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I decided to take a break from Jodorowsky and cleanse my palate with a
trip down memory lane. What better way to reminisce than the Columbia
years of Randolph Scott.
Before all the electronics and 500 station TVs, there was my childhood. Three station and Saturday mornings filled with cartoons, Sky King, The Lone Ranger and Randolph Scott. I was always amazed how Scott could be on the top of a moving train in a fight with an outlaw and never lose his hat.
But, there were no fights in this film. This was the mature Scott under the direction of Budd Boetticher. They made seven films together, and they are some of the finest westerns made.
In this film Scott (Ben Brigade) plays a bounty hunter who is bringing in Bill John (James Best).
Bill John: I don't know how much they're paying you to bring me in, but it ain't enough. Not near enough.
Ben Brigade: I'd hunt you for free.
That exchange is a portent of what is to come.
Along the way they are joined by Pernell Roberts, who made his claim to fame on "Bonanza" and "Trapper John, M.D."; James Coburn (In Like Flint, Our Man Flint, Affliction), and Karen Steele.
Now, Karen Steele may be one of the most beautiful actresses to work on film, but I have to comment on her bra. It may have been the fashion in the 50's, but that thing looked like a weapon to me. I mean to say that it hit you six inches before she arrived. A man could be seriously injured before he was able to hug her.
Roberts and Coburn were hoping to take Bill John away from Scott and trade him for amnesty. They are willing to kill him for the chance to start life over and they tell him so.
Sam Boone: Man gets halfway, he oughta have somethin' of his own, something to belong to, be proud of.
Ben Brigade: They say that.
Sam Boone: I got me a place. Gonna run beef, work the ground, be able to walk down the street like anybody. All I need is Billy.
Ben Brigade: I set out to take him to Santa Cruz. I full intend to do it.
Sam Boone: Well, I just wanted you to know how it was. Way I look at it, ain't near as hard for a man if he knows why he's gonna die.
But, Brigade never intends to go to Santa Cruz, and we meet the last character in the film, Billy John's brother, Frank (Lee Van Cleef). It seems that Billy John was just bait, and Brigade has a long festering hurt that had to be healed. That led to a great ending, where everybody leaves satisfied.
Revenge is the theme of this budget western as bounty Randolph Scott searches for his wife's killer. The pursuit and kill theme is a familiar theme in westerns and there isn't much different here. James Coburn makes a fine film debut and Pernell Roberts also turns in good support. They are reformed outlaws who need pardons and desire to bury their troubled pasts. Karen Steele, a widow, is the romantic hook for Scott who softens his stance after getting with outlaw Lee Van Cleef. The film is a taut, no-frills affair that has some fine action, and the rugged cluster of boulders and shadowy canyons of Lone Pine form the background of this decent western.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
We're back to Burt Kennedy scripts for the last 2 Ranown pictures after
a brief but interesting detour through Charles Lang territory, and the
Berne Giler single "Westbound." This one starts out amidst the rocks of
the Alabama hills, as we find the lone man, Ben Brigade (Randolph
Scott) riding towards the camera through a narrow defile. He dismounts
and stealthily makes his way up the rocks towards another man, who
calls out to him and ruins the surprise. Billy John (James Best, later
known for his role as the sheriff on "The Dukes of Hazzard") is a
grinning, joking, fast-talking young man who is wanted for murder, and
Brigade is a bounty hunter hired to brink him in; but Billy John has a
trick up his sleeve - he's surrounded by his men, invisible in the
hills. If Brigade tries to take him, he'll surely be shot - and Brigade
will have none of it, smoothly facing down Billy and assuring him that
they'll both die. Billy calls the men off, and Brigade handcuffs him
and rides off with him.
So begins the first of the series in cinemascope, and Boetticher uses the wide format as a master, with the entire film being set outdoors in the vast high desert/steppe territory, a great deal of it on horseback. The two men stop first at Shaw's Junction, one of the tiny little stations in the middle of nowhere that often represent the closest thing to civilization in these films, but instead of being met by the station master they're greeted by a couple of gunmen, Boone (Pernell Roberts) and Whit (James Coburn in his first film appearance). Boone knows Brigade and we soon learn that he and Whit are outlaws, though it's unclear that they are up to any illegal business at the moment. The station master, Lane, has left with some Indians - Mescaleros - leaving his wife (Karen Steele), and this becomes our group of five who must make their way to Santa Cruz, where Billy John is to be brought to justice.
