each other as they fight for their very survival. Our American pilot (Marvin) can plainly see that his enemy Captain Tsuruhiko Kuroda (Mifune) fight over the limited water that the Japanese Captain has captured, its like gold to both of them, protected and fought over more so before it is all washed away.

What follows is a period of mind games between the two men who are both clearly not at their best pushing each other to the brink and personal limits both physically and mentally. There were times that I wished there were subtitles for Mifune who can be lost by the language barrier. I’m surprised that the channel that aired the film didn’t take that into consideration. Until you realise that you don’t really need them as you can easily gauge from how the film develops how he feels. Helped by Marvin who is in just the same boat, a language barrier that could easily have worked against him. Instead we see him work through it as much as the audience forgets that and just engages with the emotions between these two tactical and now survival minded men.

I’m glad the film progresses from one fight to another, first those against each other which prove interesting to watch. The staring from Marvin is both playful and dangerous, he knows the game he is playing. We see the American lose his side to fight this one lone man, he is the only opposition he’s up against so puts all his energy into it. Driving the Captain to breaking point, even the audience starts to question what is happening, surrounded by the noises of the jungle that join in on the act.

It all comes to a head when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of their situation, they are both alone on this Pacific island that holds them both captive. Looking out for a passing ship, then at least they would be safe and alive, even if one becomes a P.O.W. the other would be indebted to them for saving their lives. As I mentioned earlier the language barrier melt away after finding a wooden draw that is out a few metres from the island. The moment when they decide to work together, the idea of being enemies and foreign falls away, it’s about survival at any cost. Constructing a raft from bamboo they soon set sail, we move into a different kind of film that leaves the island behind, hopes of being found alive.

We lose the dialogue once more as they work to navigate  the Pacific ocean where anything could happen, anyone could intercept them now they are in the open. Out there they becomes good friends, words are not needed for their mutual co-operation, sailing together requires not just strength and quick thinking it needs trust to run a tight ship or even raft that combines Japanese and American design.

Landing later on an island that we learn is deserted, looking like it was once occupied by both sides. It’s a time for reflection, to scrub up like you only in a Hollywood film, our once dishevelled men become polished again, ready to carry on their journey, hopefully in better condition. Not long after minutes if suspense as nobody knows which side we are entering into. It’s a confused wilderness of objects from both sides, what can we believe, even the two men are confused before making it their own.

We stay on this once inhabited island for the ending that I was considering for sometime, would it fade to black? would they be picked up by one of their sides, a tearful handshake as the other is lead off to a camp to see out the war? I just couldn’t decided. The director clear could, to conclude this film for both audiences, that have seen a two veterans of WWII on-screen together, opposing sides wanting different outcomes. The best thing to do is to end it all before it goes any further an explosion draws this fiction, this possible truth to an abrupt end, leaving us with our questions that will be forever left unanswered. It stands out as a war film on a number of levels, a minimal cast and dialogue that allow for a film that could go anywhere. Two classic enemies are pitted against each other with only a few pieces to survive on, war becomes survival and in time friendship and respect.

Paint Your Wagon (1969)

Paint Your Wagon (1969)This is one film I have been either putting off or just plain avoiding. The very idea of both Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood two heavy leading men in Westerns just put me right off for years. It took a “what the hell” moment to take the plunge what this comedy Western Musical, yes three genres for the price of one. I knew from past visual research the film had some connection with the gold-rush, a mass of wooden structures and tent across a river up and down on either side littered with figures. I didn’t really pay much attention to its source, just the content for the gold-mine I was researching in 2012. That’s where I come from when it came to Paint Your Wagon (1969) knowing it would be nothing like The Simpsons parody but quietly hoped it was. I think my sister and I have added another line “Gonna used turpentine, gotta keep those brushes clean” unless there’s another clip I can’t find.

OK so moving away from my thoughts going into the film before the release of the film there really wasn’t many gold digging films before 1969, looked at only briefly as only an aspect of frontier life. Not the setting for a whole film, just a passing location. Not as focused as The Spoilers (1942) which is just off the top of my head. Films usually centering around greed and power that the yellow metal can produce once found. We don’t really leave this once location for long. Instead we become immersed in this male dominated world, in a male dominated genre that sees women pushed to the sidelines. This very aspect of the genre’s poked and prodded for the first hour.

