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The Ox-Bow Incident isn't a very well known cinema classic, and
therefore it's fan base is comprised mostly of cinema buffs that are
willing to go that extra mile to see great films. It's a shame that
this film hasn't managed to cement itself better in cinema history
since it's release in 1943, but on the other hand; anyone who does make
the effort to seek it out is definitely in for a treat! Unlike many
other westerns from the golden age of cinema, this one doesn't focus on
Cowboys and Indians or other such entertainment friendly subjects, but
instead the story is of a much more absorbing and long-lasting nature.
The implications of this film can be applied to almost any time in
history and it will be relevant, and that is what makes The Ox-Bow
Incident such a great film. The story follows two drifters who ride
into a town to find that the locals are forming a posse to catch and
hang the men that they believe have murdered a local farmer and stolen
his cattle. It quickly becomes apparent that the men accused may not be
guilty, but the townsfolk are bloodthirsty and hungry to see justice
done there and then.
The themes in the film are more prevalent and important than the plot itself. The film shows how rash decisions can out-shadow the truth, and this story can be likened to any number of stories over the last few centuries where the American value of 'innocent until proved guilty' has been overshadowed in favour of a crowd-pleasing decision. The tragedy of the film is always at the forefront, and this makes it difficult to aptly categorise this film as a western. Putting this film in with a genre of film that often focuses on gunfights and chase sequences somehow doesn't seem right. This film is really an ensemble drama, and in just a 72 minute running time, director William A. Wellman has managed to make a film that both intrigues and gives it's audience food for thought. Too many filmmakers these days think that a long running time is what makes a great film; but Wellman has proved that tight plotting and an important story are the far more important aspects. Henry Fonda is the biggest name on the cast list, and he does well; but even he struggles to shine amongst this film's real star, which is, of course, the script and the themes on offer. On the whole, this is a great film, which deserves more respect and shouldn't be missed by anyone!
A dark Western that ranks with "Liberty Valance" as a top Western-Noir
film. This great film has a ranking that would place it in the top 250,
but lacks enough votes.
"Ox-Bow" is rarely viewed or mentioned, yet most consider it to be a great film. Fonda's slow style is perfect for this psychological drama, and Henry Morgan delivers a very deep and compassionate performance. Dana Andrews may be miscast but delivers. Though slow-paced its characters, plot line and score keep the viewer glued. It's a haunting story with a twist at the end.
Please vote for this fine film and see if we can get it into the top 250!
"The Ox-Bow Incident" is a film that parallels the times we are living
in many ways. Darryl Zanuck probably didn't even think much of this
project that has proved to be a film admired by a lot of people that
find in it, something that resonates with them.
William Wellman, the director, made an excellent film out of the adaptation by Lamar Trotti, of the Walter van Tilburg Clark's novel. The film, only 75 minutes long, packs a lot in a short period, something that other films, twice as long, fail to deliver. Arthur C. Miller's cinematography is an asset for the picture.
This film brought to mind another Henry Fonda film: "12 Angry Men", in which a more or less posse is trying to decide the fate of a young man accused of committing a heinous crime. In this film, we get a similar idea, in that the mob group that is formed will end up bringing the wrong kind of justice to the three unfortunate men that are deemed guilty and will be lynched; for all practical purposes these men would be proved innocent in a real court of justice.
Henry Fonda does an excellent job as Gil Carter. The biggest surprise though is the then unknown Dana Andrews, one of the men that is made to pay for a crime he didn't commit. Also, this is an early film in which Anthony Quinn appeared as one of the doomed men. The director got marvelous acting in general from the supporting cast, notably, Frank Conroy, William Eythe, Jane Darwell and Mary Beth Hughes.
This is a classic film to be treasured.
Shall we call this western?This is so moving,so harrowing and so tragic
it would be a sacrilege.With a running time of 75 min,William
Wellmann's work runs the whole gamut of
it.Besides,the script is wonderfully written,depicting with a gutsy
realism the supporting characters :the old man,the terrifying shrew,the
renegade officer,his coward son -but who 's the real coward in the
end?-,the Mexican,all are unforgettable.Between the lines ,there are
secret plots which could provide the substance for at least four other
Oddly,star Henry Fonda is nothing but a witness-except for the last sequences -and it's Dana Andrews' extremely harrowing performance which will haunt the viewers -as well as his hangmen- long after the ending.Andrews' portrayal is so moving that he almost outshadows the rest of the stellar cast,not a small feat:a western hero has rarely shown so much despair and dignity and his letter will move you to tears .It's anyway the sequence when he writes it that climaxes the movie,when most of the guys are guzzling or drinking ,with the horrible fat woman 's shrill chuckles as a sinister soundtrack.