Boone and Whit, it turns out, could win amnesty by bringing Billy John in; Mrs Lane rides along as, we found out rather quickly, her husband has been killed by the Mescaleros, who are hot on the trail of the party as they try to make it to another little outpost, a deserted station where they will make a stand against the Indians. Along the way there is plenty of trademark Kennedy-Boetticher sparse, snappy dialogue between Boone and Brigade, and between Brigade and Mrs Lane. It's clear that Brigade and Boone have a certain grudging respect for each other, and they know that they need all the guns they have to make it to Santa Cruz, so an uneasy alliance is formed. Mrs Lane at first dislikes Brigade for his seeming disinterest in Billy other than as a means to money, but slowly we get the impression that there's something else going one here - that it isn't the money, and it isn't even bringing Billy to justice that Brigade cares about.
For this is another haunted and ravaged Randolph Scott character, with a dark past, a wife who is lost, and the man who killed her is his real enemy and his real reason for finding Billy and taking him - slowly and carefully as it turns out - towards Santa Cruz: Billy's brother, Frank (Lee Van Cleef). That is the justice that Brigade is looking for, and nothing will stand in his way - nor, as it turns out, does he much care about anything beyond completing this mission, as he waits for Frank to come to him, in the symbolic place where their destinies met before in tragedy.
I'm not going to spoil the ending, which is iconic and beautiful in a way that is matched by very few other westerns; suffice it to say that this is probably my favorite so far in the series and it all comes together symbolically and poetically, and simply in a way that maybe only Boetticher could do it. The supporting cast as usual is excellent, with Roberts especially a standout, as lighthearted and talkative as Scott is dour. Coburn is fine in a role strikingly different from most of his later work, basically a fairly good-natured and stupid yokel along for the ride, but very loyal to his older and more experienced cohort; and Best gibbers away like a maniac, a believable young punk who would murder for no reason. Van Cleef and Steel are fine in slightly less interesting roles; and our hero Scott's stoicism and tightlipped seriousness is as appropriate here as it ever was. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Randolph Scott captures young killer James Best and intends to take him
to Santa Cruze to be hanged for murder, and collect the reward. Along
the way he runs into two miscreants, Pernell Roberts and his sidekick
James Coburn, who would like to take Best in themselves, in return for
which they would received amnesty. ("Ain't that a great word?") They
also provide protection to a woman, Karen Steele, who wears a pointed
1950s brassiere throughout and is there chiefly to stimulate the glands
of Roberts. (Scott, after listening to Roberts praise the various
physical and characterological properties of Steele: "She ain't ugly.")
The conflict intrinsic to this arrangement is that Scott, on the one
hand, and Roberts and Coburn on the other, seem to be at cross
purposes. If Scott hands over Best, then Scott gets the bounty but
Roberts and Coburn don't get their amnesty. Roberts reluctantly informs
Scott that, sooner or later, Scott will be shot. Meanwhile they must
hang together under threats from Apaches and from Best's brother and
his gang, who are in hot pursuit.
Of the several movies that Randolph Scott and director Budd Boetticher made together, I think I probably enjoy this one the most -- this and "Seven Men From Now." It's a leisurely travel story set among the stucco-textured rocks of Movie Flats, California. The story is simple, the location shooting impressive, and the dialog by Burt Kennedy sings with a kind of folk lyricism. (If you get amnesty, "You don't have to shiver every time you see a man wearin' tin.") Scott is his stalwart, taciturn self. Coburn's dim-wittedness provides some gentle humor. Pernell Roberts fakes a Southern accent and seems to be enjoying the camera a little too much, which turns him into a self-satisfied Hollywood actor instead of a sympathetic and colorful criminal. The nicest performance may be that of James Best as the callow, somewhat sensitive, but doomed murderer. He's given the line that warns Karen Steele to stay away from the body of a man slaughtered by Indians: "Ain't nothing' for a woman to see!" Yet, watching these collaborative efforts in sequence, as I've been doing -- why it sets a man to wonderin' what it is that keeps them entertainin' stead of a mite more than that. Of course the budgets were low, but some directors have been able to overcome such strictures. The musical scores were by Heinz Roemheld and they're pedestrian. The five scripts written by Burt Kennedy are better than the rest. And there's an awful lot of repetition. There's nothing wrong with quoting yourself. John Ford often had men splashing a glass of whiskey into a fireplace and having it flame up. Howard Hawks repeated himself often, including single lines like, "Good luck to you." Hitchcock had his cameos and Huston often dubbed his voice somewhere into the mix. But those were self-conscious tricks, a kind of joke, whereas here the repetitions seem to stem from a conviction that the audience doesn't pay enough attention to notice them.