Taking a step back to having both Marvin and Eastwood in the same film which would be a dream come true if it was a straight Western it would be too much to handle. Instead I have to settle for a musical which if I’m honest has encouraged me to write a review and consider the genre in a different way once more. As much it is a chance for escapism and a sing along. I couldn’t imagine either two of these actors really singing or taking it seriously. I know that Marvin had a hit with Wand’rin’ Star not really wanting to believe that fact until I see it. As an audience we don’t really expect them to sing not perfect even before the days of auto-tune. Instead they do hit the notes but they aren’t blowing me away. Saying that, it doesn’t matter as this s out of the ordinary, much like Mama Mia (2008) we don’t want sopranos or trained professionals. They instead do the job fine and have fun doing it.

Thinking like that it means that, the film’s aimed at two audiences, with music for the music lovers and the actors for the rest, it’s a win-win situation. Added that you like Westerns you are getting an extra treat.

Going back to the themes of the film, a overally masculine film which knows it can stay that way, I wouldn’t call it modern though, thinking of progress in frontier terms. The male dominated gold mining town of No Name needs women to satisfy certain urges and needs that have been going without for so long. With the arrival of a Mormon and his two wives, one being the headstrong Elizabeth (Jean Seberg) who under the laws of the goldmine’s sold to the highest bidder – Ben Rumson (Marvin) who in turn shares with her with his mining partner Pardner (Eastwood). The morals of the day are mocked and trivialized. The power of religion’s mocked at the beginning, living by their own laws that work in a male dominated society under mining laws, all finds are filed and legal, It makes sense in the days before California was given statehood have to fend for themselves. I found Seberg’s involvement in the film odd at times, coming more from a world of French New Waves to a big-budget musical. Working off two actors who as big as the genre who work well opposite her. She’s no longer the free-loving girl of Breathless she has grown up.

As the film progresses the need for women increases as two men live with a similar arrangement to Mormon’s. The society adopt and adapt whatever ideas that make life easier for them and why not if everyone is happy. All this leads up to the boom-town that all gold-mines have become before they climax and collapse. With the kidnapping of French prostitutes times are indeed a-changing and for the better for a time. A town grows over night, gold is making this town come alive, more come to take advantage of the delights and sins that are within the mountains. Enter the Parson (Alan Dexter) whose mocked at every turn up the very end of the film. With the arrival of winter storm Elizabeth takes in a religious family who are innocent to the sins of this town. We see both Pardner and Elizabeth change overnight almost whilst boisterous and un-tamable Rumson who opens the eyes of the oldest to what can indulge himself, sins that make him a man of the frontier.

It’s a musical that mocks the genre at time when it had grown tired and for time it raises it up to become something bigger and magical. Songs that to me aren’t largely important. They move the film forward, mainly light and celebratory in tone. Based on folk songs of the period larger than life pieces that stop the film for five minutes as one character sings their heart out. They do uplift without a doubt with a heavy dose of humour which ensured I stayed the course of the film as it falls into farce meeting reality as the town collapsing and people begin to move on to the next boo town so the cycle would begin again.  

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) Revisited

The Man who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)I thought I understood The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) on my first encounter a few years back. I didn’t give my best review so obviously my understanding wasn’t that informed. You could say John Ford has given us an early revisionist western before we knew what we were getting. Shaking up the genre whilst still very much in the classic form of a stranger coming into town. The first time we see two of the screen most popular actors sharing the screen, James Stewart and John Wayne who equally have made an impact on the genre.

The tale of the shooting of bandit Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) begins in retrospect with the death of Tom Doniphon who ready to be buried. A poorly aged Stewart (Ransom Stoddard) arrives back to the town of Shinbone a senator. Why could he possibly want to be in this town, to pay his last respects to an old man? This is all before the tale is told before the local paper newspaper, eager to know why he and his wife Hallie Stoddard (Vera Miles). The connection becomes clearers as we leave the turn of the century town for a territorial frontier town on the cusp of great things or collapse.

