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Based on true events, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, tells the story of one of the last Western manhunts, in 1909. Willie Boy, a Native American, kills his girlfriend's father in self defense, and the two go on the run, pursued by a search posse led by Sheriff Christopher Cooper. Written by
Jon Hertzberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Did you see that crazy Calvert go by?
Ate his dust.
When did you get back to Banning, Willie Boy?
Five o'clock freight.
Goin' to the fiesta?
Is that where you're goin', Tom?
Trailin' Mr. Calvert with a tow just in case he breaks down - or breaks his neck.
Well, I guess that's where I'm goin'.
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In southern California at the start of the twentieth century, a young indian man gets into a violent dispute over a girl. This triggers a manhunt.
Director Abraham Polonsky was making his comeback to mainstream cinema with this film, eighteen years after being blacklisted by the UnAmerican Activities Committee. He also wrote this screenplay, which strikes a defiant note in favour of the lone hero against the forces of intolerance and repression. It is not too fanciful to see the indians, with their alternative sensibility and distinct code of values, as a metaphor for artists and free thinkers. Minorities are always in danger, suggests the film, from the urge to hound and victimise manifested by some elements in society.
Polonsky skilfully uses the camera to tell his story. We follow the complex movements of the various characters around the fiesta fairground without the need for spoken dialogue. The silent meeting of Coop and Willie tells us everything about these two men, and their mutual rivalry and respect.
The wonderful topography of the Mojave Desert is superbly captured in Panavision. In particular, the showdown on Ruby Mountain offers some gorgeous images. The film's four leads are excellent: Robert Redford is a wise and humane Coop, the sherriff obliged to lead the inappropriate manhunt: Robert Blake is perfect as the nihilistic, elemental Willie: Doctor Elizabeth Arnold is played by Susan Clark, developing nicely the ambivolence of a woman who needs Coop sexually but despises herself for it: Katharine Ross is the spry, athletic Lola, the young indian girl who becomes Willie's 'wife by capture'.
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