Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Forgotten Films: The Man From Laramie

The Man from Laramie Poster.jpg

The Man From Laramie

TCM ran the letterbox version of The Man From Laramie this afternoon. I hadn't seen it in years and I'll tell you I was dazzled by it in every respect. If, as John D. MacDonald suggested, most pulp fiction is actually a kind of folk tale, then Laramie is one of the best folk tales ever told.

I've never heard a satisfactory explanation from why Anthony Mann and James Stewart fell out. But what an extraordinary way to say goodbye.

While Stewart is the star this is really ensemble acting. In fact Donald Crisp as the complicated, doomed patriarch is, for me, the most compelling character in the movie.

If I was asked to compare the differences between a genre western (even a great one) and a mainstream western I'd point to this film. Each of the main characters has a history that bears at length on the story. Stewart, as usual in a Mann western, is driven by a hatred that makes him difficult to like at certain time, though the violence visited on him early on still has the ability to shock even in this age of slice and dice movies. A great line early is spoken by an old man to Stewar:t "Hate is unbecoming on some men, Mr. Lockhart. On some men it shows."

For me, Mann is a far better director of westerns than John Ford (though I greatly admire The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance). There is no sentimentality or Cavalry myth here. There a few scenes that would do the Sopranos proud.

Laramie is also one of the most exciting hardboiled stories ever done in the western field. Phillip Yordan's fine script gives us a twist every fifteen minutes or so. And the last twenty minutes consist of three stunning set-pieces of sustained action.

And what a pleasure to see Cathy O'Donnell again. A sad, quiet turn here gives a look at how limited life was for women on the frontier.

Here's a good over view from IMDB:

Author: ironside ( from Mexico

Some of the best Westerns of the fifties were those directed by Anthony Mann and John Ford, straightforward and unpretentious, but each with an interesting approach to the requirements of the genre... Mann's films were the more prestigious, usually featuring James Stewart who, with John Wayne, was the fifties' biggest box-office draw... "The Man From Laramie" best known because of the Frankie Laine theme strong which accompanied it, is notable for (among other things) Alex Nicol's extraordinary projection of sadism, an element which dominated the best of Mann's movies... The motion picture was to be the last of the Mann-Stewart Westerns...

Stewart is cast as a wagon handler from Laramie, Wyoming, but is, really, an army officer out to avenge the death of his younger brother, a U.S. Cavalryman, massacred by the Apaches who were buying guns from unknown persons... It is these persons that Stewart is looking for..

Soon Stewart gets involved in an area of New Mexico which is ruled by the iron hand of a cattle baron Donald Crisp, a strong authoritarian "who can't live with a lie"... Crisp's one weakness is his love and care for his spoiled son, Alex Nicol...

Wild but feeble, yet vicious, Nicol - with extraordinary projection of sadism - accosts Stewart in several confrontations in which (among other outrages) Stewart is dragged through fire by horses, and has his hand held tight while Alex puts a bullet through it... Mann proceeds in this mood throughout the movie, growing even more sadistic...

Arthur Kennedy, a hard-working heavy, plays the adopted son of Crisp... He is a son in disguise, jealous of Alex, pretending to be his brother's ally and protector...

A lot of good supporting actors are cast including Cathy O'Donnell, the fragile beauty who has little to do but await patiently for an opportunity; Aline MacMahon, the fine 'ugly' woman who never leaves the old man, and Jack Elam who tries to knife James Stewart in the back...

Anthony Mann adopted an altogether tougher approach to Western mythology than John Ford... His obsessive, neurotic characters and his emphasis on violence foretell the work of Peckinpah, Leone and Eastwood...

