Will Penny (1967)

Approved   |    |  Romance, Western


Will Penny (1967) Poster

Aging cowboy Will Penny gets a line camp job on a large cattle spread and finds his isolated cabin is already occupied by a husbandless woman and her young son.


7.1/10
3,966

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Awards

1 win.

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9 March 2010 | hitchcockthelegend
8
| Understated, undervalued and possibly under seen?
Charlton Heston stars as Will Penny, an ageing cowpuncher down on his luck and practically broke. After finding a spot of work down on the Flat Iron, Penny falls foul of some outlaws led by maniacal preacher Quint {Donald Pleasence}. They rob him and leave him for dead but he manages to find his way to a lineman's cabin where he is cared for by Catherine {Joan Hackett}, who is heading west with her young son to be reunited with her husband. Here Penny comes to learn things about himself, as does Catherine, but their relationship is not the only thing of concern to them. For Quint and his brood are coming back to finish what they started.

As widely reported these days, this was one of Heston's favourite roles. Which is not hard to believe since it is one of his finest and most earnest performances from what was a long and successful career. Directed and written by Tom Gries {who refused to sell the rights to his story unless he could direct}, Will Penny is an understated Western {Re;cowboy movie for those that need to distinguish the two} that shines because it relies on strength of story over histrionics and a pandering to the norm. This is no ode to the wild west, a time of gunslingers fighting it out and riding off into the sunset with the dame. This is the nitty gritty west, where cowboys are actually that, cowboys, working with beef so that they can afford to eat and perhaps enjoy a jar of throat stripper by way of a reward for their graft.

It's also refreshing to find a romance within the genre that is believable and not thrust upon us like some form of necessity. The relationship, and in fact the three family dynamic at the core of the film, is expertly written, not rushed or underdeveloped, and, crucially, not hurt by the bold and correct ending that Gries delivers. Hackett gives a lovely subtle turn opposite Heston, in a role that was turned down by a host of prominent female actresses at the time. Fine support comes from Pleasence {rightly overacting the role}, Ben Johnson, Lee Majors, Bruce Dern, Anthony Zerbe and Slim Pickens. While Lucien Ballard's cinematography is lucid and adds splendour to the moving story. I can't say that David Raksin's score totally works, since it at times feels like it belongs in some Universal Pictures creature feature! But it's a minor issue in what is an elegant Western that deserves, no, demands, to be sought out by more people. 8/10

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