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The Ox-Bow Incident
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Ox-Bow Incident More at IMDbPro »

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65 out of 83 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant and timeless ensemble drama

Author: The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
20 September 2005

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!

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71 out of 97 people found the following review useful:

Perhaps the best Western-Noir of all time-give it more votes!

Author: ren-28
15 December 2004

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!

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58 out of 79 people found the following review useful:

Posse mentality

Author: jotix100 from New York
17 May 2005

"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.

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60 out of 89 people found the following review useful:


Author: dbdumonteil
22 November 2003

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 emotions:hatred,contempt,madness,despair,indifference,you name 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 movies.

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.

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39 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

A Fabulous Study of Mob Mentality

Author: evanston_dad from United States
29 April 2005

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.

Grade: A

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43 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

A little-known cinematic treasure

Author: Laurence Dang from United States
11 June 2003

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 little public recognition and appreciation and it is about time this changed. While 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 of justice which can occur when passion overcomes reason and logic were not new 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.

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36 out of 56 people found the following review useful:

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) ****

Author: JoeKarlosi from U.S.A.
26 September 2004

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.

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27 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

The bleak nihilism of William Wellman...

Author: Righty-Sock ( from Mexico
26 May 2005

*** 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 justice...

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…

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31 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

Classically brilliant

Author: MrBipp from Philly
12 August 2004

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.

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20 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Classic Mob Rule Western!

Author: ( from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
28 March 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Ox-Bow Incident" was not initially successful when first released in 1943. It has since rightly become a film classic and one of the best westerns ever made. Star Henry Fonda and Director William Wellman reportedly had to lobby Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck to get this picture made. Zanuck considered the subject matter to not be of interest to mass audiences. To gain Zanuck's approval, both Fonda and Wellman had to agree to do other Fox formula pictures.

The story opens with two dusty cowpokes Gil Carter (Fonda) and Art Croft (Henry Morgan) riding into the town of Bridger's Wells for a few drinks and some relaxation. They go to the local saloon run by Darby (Victor Kilian) where Gil learns that "the girl he left behind" (Mary Beth Hughes) has taken off for San Francisco. Gil, distraught, gets into a fight with local tough guy Farnley (Marc Lawrence). Just then a rider (Billy Benedict) comes storming in and announces that a local rancher has been murdered and his cattle stolen.

As luck would have it, the sheriff is out of town. The townspeople decide to organize a posse and go after the alleged killers. Farnley is ready to go it alone until Major Tetley (Frank Conroy) takes the matter into his hands and agrees to lead the posse. The only persons who speak against sending out a vigilante posse are town senior Davies (Harry Davenport) and a black preacher names Sparks (Leigh Whipper). Gil and Art decide to join the group if only to divert suspicion from themselves.

Later the posse comes upon three strangers, Martin (Dana Andrews), a cocky Mexican (Anthony Quinn) and a senile old man (Francis Ford). Circumstantial evidence point to their guilt and the mob votes to lynch the unlucky trio. Seven of the group including Gil and Art oppose the lynching but do nothing to stop it. Th lynching takes place, but are the three guilty or innocent as they claim? Before the hanging Martin wrote a touching letter to his wife which Gil will ultimately deliver.

In spite of sound stage "exteriors", this film delivers a powerful message against mob rule and violence. It is as meaningful today as it was in 1943.

The acting is superb right down to the smallest roles. Fonda is excellent as the cowboy who knows what is happening is wrong but is powerless to stop it. Andrews gives a heart wrenching performance as the doomed Martin and Quinn and Ford (brother of John Ford) also stand out in their respective roles. In fact Ford's performance is hardly ever mentioned in reviews of this film. He really evokes pity in his portrayal of the senile old man who "doesn't want to die". Hell, the studio didn't even see fit to give him billing in the credits.

Others in the posse include William Eythe as Major Tetley's cowardly son. Jane Darwell as the cackling crusty old Ma Grier, as well as, familiar faces Stanley Andrews, Chris Pin Martin, Paul Hurst, Margaret Hamilton, Hank Bell (with the handle bar moustache), Rondo Hatton and Tom London.

Henry Fonda always considered this to be among his favorite roles. Thank heaven he and Wellman were able to get this picture made. A true film noire classic.

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