Strong – but not spectacular, 16 September 2010
Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A solid western from veteran Director Henry King starring Gregory Peck as Jim Douglass and a very young Joan Collins. King has over 200 Director and Acting credits and the experience he gathered is evident throughout this picture. The opening Act was oft copied by the later Spaghetti Westerns. A man with no name arrives at a remote town for a hanging, and slowly the story unfolds. The presence of Lee Van Cleef in a supporting role reinforces that aura of what was to come when Van Cleef secured lead roles.
Peck is very good in the lead role and was surely in part the inspiration for later similar performances from Clint Eastwood. The mystery of his motivation is well handled, as is the lead up to the gang break out. Initially this looks like a standard tale of revenge as Douglass joins the Possee to catch the escapees. But after some early killing Douglass is given cause to question whether he is gaining revenge on the right people, and whether revenge is what he wants at all, and it twists into a story of redemption. Collins has little to do other than look beautiful, which she succeeds in doing rather well.
A curiosity is the way that women are portrayed in the film. The “hangman” unashamedly asks for evening “entertainment” on arrival, and Emma, played by Kathleen Gallant, is kidnapped for sexual services. The starkness with which this is referred to on a number of occasions is quite unsettling as are her screams form within a shed when she is finally assaulted.
The scenery, in Mexico, is wonderful, but the closing Act’s “redemption” morality tale is a bit clunky for modern tastes. A strong, atmospheric film whose formula is just a little too obvious to take it into the realms of greatness.