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Johnny Guitar (1954)
color, in black and white
Boy this is a jewel, and for many different reasons. A good lot of people deserve credit for their work
First is Nicholas Ray for his direction. A fine preparation and presentation of the visual elements really took some doing. The use, but not excessive glorification (thank goodness), of the relatively new Trucolor is well-done; the horses full of black-clad riders rushing up the rocky hill in the night, the many shots of the furious blazes dissolving Vienna's place, and so much more.
The acting is remarkable. Sterling Heyden, just in standing before the camera and delivering his lines in that firm and fearless manner (ala Asphalt Jungle), is a strong presence. John Carradine once again shows himself as the precious dramatist he proved himself to be many years before in The Grapes of Wrath.
What strikes me the most, though, is Ben Maddow's (thank Phillip Yordan for being an heroic front) screenplay. It is not only thick in theme and symbolism, it is thick with what was (at the time) almost unprecedented elements. Both Vienna and Emma are, as either GOOD or BAD, shown as the leaders of men! Pacifism is being shown as a good thing! Is that the good guys wearing black and the bad guys wearing white (or maybe the other way around)?! As many comments have mentioned, the Un-American Activities Committee parallels (complete with the entire Ox-Bow-esquire element) are, really, quite thinly veiled. The economically powerful, Small and McIver, are dominant and monopolistic capitalists (a version of antagonism almost unseen, for obvious reasons, since the McCarthey-assaulted Force of Evil). Remember, this is 1954!!!! This stuff is downright revolutionary! How did they ever get it all past the censors and masters of the code?
Let's hope time doesn't forget this one in favor of some formulaic shoot-'em-ups simply because they feature "the Duke."
The Long Night (1947)
...for its own sake...
I just have to say... It seems as though every negative comment about this film starts out with "this is a bad REMAKE of..." Surely, I suppose it's nearly impossible to view THE LONG NIGHT as itself when you have already seen Marcel Carne's 1939 flick (and maybe even harder if you have created within yourself a dedication to anything foreign, slightly obscure, or non-Hollywood). The great thing about this movie, if one can get over the remake aspect of it, is that it is truly LOADED with great things! The set design and artwork are fantastic! Tiomkin's music is, once again, a fine creation! Polito's cinematography, camera work, and use of light are brilliant! Sure, the great story is, for the most part, taken from somewhere else, but the screenplay by the great John Wexley is excellent. I might be reading a bit to much into this, but I saw working class heroism, touches of popular justice, and just a hint of bourgeois deceit. The latter showed in the fantastic performance by Vincent Price as his character continued to try to sell a fantasy to Jo Ann (Barbara Bel Geddes) by means of magic and falsehood. All in all, I think this one is just like any good work of art: if you put a little into it, you can get a lot out of it.