Not to go on about it. It was an enjoyable series and this example is an exemplary one.
After a bad beginning because I could not believe the way that bounty
hunter Randolph Scott was able to bring in James Best, the rest of the
film fleshes out nicely to another tension filled western directed by
Budd Boetticher and written by Burt Kennedy who would soon be directing
features of his own.
When Scott does bring in Best unfortunately he must rely on a pair of young guns, Pernell Roberts and James Coburn, to bring Best in. These two have one idea about what to do with Best, but Scott's working an agenda all his own. They settle down as allies of convenience. They have to because there are hostile Mescalero Apaches all around.
For a while they fort up at a stagecoach station operated by Karen Steele and her husband. The husband's away and later we find out the Apaches have killed him. She's also forced to join the group.
Besides Apaches, Best's brother Lee Van Cleef has heard about his capture. Van Cleef and Scott have a lot of history between them and that's part of the story as well.
Ride Lonesome borrows quite liberally from the successful James Stewart/ Anthony Mann western The Naked Spur where Stewart is also a bounty hunter forced to make some allies of convenience.
When the film gets down to business, the best part of it belongs to Pernell Roberts and James Coburn in his feature film debut. They are one pair of morally ambiguous characters and right until the very end you don't know exactly whose side they will come down on.
If only Burt Kennedy had devised a better way of capturing James Best at the beginning, Ride Lonesome would rank at the top of the Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher collaborations. As it is, it's still not a bad film from the two of them.
Another in the series of short but very good westerns with RS. Scott is a one man Brigade. Take the Tall T, Comanche Station and the others in the RS genre; mix em up throw em in the air and you come up with the next in the series. I don't mind but my wife keeps complaining the movie is the same as the last RS flick. True to his code, Scott doesn't show much interest in Jayne Mansfield-like Karen Steele. A standout performance for Pernell Roberts as the bad guy. James Best known for his Jimmy Stewart imitation to entertain Burt Reynolds in Hooper,is on hand for some interesting supporting acting. I didn't see the ending coming and I hate to leave you hanging so I won't say a word.
Indeed one of the most finest western movies of all times, a nice story
line makes it easy to follow up the events, the cast makes the movie
even more interesting to watch, though best viewed as cinema scope it
is a nice addition to any western movies enthusiasts library, the movie
includes a proper ending style in which its left for the viewer to
conclude what the flow of events will be when its over.
the open spaces gives the movie a wide horizon typical of the old west, Burt Kennedy story drops perfectly on the background creating a charismatic effect for the main characters (Randolph Scott) Ben Brigade and (Lee Van Cleef)Frank, though the appearance of Lee Van Cleef comes at a later stage in the movie resulting in more focus on the other members of the cast.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This needs a DVD release. In fact, all the Boetticher/Kennedy/Scott
films need it.
Bounty Hunter Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott) tracks down Billy John (James Best) for killing a man in Santa Cruz. Billy is a little demented and feeble-minded and Best plays him real good. You can tell this guy has a screw loose.
On the way back, they run into slick-talking Sam Boone (Pernell Roberts) and his slightly dumb grinning sidekick Whit (James Coburn) at the nearby station. The station manager's wife (Karen Steele) was left behind while her husband went to round up some strays. Not a bright thing to do since there are renegade Mescaleros running loose, killing white settlers.
