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Wes, Vern and Otis are three cowhands on the way to a cattle drive. Coming upon what is to be an omen of their future... an outlaw hung by a group of vigilantes...the trio finds shelter at a cabin, only to discover that their "hosts" are men who have robbed a stagecoach and killed the guard. When an avenging posse attacks the cabin, Wes and Vern escape, only to find that they have become branded as 'outlaws' by the posse, who relentlessly pursue them. Written by
Hellman always utilized a very minimalist style to its full effect
This is probably the least of the four Monte Hellman films I've seen so far (the others being "Cockfighter", "The Shooting", and "Two Lane Blacktop"), but its still more interesting that most other b-films of the time. There was a Film Threat article on Hellman entitled "Exploitation or Existentialism" and that basically sums up my view on the director. He used the cheap low budget film to get across his philosophical ideas because producers such as Roger Corman would offer him more freedom in this area than any major studio. While its not as good as his other western "The Shooting", "Ride in the Whirlwind" is still a fascinating viewing and a true example of how creativity and ideas matter much more than a budget. Hellman always utilized a very minimalist style to its full effect.
I found the beginning of this film to be dull despite an appearance from the legendary Harry Dean Stanton. This is odd, because that is when all the gun play happens. The second half it becomes more interesting when we realize all these character's fates are determined by coincidence rather than their own actions. Its existentialism on the level of Camus. Jack Nicholson, an actor who would later be remembered for larger-than-life portrayals gives a surprisingly effective low key performance. Cameron Mitchell, an actor known for going over-the-top (just turn to the infamous "The Toolbox Murders") isn't nearly as good but is quite adequate, considering how bad he could get. Its a shame that the films of Hellman are unjustly overlooked and, with the exception of "Cockfigter", rather difficult to find. (7/10)
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