Review

  • Maybe it's the fact it's carelessly fallen into the public domain, and that people can only see it now on awful quality knock off DVD's, maybe it's because it was directed by it's star Marlon Brando who had never directed before (or since), but I really can't understand why this movie isn't considered anything less than an out and out classic.

    With the exception of only two or three I cannot stand the stoic American westerns of the 40's and 50's and always preferred the more anti-establishment and infinitely more stylish Italian westerns, but man 'One Eyed Jacks' definitely sits at a fascinating place between the two.

    I'm not sure how much of Peckinpah's script or Kubrick's ideas made it into what was eventually Brando's film but it's definitely easy to make an argument that their marks (be it directly through the script or just through influencing Brando) are definitely there.

    It has all the things that makes the BEST Spaghetti Westerns so great, a story that is uncomplicated (it's just a revenge tale) but at the same time takes no easy or obvious turns - rather than shoot his prey straight up Brando's character makes a much more protracted and fascinating game of his 'revenge'. And the reason for this (and this in part where I think Kubrick's ideas may have come in) is that this is not JUST a two dimensional story of settling scores at the end of a gun. The relationship between Karl Malden and Marlon Brando just bristles with possibility (again like the best Spaghetti Westerns and UNLIKE a John Ford western) you don't know where it's going to go. They are, more than once in the movie, allies then enemies and NEITHER of them is stupid.

    And as far as Brando's film-making ability goes, his struggle behind the camera might be well documented now, and he has even written this edit off as not being the film he intended, but the direction here is not even close to amateurish. I really don't think there are many American directors in 1960 who would hold quite so long and so beautifully on Karl Malden as he considers betraying Brando for the first time. I got chills on Brando's arrival up the road to Malden's estate, and the fantastic hold on Malden's face, again long and perfectly acted, as he watches this potential angel of death draw closer. It is obvious in that moment that this is a meeting he has been in a way anticipating and wondering about for many years - and never known what it would mean. Then there's the meeting between Brando and Malden through prison bars where, with the tables turned, Malden declares he will hang Brando himself. Just cold stuff, taken from the best westerns there ever was, but done with great modern style here.

    I sincerely hope a proper studio DVD of this film is produced soon and that this great western get's the recognition it deserves.

    Don't be swayed by the cheap packaging, it's a wonderful film. Especially for those who love the intellectualism of Kubrick's films and the sheer action and cruelty of the Spaghetti Western :)