As Neil Young sings "would fade away so young/with so much left undone/remember me to my love I know I'll miss her" (Powderfinger)
Do not miss this film !It's a timeless classic.
Before "12 Angry Men" there was "The Ox-Bow Incident," a bleaker and
never less than fascinating exploration of the nature of mob violence.
Unlike "12 Angry Men," this film has no clear-cut heroes. It takes
place in a more primitive, wilder time and location, and the principal
question at the crux of this movie's conflict is whether or not three
suspected cattle thieves should be punished without due legal process.
A small group is in favor of letting the frontier town sheriff handle
the situation, while a much larger group smells only blood (and in some
cases are motivated by personal vengeance) and convince themselves of
the suspects' guilt without listening to any of the evidence. It's
quite a frightening movie in its own way, and it has a stark look at
odds with the average studio film being churned out at the time (1943).
Henry Fonda is quite good, as usual, in the closest thing the movie has
to a main character, but it seems pointless to single him out in what
is obviously such an ensemble effort, and in a movie that only lasts a
mere 75 minutes or so and has such a large cast, each actor manages to
color his/her character with delightful details, sometimes with no more
than a single line of dialogue or one reaction shot.
"The Ox-Bow Incident" is a fantastic film. I don't think it's well-remembered now, but I'm thrilled to see it on DVD and hope that it will be rediscovered.
The Ox-Bow Incident can be safely ranked as one of classic cinema's great
treasures. Applauded by critics worldwide, it has still received very
public recognition and appreciation and it is about time this changed.
the theme of the movie may not be extremely original by today's standards,
it is as timely as ever. The issues of mob psychology and the miscarriage
justice which can occur when passion overcomes reason and logic were not
even at the time of the filming of the movie, but even then, few were
willing to listen to such a sobering tale of morality and justice while
America was at war. Yet this is a tale which must be told often and well,
lest we fall prey to errors resulting from forgetting its lesson.
This being said, the tale itself and its delivery makes The Ox-Bow Incident more than a film with a message. By casting its characters in a shadow of moral doubt, rather than in the traditional bright light reserved for western heroes as modern knights in shining armor, this movie truly marks a departure from classic western movies filmed until then, and sets the precedent for future "revisionist" westerns which were to come nearly 15 years later. In many ways this film is actually more a tragic play in the theatrical sense than a typical Hollywood movie. The classic elements of unity of time, space and action are used here with great effectiveness and emphasize the dramatic nature of the story and its ultimate, almost inexorable outcome, in the great tradition of Greek or Shakespearan tragedies.
Indeed one of the most surprising moments in the film does not occur in the middle or at the end of the movie, but at the very beginning, as the main character and his partner enter the saloon in the small town which is the center of the drama. Thanks to Fonda's superb characterization, we are confronted from the very start with a bitter, angry and essentially anti-heroic protagonist, quite unlike most typical western "good guys". Even though we are invited to identify with Gil Carter, he is not a particularly likeable guy. Surly, edgy, reticent, and at times, gratuitously violent, he does not present a very effective resistance to the evil he witnesses, even as he disapproves of it. Truly, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone good or likeable here, save for the black preacher, probably the most innocent and morally pure of the characters. Indeed, all the characters are drawn with several layers of psychology; which can sometimes only be revealed after several viewings of the film. One may draw for example some quick conclusions regarding the infamous Major Tetley or his son, but the true villain may be in fact the judge, who even as he realizes a gross injustice is about to be committed, choses to do nothing out of laziness and indifference.
The movie was never provided a big budget, which accounts for its set location and the size of its cast, limited in number but of epic proportions in talent (featuring a young and great Anthony Quinn, Dana Andrew at his very peak, a surprisingly unmotherly Jane Darwell, and a powerful Harry Morgan). But do not let the modest filming conditions fool you. This is a true masterpiece.
One last note: one of the most memorable and enduring scenes is the reading of a letter by Gil Carter. This scene rightly belongs among the treasures of classic cinema, along with Citizen Kane's Rosebud and Tom Joad's "wherever there's a fight" speech.
