The Tall T (1957)

The_Tall_T_1957_PosterThe Tall T is a little different riff on the Budd Boetticher western, because it follows a former ranch hand named Pat Brennan who makes a stop at a local stagecoach way station to pay a visit to some locals before riding into the nearby town. Quickly we can see that Brennan is a little more jovial and still as tough as many of the other figures Scott has played.

He also is a first rate ranch hand, and yet after a bet with his old boss he loses his horse, because a bull throws him. Brennan attempts to catch a ride with a stagecoach with happens to be carrying two honeymooners, the timid Mrs. Mims and her stuffy husband. Reluctantly he is allowed to ride shotgun with the old time driver Rintoon (Arthur Hunnicutt) and it ends up being a regrettable decision. Mistaken for the regular stage, the four are hold up by three merciless outlaws looking for a big payoff.

They are led by Frank Usher (Richard Boone in a villainous turn), but the most deadly is Chink (Henry Silva), who seems eager to knockoff as many people as possible. And so a tense game of life and death ensues.  Rintoon attempts to fight back,  Mims agrees to go the cowardly route and ride off to try and attain ransom money. Brennan simply bides his time.

Unrest begins to build between the outlaws and Brennan takes his chance to save Mrs. Mims from the leering Billy Jack and bloodthirsty Chink. As the old story goes, the ringleader Usher is the only one left, but he has one last trick up his sleeve.

O’Sullivan’s role felt relatively minor, but it was quite fun to see Have Gun Will Travel’s Richard Boone opposite Randolph Scott. It made for a relatively interesting conflict.

3.5/5 Stars

The Bravados (1958)

The_Bravados_-_US_film_posterThe Bravados opens with an ominous stranger in black riding towards a town. He doesn’t say much, but his presence alone creates tension enough. He gets led into town by the local deputy and after a meeting with the sheriff, he is allowed to stick around. His only reason for coming to the city of Rio Arriba is to watch the hanging of four outlaws, at least that’s what he says. But when he asks to see the prisoners, he surveys them and there is nothing but anger in his eyes.

As they wait for the hangman from out of town to arrive, Jim Douglas (Gregory Peck) gets reacquainted with the beautiful Josefa (Joan Collins). And nothing is said about their backstory, but there is obviously something between them. He at first refuses her offer to go to church, but requests to walk her over before reluctantly joining her in the chapel.

However, back at the jail, the hangman is not who he appears and stabs the sheriff in the back with the four outlaws getting away taking a local’s daughter with them. So the town is in a fury sending a posse after the fugitives led by Douglas.

And one by one Douglas tracks down the culprits. First, ambushing Parral (Lee Van Cleef) who he shoots after the man begs for his life to be spared. Next, he takes down Taylor and hangs him from a tree after dragging him behind his horse. The posse does eventually get the kidnapped girl Emma, but Douglas is far from satisfied, crossing the border to Mexico to finish the job. He guns down Zachary in a bar and his only target left is Lujan (Henry Silva). But that’s when things change. Douglas is knocked out of his blind rage for a moment. Because this whole vendetta began after his wife was raped and murdered. He went on an obsessive quest to find the four culprits and although these four no-goods constantly denied seeing his wife, he just went after them anyway.

It is Lujan who finally makes Douglas realize he made a mistake. In this epiphany, Douglas realizes he is little different than these four outlaws, willing to kill mercilessly, even in the name of justice. He goes back to town a hero, but he heads straight for the church where he confesses his wrongs to the local priest. He is a man with a lot to wrestle with, but also a lot to live for thanks to his daughter and Josefa. Although not quite as iconic and memorable, The Bravados, in a sense, is Gregory Peck’s version of The Searchers. This Henry King western in CinemaScope is noteworthy for allowing Peck to play another morally ambiguous character. He is no Atticus Finch.

3.5/5 Stars

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury, and Janet Leigh, the plot revolves around a Korean war hero who is brainwashed to be a weapon for Communists. Several men in the company have recurring nightmares about brainwashing, communists, and murder. Sinatra’s character has trouble finding solace, however he does meet a beautiful woman (Leigh). Harvey’s character returns home constantly at odds with his domineering mother who is married to a dim-witted senator. He has no idea what deadly purpose he is being used for. His brainwashing causes him to commit several shocking murders. It is up to Sinatra to finally save him and stop his one final violent act. However, Harvey’s character does prevail by himself but not without tragedy. Sinatra and Harvey give wonderful performances and Lansbury is especially chilling. As you will find out, this film shows all the twists and thrills that come out of a simple game of solitaire. It was also a sign of the times during the Cold War.

5/5 Stars