24 August 2003 | blamire
Moving, Powerful, Unheralded Western Masterpiece
I got tired of reading reviews containing either outright misinformation (suggesting the writer saw some other movie) or downright absurdity. From the top notch performances to the stirring Alfred Newman score to the brilliant Vincent McEveety direction to the detailed Calvin Clements script, this a western I can recommend wholeheartedly. This movie finally deserves its due, and a decent DVD release. Rather than falling into the spaghetti western mold popular at the time, this film looks and feels very American, a direct heir to the great Anthony Mann westerns of the 50s.
Jimmy Stewart, mystifyingly maligned in other reviews, gives a sincere moving performance. I wonder if the criticism comes at his farmer character's reluctance towards violence--disappointing no doubt to fans of "cartoon" westerns. The gritty realism extends to the easy, natural relationship among the gang played by Henry Fonda, Gary Lockwood, James Best, Jack Elam, and Morgan Woodward. This gang is the catalyst and their details, ticks and volatile unpredictability are portrayed with beautifully understated precision. And J. Robert Porter as the town simpleton will break your heart.
There's so much fine work by the cast, particularly Stewart, Fonda, Lockwood (who played another superb villain in the electrifying two-part "Gunsmoke" episode, "The Raid"), Best, Elam, Brooke Bundy, Jacqueline Scott, Louise Latham, Barbara Luna and Ed Begley. A dark, gritty, suspenseful western to be sure, but with a warm heart and soul at its center. Seek it out.