19 March 2017 | A_Different_Drummer
Irony, irony, and more irony
After watching the massively depressing LOGAN (2017) and noticing that the closing scene pays homage to Shane (same dialog used to mark Logan's grave) I felt the need to do an update review on Shane.
According to traditional Hollywood history, Shane is one of the 100 greatest films of all time, iconic, and even the dialog is multi-layered.
There is a scene in the short-lived TV series THE OTHERS (done by the same two men who created X-Files) where one of the lead characters, who is blind, regularly goes to the movies to watch SHANE, over and over. In many ways, that has to be one of the grandest back-handed compliments you can pay to a film.
I wish however to also suggest there is a great deal of hidden irony in what otherwise appears to be a straightforward western.
For example, Ladd hated guns and, according to film legend (Wikipedia) had to do over 100 takes in the iconic scene where he teaches the boy to draw. Similarly, Jack Palance hated horses and was only able to do one successful "mount" after many takes. Director Stevens had to use this same piece of film over and over, even to the point of running the strip backwards to make it look like Jack was dismounting.
Wait, it gets better. Director Stevens hated violence and wanted SHANE to be be an anti-violence film. However, the trope he invented for the gunfight, where the actors were violently pulled backwards by ropes as bullets struck, is considered by film historians to have "forever changed the face of film action" and led to an entirely new generation of gunfighting in films where the violence increased by a factor of 100X. Even the infamous Hong Kong action film directors consider they owe a debt to Stevens.
The final irony is that, in the opinion of this reviewer, the film does not stand for what the screenwriter intended. To this reviewer, Shane is a metaphor for the evolution of the United States itself, an arc more visible when this review is penned (in 2017) than in 1953. Although even in 1953, at the end of WW2, the US as a nation was having to face introspection, as a nation which had hitherto prided itself on isolationism suddenly felt compelled to become policeman to the entire world.
Still a great film. But also an ironic one.