Beginning with the classic hold up on a dark night, masked gun men bring a stagecoach to a stop to rob all of their money. Not counting on the young(er) and eager lawyer (Stewart) packing only the law in the form of books. Using on words as his weapon of choice in a land ruled by the draw of a gun. Laughed at, beaten he is left for dead by Valances men. This is however just he beginning of the legend.

Eventually brought into town by Tom Doniphon the man we have all been waiting for, the anticipation after seeing Wayne’s name in the opening titles has been held back until nearly the first half hour, building up his part after his demise. The legend that is the Duke is larger than life in now iconic dress even in black and white the colour transfer image of his role takes nothing away from the black and white masterpiece of the western genre, instead lifting him to a higher status. His first beaming smile, his presence is known, we are at ease when he is on-screen. The image is engrained on the genre and the legend. Not forgetting the numerous times he says “pilgrim” aimed at the gunless Stoddard meant he was a newcomer to the western, whilst also on a pilgrim of religious reasons, his religion being the law which he wanted to bring out with him. Which develops into both a term of affection towards the stranger and minor insult which only seems to make little difference to the stubborn lawyer.

It’s not just about bringing the dangerously wild cowboy Valance to justice, something that that town Marshall Link Appleyard (Andy Devine) is not too interested in doing, instead happier to stuff his face, having the easy life which comes with his position. The political landscape of their region is in a state of change. The unnamed territory could easily fall into the hands of the cattlemen who built it up, or into a state which would allow them to be looked after as a community. The beginning of a proper infrastructure, paid for by taxes that go to the government. Stoddard is a force for change and he doesn’t even know it. With the growing support of Shinbone through education which opens their minds to the possibilities beyond simple gun-play.

With the help of local newspaper-man Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien) he builds a position of power and influence that eventually brings him back to Valance and the influence of fear and guns in the town. The showdown must take place in order for a few things to happen. For progress to move forward, for Stoddard to have some self respect and defend himself and make the town safe. This is the moment we have been waiting for, all the build-up and practice is what we sat down for. Its a long drawn out beginning which become a triumph of good over bad as Valance is finally slain down. The legend is born in those few minutes that s last longer than the length of the film. Itself is a construction of all involved, the actors, lighting, special effects and the director, it happened countess times before too and even after. 

It’s a short gun battle just a few shots, nothing like as many as those fired in Tombstone, Arizona which actually took place at the OK Corral in 1881. Because it was caught on camera, its adds another dimension, built up by the characters who believe they know what happened, a new man is born after that day. Ready for office even on the foundations of a killing, lawful or not. Not politician today would be brought to office with a criminal record as colourful as his.

Going into full political mode its time to get Shinbone’s territory represented democratically and full Fordian style. Making full use of his stock company of actors he has built up over the years we have a raucous time inside that meeting, characters showing their true colours. It’s rich in people, sound and events. All before the truth of that gunfight is revealed to Stoddard, built on the foundation of a lie, a sacrifice of one mans feelings for another’s. To settle a score that could have gone on for years to come between to equal skilled gunmen. A great man who could have had more gives it all up for the pilgrim who has taken all he’ll ever have.

The legend is sealed between the two of them. only to be revealed to a journalist who in the end doesn’t want to publish that story, which is what it will remain to all of, yet in the west it is a prime example of an event becoming screwed and taking on a life on it’s on. A grand delusion part of a countries image that fought to contain itself and prove to the world that the young nation could set an example, making hard decisions. It’s another myth of conquest, not over a native nation, but good over evil to progress and not regress to never moving forward. Why spoil something that a country has taken into their hearts, becoming part of the fabric. If the truth should be known, don’t share too loudly. Ford is rewriting the western genre as we knew it a creator of myths that could so easily be built up and smashed back down, are they lies, points of view and conjecture, its all of them and the passage of time growing into being part of history, something which Stoddard never escapes from.

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The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953)

IThe Stranger Wore a Gun (1953) had a feeling I had already seen The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953), surprisingly I haven’t which was all the better, having a new Randolph Scott western to watch. My first thoughts were whether this was or not a much forgotten 3D film from the early fifties when Hollywood first experimented with the medium, which today has made great leaps, but its use is still questioned, seen very much as a novelty, rather an enhancing the film. Here it was very much a novelty from the very start, as the actors threw things at the camera, even taken aim at us too. That I could accept, a product of its time. It became more laughable in the chases scenes where rocks in the foreground that were clearly being held in front of the camera and moving as the camera does to follow the action. Still that aside it was a decent western.