Filmed in Technicolor, "The Man From Laramie" is a Western with new touches of brutality touching off the wide screen spectacle...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

TV NEWS The Final Season of 'Justified' Must Get Back to the 'Core 3'

JUSTIFIED -- "Restitution" -- Episode 513 (Airs Tuesday, April 8, 10:00 pm e/p -- Pictured: (L-R) Walton Gogins as Boyd Crowder, Joelle Carter as Ava Crowder -- CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

by Michael Griffin
The final scene of the fifth season of Justified ended as it began: at night, with a Crowder on the Harlan County bridge that has played home to so many illicit activities. This time, it was Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), and she was there for an task that surely ate at her soul — being a CI for Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). It was Givens who was able to pull her out of her predicament at the penitentiary and he wanted her to show her gratitude by gathering information to help the Marshal's Office put away Boyd for at least the next 50 years.
With that sequence of events, the show left us no room for error for what will transpire in the final season. Boyd, who has already had a number of bad guys out gunning for him, is going to be feeling the squeeze of the law. And that group will be led by Givens, who used to work in the mines with Boyd a lifetime ago, before the two went on very, very divergent paths. This would likely put an end to the occasional alliance that exists between the two and will probably have Boyd reconsidering his decision in the second season to save Raylan from being whacked open like a pinata by Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies).
If they are smart (and Graham Yost and his crew have proven themselves to be near Mensa-level geniuses at crafting some of the most compelling television out there), the showrunners will spend the final season of Justified back in the hands of the Core 3: Givens, Ava and Boyd — the meat of the show from its early days.
There have overarching villains in nearly every season of Justified but the first. The only villain needed for this final go-'round is Boyd. That way, the focus can be on those central characters, relegating some other favorites to satellite roles (like Rachel Brooks and Tim Gutterson), the likes of Wynn Duffy and Katherine Hale to occasional components of the story, and the newly retired Art Mullen to a cameo appearance or two. 
We might even go so far as to predict (or hope) that the final scene of the show somehow emulates the last moments of the pilot, with Raylan shooting Boyd, but this time, with no reprieve. (For those who don't know, Boyd was supposed to die in that pilot, like he did in the short story "Fire In The Hole." However, Walton Goggins blew everyone away with his performance and was granted a starring part.) However the series ends, it needs to come right down to the relationship that made the program so compelling in the first place. This is a show about Raylan and his toxic roots, and nobody better exemplifies those roots than Boyd.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Onion Field Novel & Movie


Ed here: For me one of the most important books I've ever read. And the movie is almost as good as the book.

by Greg Ferrara Movie Morlocks


There was a time in the seventies when Joseph Wambaugh was just about the top crime writer in the nation.  In the years before John Grisham and James Patterson came to prominence, Wambaugh novels got multiple adaptations into film but, unlike Grisham and Patterson, they weren’t very successful at the box office although they were very good on the whole and one of them, The Onion Field, scored big both with audiences and critics and launched the career of James Woods.  I hadn’t seen it since 1979 and was surprised upon a second viewing how much better it was than I remembered.

The novel falls into the category of true crime and covers the story of the murder of a police officer in Bakersfield, California, in 1963, with great precision and detail.  Reading the actual facts of the case and comparing them with the book or movie and one finds there’s little to no meddling with the chain of events as they really happened, until the second half of the movie where personal motivations, fears and beliefs are dramatized to give an emotional understanding to the events as they happened.  The movie divides into two parts and neither suffers in comparison to the other.

(more--I skipped over the long plot line with spoilers)

Director Harold Becker didn’t have the most distinguished career but he did some good movies with moderate success, including Taps, Vision Quest, and Sea of Love.  The Onion Field still stands as his best.  At crucial moments, like the shooting of Detective Campbell on the ground in the field, he pulls the camera back and puts the two actors so close together with the bullets coming from between them that it’s impossible to know what happened.  He’s keeping it murky, just as it was in life, through inventive camera work and editing.  But what he really does well is pull back emotionally from scenes that might go too far in the hands of someone else...

The acting throughout is excellent from all concerned.  John Savage uses his distant gaze to great advantage to express the emotional struggles of his character.  Although he does occasionally suffer an emotional release, he mainly uses his eyes to convey anguish, glancing away, downward, as if afraid to look anyone in the eye after what he’s done, or, at least, what he thinks he’s done.

for more go here: