As you might have guessed from a cursory glance at our recent entries, a favorite mini-topic of our’s these days is favorite Western movie picks.
We’ve published at least a half dozen blogs on westerns (or “oaters” as they used to be called in the Hollywood trade press) involving Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, John Wayne and, of course, Clint Eastwood.
We’ll have more on all this soon, but in the meantime we decided to broaden our base of opinion by including our resident BOOKS2MOVIES maven Larry Michie in the selection process.
Larry is often given to quirky surprises, and he doesn’t disappoint here. So which ARE his favorites? Here’s Larry:
I am going to be a bit eccentric about this one.
First off, without a doubt and forever, the Number One Western movie is Sam Peckinpah’s ’The Wild Bunch’ (1969).
Blood and gore from the very start of the movie, with children tormenting critters at the roadside as gunmen ride into town with obvious plans to rob a bank. The sheriff (or whatever he is), along with a crew of gunmen, is on an adjacent roof, and he can barely keep the literally-idiot gunmen from opening fire too soon.
There also is a town parade. There’s every opportunity for a bloodbath, and sure enough there is one.
William Holden (pictured above) and crew grab bags of ducats and dash out of town — but because the lawmen knew they were coming a torrent of firepower is pored out onto the street. All sorts of people are shot, terrified, etc. It is unleashed Hell and yet Holden and a few of his crew manage to grab the moneybags and thunder out of town as fast as they can. (Critics at the time were horrified by the movie’s violence. Little did they know what was coming. Ed.)
A posse pursues, but the desperadoes blow up a bridge and effectively get away safely. In the end, as they begin to divvy up the money, they find that the would-be bank was full of nothing but metal stamps.
Later there are confrontations with a Mexican troop, but the Wild Bunch get to a corrupt Mexican town where they have lots to drink, a choice of whores, and manage a fragile peace with the over-the-top Mexican honcho of the town. There were conflicts, of course, and eventually massive bloodshed.
The signature ending shows the rueful Robert Ryan (four years before he died of lung cancer) just outside the town, the only living survivor. Time to get on the horse and move.
That’s number one on my Oater Hit Parade.
As a change of pace, I really liked John Wayne with the perky little girl (Kim Darby) in ‘True Grit’ (also 1969). It is far from my favorite Western, but I regard it as a charming story.
Though I won’t provide additional favorites I will offer my “Number One Wished-for Western” just as a teaser: The magnificent novel Blood Meridian, by one of the world’s best writers, Cormac McCarthy.
The book is a wonderful, hideous, bloody, challenging novel about the Wild West, Mexico, extreme violence, Indian battles covered with gore, with some desperadoes almost as young as kids, and with brutality of all sorts — everything you could want in a Western. If you haven’t read it, give it a try.
Thanks, Larry. We will.