Boone lets Brigade know that they want to tag along and help him bring Billy in. It seems the territory will pardon anyone who brings Billy in alive and Boone and Whit want those pardons.
As they head out, they have to battle those Mescaleros who want to take the blond-haired Steele as their squaw. There's also the added complication of Billy's brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef) who's chasing after Brigade in order to free his brother. Add to that, Billy's trying to escape and they're a lot of things that are standing in Brigade's way of getting the job done.
But it also turns out that bringing Billy in, wasn't what Brigade was really after. It was all a lure in order to bring Frank back to the place where he hung Brigade's wife a few years before. A revenge killing for Brigade sending Frank to prison. A rotting hanging tree that's standing all by itself in a clearing. That's why Brigade isn't covering his tracks. That's why he's moving slow in order for Frank to catch up with him. He's only using Billy for bait.
And it works because Frank can't let Brigade hang his brother at the hanging tree. As Frank comes galloping towards Brigade, he shoots Frank off his horse killing him. He then shoots the rope around Billy's head so he won't choke and die right there.
Boone and Whit who've witnessed all this, don't believe Brigade will turn Billy over to them so they can get their freedom, but Brigade surprises them by relinquishing Billy over to their custody. In the most prophetic statement of the film, Brigade warns Boone that if he doesn't straighten out his ways after he get's pardoned, he'll be coming after him with a bounty on his head. (a well-placed piece of dialog on Burt Kennedy's part)
The film then ends with Brigade (Scott) setting fire to the hanging tree.
Good action, smart dialog and nice widescreen technicolor vistas make this one a keeper. It goes on my A-list for essentials.
8 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The 1959 film "Ride Lonesome" is one more in the late career
collaboration of Randolph Scott with director Budd Boetticher. Scott
plays a bounty hunter who's dead-set on bringing young James Best to
justice (i.e. hanging) and he doesn't seem too concerned when Pernell
Roberts shows up and starts getting in his way. Scott's real enemy is
Best's older brother (Lee Van Cleef) and the plot revolves around a
"hanging tree" in the middle of nowhere. Van Cleef "hanged" Scott's
wife and revenge is the motive of the day.
"Ride Lonesome" is now chiefly remembered for bringing young and soon-to-be-famous actors into public view. Roberts was immediately cast in "Bonanza" and James Coburn (his part is mostly a minor one here) was next seen starring in "The Magnificent Seven." Van Cleef got his real break much later when Sergio Leone cast him in his Italian westerns with Clint Eastwood. Scott made one more picture with Boetticher and then concluded his career with the Sam Peckinpah movie "Ride the High Country." Needless to say, old Sam's movie is a significant step up from this one. As for this film, suffice to say that Boetticher squeezed everything he could out of a limited budget and there are no wasted scenes or extended dialog and the plot is as simple as they come. Lastly, beautiful Karen Steele is also in the cast, but she doesn't have too much to do besides listen to Scott's Code of Honor speech. One very valid criticism: Van Cleef's "villain" role in this movie doesn't really do him justice. He's far too understated and almost comes across as a gentleman. He was certainly better cast as "The Bad" for director Leone.
Basically there always have been two different type of westerns. First
you have the raw and gritty ones but secondly you also have the more
entertaining and adventurous ones. Those type of movies were mostly
popular during the '50's, before the spaghetti-western made its big
entrance in the cinematic world. This movie is definitely being an
adventurous one, with its constant traveling and many different
characters, with all their own personal agendas.
This is movie is actually being a very simplistic one, with minimal story. It's just a story about getting from point A to B, in between some unforeseen events happen, with all of the characters having to deal with it. So it's also a movie that relies on its characters and their back-stories. They are what mostly keep the movie going at moments that not an awful lot is happening in the movie. It's what also keeps the movie mostly interesting and all of the movie its unpredictable aspects come from its characters, played by well known actors such as James Coburn and Lee Van Cleef.
The movie does definitely has its slower moments but luckily there is also still a lot happening. There is some action, without falling into the genre its clichés. It helps to make this movie also an unpredictable one and therefore a quite original and pleasant one to watch within its genre.
It's definitely a well told and done fun little entertaining western, that I simply enjoyed watching throughout.
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