Cross is an old hand at the CIA, in charge of assassinating high-ranking foreign personalities who are an obstacle to the policies of the USA. He often teams up with Frenchman Jean Laurier,... See full summary »
While passing through the town of Bannock, a bunch of drunken, trail-weary cattlemen go overboard with their celebrating and accidentally kill an old man with a stray shot. They return home to Sabbath unaware of his death. Bannock lawman Jered Maddox later arrives there to arrest everyone involved on a charge of murder. Sabbath is run by land baron Vince Bronson, a benevolent despot, who, upon hearing of the death, offers restitution for the incident. Maddox, however, will not compromise even though small ranchers like Vern Adams are not in a position to desert their responsibilities for a long and protracted trial. Sabbath's marshal, Cotton Ryan, is an aging lawman whose tough reputation rests on a single incident that occurred years before. Ryan admits to being only a shadow of what he once was and incapable of stopping Maddox. Maddox confides to Ryan that Bannock's judicial system is weak and corrupt, and while he's doubtful that anyone he brings back will suffer more than the ... Written by
Richard Jordan also starred with Burt Lancaster in the western "Valdez is Coming" which also came out in 71. See more »
When Vernon Adams (Robert Duvall) first aims down on Maddox (Burt Lancaster) with his rifle from above, Maddox is riding away from him up a long draw. Immediately afterward, Maddox is still traveling up the draw and looks up and sees Vernon in front of him and above him aiming down at him. The positions switched 180 degrees. See more »
When it comes down to bedrock, my word don't call much, does it, Vince? I'm just hired help.
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It's crazy the way some films get labeled "brilliant" while others get ignored just because of bad timing or poor studio backing or any # of things.
I'm not a fan of Westerns. I don't consider this a Western. I consider it a wonderfully written, directed, and acted work of art.
Gerald Wilson's script, and its interpretation by the three leads, is so skillful that it functions almost as a poem on the themes of "man," "animal," "law," and euphemism.
Micheal Winner's direction is beyond good. Every cut--early on he uses many overlays, then as the film builds he uses jarring smash cuts--is breathtaking in its thoughtfulness and thematic effect. And he knows when to lay off the music. An eerily quiet early showdown scene with Burt Lancaster, Albert Salmi, and Richard Jordan (with Robert Ryan in the background) is probably the most creative and effective such scene I've ever witnessed, Leone notwithstanding.
Then there's the acting. Lancaster is THE great underrated American actor, and it's because so many of his best performances came after he'd turned 50. I truly think this is his best. He says so much with his eyes, and especially with a tiny flutter or break in his voice. The range he achieves within this supposedly rigid character is phenomenal. From the knockout first scene between him and Ryan, to the touching scenes between him and Sheree North--you'll never see a sadder face than his when North gets out of the bed--to the scene by the river with Jordan, he creates a full character simply by being a great actor. No gimmicks or wackiness. He just out-acts anyone on the screen today.
Ryan equals Burt's performance. This is the best of the ten or so Ryan performances I've seen. Like Lancaster as he aged, Ryan is unafraid to play an aging, weakening character. Seeing him come to life briefly when he takes on a "Bronson man" is thrilling.
Lee J. Cobb has less to do but does a heck of a lot with it. The supporting actors are, to a person, superb. But special kudos must go to Richard Jordan.
This is a film that challenges the macho stereotype and finds it wanting. Lancaster's character offers a complex alternative. An absolute must-see. Tremendous script, unparalleled acting, superb directing. Oh, and the locations are just breathtaking. It's criminal that there's no true widescreen of Lawman available. Anyway, SEE IT.
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