Turning to the plot which holds up in spite of novelty 3D effects at the time kept me engaged. The civil war is coming to an abrupt and fiery end for the Confederates who raid and burn a town to the ground, with the assistance of one time spy Jeff Travis (Scott) who gets away his life.

Not far from him is the confident and infatuated Josie Sullivan (Claire Trevor) who we meet on a steamboat that is full of talk of the town that was destroyed. Will she be able to save the wanted man?

It turns out that he can, joining up with a gang who have their eyes on the local freighter and stagecoach company, which carries thousands of dollars worth a gold, something not to be ignored. Lead by Jules Mourret (George Maceady) whose gang of dangerous men include the likes of Dan Kurth (Lee Marvin) and Bull Slager (Ernest Borgnine) who don’t trust their newest member who from day one has the upper hand over them all. Working under another name, he works for the stage and freight company, earning their trust and respect. Relaying information of large values of gold leaving.

You could say is a shorter and less complex earlier version of For a Fistful of Dollars (1963) which saw a stranger pit two gangs against each other before making off himself with the money. But that is ten years later and before a Japanese take on the idea Yojimbo (1961) took and fleshed out to later take on iconic status back in the western.

It’s a solid western full of action as one man comes into town and turning things on their head, taking on the gangs at their own game. It’s nowhere near as tight as the latter incarnations of the same story. The focus is on Scott using his brain before Braun. There are some great set-pieces that bring the film alive, making you forgive the shoddy 3D which was very much still in its infancy as we you can see in the film. Having more fun than anything in an action heavy setting.

Cat Ballou (1965)

Cat Ballou (1965)I have avoided this film for sometimes, putting my nose up at the very idea of a western spoof, making fun out of the genre, mocking. It was another biting the bullet time when I decided to watch Cat Ballou (1965) which is so rich in not just the level of humour but the subtext of the plot.

A rare film that places a woman in the lead role, for a western being a male dominated genre that is a great leap, only a few that I can think of have been made with an actress in mind. Such as Rancho Notorious (1952) for Marlene Dietrich. With a member of the Fonda family in the lead, she cannot be easily sidelined, when it comes to Jane Fonda as Cat Ballou a newly qualified school teacher who comes home to her father, in hope of finding a job. Before she can even reach her home she is thrown into the company uncle and nephew team Clay and Jed Boone (Michael Callan and Dwayne Hickman) a duo of rustlers who lead Catastray.

Once she is back with her father, an elderly rancher Frankie Ballou (John Marley) who fears that his land and life are under threat from a slaughter-house that is being proposed. We see a black figure of a villain lurking in the shadows, a clear cliché of the western villain which had recently been personified by Lee Marvin who indeed plays the role of the man with a silver nose and brother of Kid Shelleen. 

Many of the hallmarks/conventions of a western of commented on in some form. From the mob that is made up and chases the train robbers is sped up to mock the genre, which first did this back in the 1930s to speed up the action.

It took me a while to get used to the two singers who kept the pace with The Ballad of Cat Ballou by Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye which at first was full on more contemporary eyes. When at the time of release the genre was growing tired. Taking it back to its roots, and increasing the colour and design of the film we have a heightened experience of the wild west.

I would probably need more time and several re-watches to fully understand what the film is saying about the genre. From the drunken gunfighter, a dying breed of man, with the introduction of the law there is no place to celebrate the gunfighter’s. All the old towns that were a home to them are gone or going quickly, people no longer care for them as skilled men, men to be feared and respected. What is to be feared now is the train which has been rolling across America for around 50 years, allowing people to be connected in ways never seen or experience before.

Of course away from all the intellectuallising of the film which I really want to do, it’s a fun film, a break away from what a western can be, when they are at their best. I am now ready to take on another spoof – Blazing Saddles (1974) which really questioned the genre as it was facing a cruel death in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam.