Shane rides into a conflict between cattleman Ryker and a bunch of settlers, like Joe Starrett and his family, whose land Ryker wants. When Shane beats up Ryker's man Chris, Ryker tries to buy him. Then Shane and Joe take on the whole Ryker crew. Ryker sends to Cheyenne for truly evil gunslinger Wilson. Shane must clear out all the guns from the valley. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Considered by most a masterpiece and by a few 'a waste of film', 1953's SHANE is a mini-epic that tells of the arrival of the mysterious stranger who comes to 'town' and impresses the innocent and threatens the guilty. A good versus evil western was never been more defined. Alan Ladd plays the stranger in an outfit that has been criticized since day-one. He wears a buckskin shirt ala Davy Crockett and if I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times, "that shirt ain't right"! Well, 'pards, I ask you, "Have you ever heard of "Buckskin Frank Leslie?" Just happens to be one of the baddest-ass real life western gunslingers who ever strapped on a gun-rig. Why they haven't made westerns about Leslie I will never know. Doc Holliday, known for reckless bravery, knew enough to stay out of Frank's way. And P.S. he was known for his 'patented' Buckskin Shirt. But I digress...
Shane was directed by George Stevens who admittedly directs with a strictness that borders on fascism. And yet he pulls it off with aplomb. Ladd's character is criticized as well, because he is played by Ladd himself, an actor that is an easy target for certain critics. There's the old joke about Ladd standing in a hole (outside of camera view) to match the heights of his leading ladies, or by standing on a ramp or box so their heights in close-ups would be matched for love scenes. Is this the 'stuff' of western heroes? Not hardly. So here we have "little Alan" taking on one of the most vicious actors that ever played 'Satan Incarnate', the incomparable Jack Palance! Jack's 'Lucifer' is a messenger from hell hired by the bad'uns to save them all from Ladd's goodness. Jack wakes up shortly after arriving in town to assassinate another little man, Elisha Cook Jr., in a scene which was completely and shamelessly ripped off by Eastwood in 'Pale Rider'. The death is completely believable and establishes Palance's character as unstoppable.
The characters in Shane are cut from a woodcarving, they glisten with familiar yet surprising motivations. Ben Johnson, the Sainted actor of westerns plays a very small part that almost steals the film. The bad guys in this film are a textbook rendition of meaness.
But some say that the action is subdued in Shane. But I say the build-up is worth the wait as the final climatic shoot-out has been described by many western film scholars as the best that was ever put to film.
Shane a waste of film? I think not.
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