This small, quiet western is big and loud when it comes to message. Beyond being a great film, written and directed brilliantly, with performances to match, it's a cautionary tale of the dangers of "group-think". Which we've all witnessed and been the victims of today in what happened with this misinformation amassed by the FBI and CIA in the War On Terror. A particularly brilliant scene is when henry Fonda reads a letter written by one of the men wrongly hanged at Ox Bow. The director obscures most of his face as he reads the letter so that the words of the soon-to-be dead man resound. The father/son relationship of two of the killers is so poignant. For an old-time western, this film is very today, very modern. The book which inspired the film is just as good. And the film is true to that book.
I loved the simplicity of this 75 minute film, yet how powerful and
effective it remained just the same. It's an effective little gem with
nice direction, good performances (with a standout being a young
Anthony Quinn) and a telling study of human weaknesses.
I had a very minor quibble regarding Henry Fonda's characterization early in the movie, and how so much time was spent on crafting it to no real advantage. It seemed like all that preliminary material had no bearing on the events that would transpire later in the movie. The same might be argued for the scene involving the married woman who Fonda is sweet on. No matter. In the end, the film is overwhelmingly successful and poignant, despite these observations.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The theme here is based on William's Wellman's stern, uncompromising
study of mob rule, set in the Old West
It is one of tragic
misunderstanding, the sort of witches brew of error, impatience and
intolerance, which must have often characterized Western rough
Mob fury surrounds a little cattle-town like a fever Most citizens seem only too eager to join a manhunt for the murderer of a rancher Henry Fonda and his sidekick Henry Morgan have to go along with the tide, if only for the fact that, as wanderers passing through, they are not above suspicion themselves
The unofficial posse, under the leadership of Major Tetley (Frank Conroy) comes upon the campfire of three suspects
On the basis of circumstantial evidence, Tetley exhorts the mob into an on-the-spot trial Despite the pleas of a few dissenters, a guilty verdict t is quickly reached and a triple lynching is performed
Then, riding back, the lynch-mob gets the news that the rancher is still alive and the real villains have been taken
"The Oxbow Incident" was never a box office success, but was rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Picture... However the film makes its point, as well as it ever did It's not only about the social injustice of instant justice; it's also about human nature, all its oddities, frailties and the perils therein It's often said that it laid the beginning of the psychological Western That's perhaps too big and ambiguous a claim... What it does possess to a marked degree is keen observation, and a fine distinction that is never difficult to see
THE OX-BOW INCIDENT was never considered a success at the time of
release, especially by studio mogul Darryl F. Zanuck who never
considered a film a success of any kind if it lost at the box-office.
However, over the years it has become an artistic success with fans who
appreciate good movie-making when they see it.
The performances are all first rate--particularly HENRY FONDA as the not too bright drifter who opposes the lynching mob, Harry Morgan as his rather slow witted sidekick, Frank Conroy as the General with the weakling son (William Eythe), and most importantly, DANA ANDREWS, who has the most riveting role in the whole film and makes the most of it. His is the outstanding contribution, sensitive and gripping. The story is based on a true incident that happened in Montana in the late 1880s--and, of course, one that could have happened anywhere in the old West.
It's easy to see why it was not a commercial success. Except for Fonda, there are no other major stars in the cast for marquee value. Neither Dana Andrews nor Anthony Quinn had yet achieved star status. The story is grim and downright sobering, dwelling, as it does, on man's inhumanity to man. The Paul Hurst character, who makes various mocking gestures with his hangman's knot, adds to the grim gloominess of all the proceedings. Hurst (who played the Yankee deserter in GWTW) was almost always cast as a villainous lug.
The night scenes involving the hanging seem to take place on a studio soundstage but somehow it doesn't matter. Nothing distracts from the taut realism of the drama once we know that the lynching is definitely going to be carried out. Afterwards, the knowledge that the man they allegedly hanged is not dead, comes as a twist that drives home the senselessness of what their mob mentality has done.
Mary Beth Hughes has a decorative role as the only feminine interest in the film--except for an uncredited bit by Margaret Hamilton and an unusually grim and unsympathetic role for Jane Darwell.
Well worth watching, a message picture that delivers without being preachy. My only complaint is that the letter Fonda reads at the end could have been simpler and less eloquent for the sake of realism and in keeping with the naturalness of Dana Andrew's performance. Complementing Andrew's work is a nice, sympathetic performance by character actor Harry Davenport as the man who tries hard to prevent the hanging.
Otherwise, everything is right on the mark. Well worth watching.
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