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15 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Engaging, interesting and accessible film genre lecture that will even appeal to those with only a passing interest

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
3 July 2008

When Rich Hall overhears a liberal West Coast Mac user slating the film genre of westerns, he decides to teach him a few things. Having corrected some of his misconceptions, Hall dumps him in the middle of nowhere and heads off into the sunset. However for Hall this is only the start of the road trip as he explores and examines the role of the western down the years.

Say what you want about BBC4 and how many people watch it (and the tabloids do love to dismiss it as too highbrow and bad value for money) but it does produce a higher quality of programme. On any other channel what you would have from this film would be a clips show of famous western with a tabloid-level celeb pretending to have passion for films he/she has probably not seen for quite some time if at all. However what we have here is something quite similar but yet infinitely better. Written and presented by acerbic comedian Rich Hall, this is a really well informed lecture on the western, why the genre is relevant and what it has meant or done down the years. OK there are plenty of clips but they are certainly never the focus and are never shown as filler.

On the contrary, Hall has plenty to say and mostly he does it in a very intelligent and engaging manner. After the first couple of times his stretches to criticise the Bush government and the war on Iraq gets a bit old and distracting but otherwise he is note-perfect. He presents with typical grump but yet it fits the subject really well and he speaks with authority and knowledge that comes over in how he says it and not just what he says. The direction is really good and moves around well in "wild west" locations with rich yellows and blues that match the dried look of Hall and the films.

On the surface it is a film for fans of westerns and undoubtedly those who love the genre will love this, but it is interesting, engaging and accessible enough to appeal to a wider audience if they give it a try. A really good film genre lecture and it does deserve to be seen by more people than I'm sure BBC4 will have reached.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

How the West Was Lost: Comprehensive, Entertaining, and Highly Informative

7/10
Author: Baron Ronan Doyle (imagiking@gmail.com) from Ireland
23 January 2011

Shown rather amusingly on BBC Four at the end of the very same week in which I had been given a comprehensive education in the history of the western, How the West Was Lost seemed the perfect thing to cement what I'd learned about the genre, the wryly laconic Rich Hall surely icing on such a cake.

Sitting outside an old west saloon, a dark figure is affronted when a movie-reviewing kid simultaneously online and on a call dismisses the western film genre. Taking him out to the desert and dumping him there, the cowboy begins to explain to us the real splendour of this often forgotten American genre.

The opening scene, a silly little introduction utilising certain genre conventions, had me thinking for a moment that the entire documentary might be communicated through a sort of faux-narrative. Luckily this is not the case, the scene more of an opportunity for Hall to introduce his fondness for the classic genre. A key thing we notice early is that this film is very much a subjective one, the prejudices and opinions—both political and cinematic—of the narrator/presenter not at all reserved. Hall looks the part for the presentation, his dark cowboy hat and coarse goatee recalling the many western heroes he makes mention of. The film is quite well shot, the iconic landscapes which pervade the genre fully exploited herein. It is immediately evident that the subject matter is quite close to Hall's heart, his praise of it as the great American genre and a staple of the country's cinema spoken with a great degree of pride and affection. He explores the genre in a generally chronological fashion, taking us from the early days of fledgling Hollywood through to the golden era of Ford, Hawks, and their contemporaries, onto the revisionism of New Hollywood and finally to the gradual dying off of the genre as a mainstream one in and around the release of Heaven's Gate. Interviewees include film historians and gunsmiths who attempt to explain the fixation of the American public with the genre from its earliest days. Hall presents us with a wide range of clips from westerns throughout the ages: Stagecoach; My Darling Clementine; The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; The Searchers; The Magnificent Seven; Blazing Saddles; Little Big Man; Cheyenne Autumn; and McCabe and Mrs Miller to name but a few. The insight Hall gives into the evolution of the genre through these is interesting, exploring themes of East versus West as well as individual versus community and many more beside. A less appealing factor, and one which raises more than a few eyebrows, is his apparent distaste for the Spaghetti Westerns, particularly those of Leone. More than any other film mentioned, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is labeled as a shame to its genre, the extent of Hall's hatred of it rather alarming and—for such a classic film—quite unusual. Aside from this minor detour into express agendas (several scathing political criticisms also crop up, but they're both funny and agreed with), the film is a comprehensive, entertaining, and highly informative look at a genre it makes you sad to see on the decline.

Pretty much exactly as informative as appropriate for its televisual documentary medium, How the West Was Lost is an interesting approach to western history that will prove worthwhile for those with a particular interest in film. Hall's brand of presentation, as well as his distinctive voice, are welcome additions to a well written and shot tribute to a great American genre.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Uneven.

Author: chaos-rampant from Greece
25 November 2008

Decent enough documentary for the greenhorns and freshcuts of the genre, with a political commentary that might alienate George W. supporters, but the tiny segment on the great maestro Sergio Leone is downright uninformed, moronic, an embarrassment to all involved and makes the entire project a throwaway thing. As if insulting possibly the greatest director of westerns and certainly the most influential since his time in all manner of modern films was not enough, pipsqueak Rich Hall completely ignores the avalanche of terrific spaghetti westerns that followed in A Fistful of Dollars' wake. I'm talking about the works of Corbucci, Sollima, Carnimeo, Castellari and other one hit wonders.

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From what I've read from other reviewers, I think I'll pass...

Author: burgephoto from United States
26 December 2016

There are two points here I would like to make:

(1) Let me say right off that I was quite anxious to find this film, but after reading all the reviews offered here, I don't think I want to. Man, I sure am glad I read the reviews from others first who have seen it before I wasted my money! Maybe it's easy for a reviewer from the United Kingdom or Ireland to accept Rich Hall's obvious disdain for America (as pointed out in these reviews), but being from America, I know I wouldn't be able to stomach it. I think it's laughable for someone from another part of the globe to grouse about what's wrong with America! Methinks you need to be an American to really know that.

(2). The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is my favorite Western, but from reading the other reviews here, it appears Mr. Hall despised that classic Western above all. That alone is enough to make me avoid this so-called "documentary" at all costs. I have a feeling I would end up jerking the DVD out of its player, taking it outside and running over it several times with my automobile! Rich Hall and BBC America, there's your "documentary"; and as Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly said, "I can give you a good idea where you can put it!"

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1 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Hatred

Author: rtensleep from United States
17 July 2008

Rich Halls hatred for the United States and the Western movies are clear. His "feeling" of inferiority are quite obvious in this stupid film. The totally unnecessary rant about President George Bush shows his lac of understanding of History be that of the American West or anything regarding history. Buddy Americans are not the problem! It's short sighted people like you who are the problem! The history of man is not 232 years Americans are not the blame for the worlds troubles we haven't been here long enough. Yes I saw your smug ass here in Tombstone outside //The Crystal Palace and I'm sure if those people you talked to knew what you were up to, they would not have been part of this.

Yes that's part of your deception i understand.

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