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In 1896, Jeff Webster sees the start of the Klondike gold rush as a golden opportunity to make a fortune in beef...and woe betide anyone standing in his way! He drives a cattle herd from Wyoming to Seattle, by ship to Skagway, and (after a delay caused by larcenous town boss Gannon) through the mountains to Dawson. There, he and his partner Ben Tatum get into the gold business themselves. Two lovely women fall for misanthropic Jeff, but he believes in every-man-for-himself, turning his back on growing lawlessness...until it finally strikes home. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Memorable in "THE GLENN MILLER STORY" and "REAR WINDOW"... now...as the Stranger with a Gun, driven by restless longings, challenging the Klondike's snow and sin and greed, where gold was the lure and the fanciest woman in Dawson, his for the taking! See more »
The five or so really good westerns that Mann made are unequaled as an ensemble in Hollywood. Even John Ford never made that many with so much quality. The curious thing about them all is how uneven they are. Ford's My Darling Clementine is worth about two and a half of any of them. Or at least two.
The real hero of them besides Mann and Stewart is Chase. Chase being responsible for the brilliant Red River. Chase wrote far country, bend of the river, and probably some others. But none of them are as finished as My Darling Clementine, but then very few films, western or otherwise are.
Each of the five films of Mann have huge gaps, or is it six, lets see. Bend, Far, Man of the West, Furies, Winchester 73, and yep, six, Naked Spur. Each have magnificent scene after magnificent scene, with fairly glaring lapses. Yet so does Red River, which is still the single greatest western ever made. So perfection isn't everything.
But The Far Country has huge, huge holes. It's mawkish, and really comes alive only when Stewart and Mc Entire are locking horns. The rest is pretty pedestrian, with the usual exception of Mann's camera. Mann's camera is a one man course in cinematography. It is about as good an eye as anybody who ever got behind a strip of moving film. It is almost never in the wrong place, never.
The Far Country has one amazing moment. And as usual it comes from Stewart. Nobody in the history of cinema ever received physical punishment with the authority of that man. He is absolutely amazing: look at him in Bend, Far, Winchester, and Man from Laramie: in Bend has been beaten up and is hanging by a thread so believably and with such boiling hatred he looks like somebody displaced from Dachau, in Far he is shot off a raft with such violence, it looks so convincing that you wince, and of course when he is dragged through the fire in Man, well you find yourself looking for the burn marks. What an actor. Not to mention the moment in Winchester when he is beaten up early in the hotel room, also as well as anybody ever did it.
But that was Mann's territory: look at Gary Cooper fighting with Jack Lord in Man of the West. As painful as any fight scene ever recorded. Cooper while not being quite as convincing as Stewart, nevertheless is somehow his equal in looking exhausted at the end of the fight. In short, nobody but nobody but nobody ever showed the human being in extremis as well as Mann.
What a great, great director.
See every western he ever made. They are his real monuments, even if all are scetchy. But so what. When he gets roaring with his great scenes they are as good as anybody, including Ford. And his six westerns as an ensemble are the best ever done by anyone, period.
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