Filmed in Tucson. Arizona area, at Tucson Studios and in Sabino Canyon, north of Tucson. See more »
Supposedly set in Texas yet the train passes many saguaro cacti which do not grow in Texas. See more »
[to Howard Nightingale]
Honest men stay honest only as long as it pays. That's why I'm a thief and you're a liar.
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For He's A Jolly Good Fellow
Sung after during Nightingale's speech See more »
What if the "good guys" are as bad as the bad guys?
Released in 1975, "Posse" is a Western starring Kirk Douglas and Bruce Dern. Douglas plays, Nightingale, a marshal campaigning for the Senate in West Texas while Dern plays Strawhorn, a notorious outlaw leader whom Nightingale wants to bring in to increase his chances of winning the election. Bo Hopkins is on hand as one of the marshal's deputies while James Stacy plays a newspaper editor who opposes the marshal's campaign.
The movie debuted a year after Nixon resignation due to the Watergate scandal and "Posse" takes advantage of the public's loss of trust in politicians. Nightingale (Douglas) and his deputies are juxtaposed with Strawhorn (Dern) and his losers. There's no overt message, however, until the last 20 minutes. Speaking of which, the twist of the climax initially turned me off and filled me with disgust. But, after reflecting on it, I saw what the movie was getting across and respected it. It's just that the way the message is conveyed is awkwardly implemented. It could've been done more smoothly.
Some critics mistake the film's message as comparing a (supposedly) corrupt politician with a (supposedly) honest lawbreaker, but this is inaccurate. For one thing, "honest lawbreaker" is an oxymoron, particularly where Strawhorn is concerned. Right out of the gate the movie plainly shows him to be a murderous thug and, while a smooth-talker, he's never made out to be the good guy. He's a scumbag criminal worthy of hanging, impure and simple. Nor is Nightingale shown to be wickedly corrupt. He's a commanding marshal of the territory, which is a good thing; he has political aspirations and ties to the railroad, so what? Even when tempted by the blonde hottie Mrs. Ross (Beth Brickell) he charmingly turns her down on the grounds that it wouldn't be advantageous. Isn't that what wisdom is-having the scruples to recognize and deny foolish, immoral or destructive desires/behaviors? For more insights on the message of the movie remember that the film is called "Posse." See below for details.
Beyond the movie's message, "Posse" is a competent, entertaining Western with interesting characters, a quality cast and quite a bit of action.
The film runs 92 minutes and was shot in Sabino Canyon, Florence, Sonoita, Aravaipa Canyon and Old Tucson, Arizona.
***SPOILER ALERT*** (Don't read further if you haven't seen the movie)
I didn't find the deputies' sudden shift to the life of outlawry to be believable. True, they would each have $6000, which would've taken three years for them to make doing honest work, but it wasn't like this was enough moolah to radically change their lives, not to mention they'd lose the prestige that came with being deputies; and the possibility of becoming marshals or sheriffs one day. No matter how you slice it, this was an awkwardly implemented twist and lowers my grade of the film.
That said, there were signs that the 'posse' were already bad (with the exception of one deputy who refused to betray Nightingale and turn to crime). For instance, at least three of them are shown secretly bedding some young babes from the town in a conveniently available boxcar. These nubile ladies were obviously attracted to the "bad boys," which just so happen to be 'upstanding deputies,' members of the brave posse. What else is new?
So what's the movie saying? The line between respectable profession and outlawry can be very thin. People can be in an honest occupation and be corrupt; they're essentially just masquerading. It happens everywhere all the time. One critic lambasted the film for it's "tortuous confusion of good and evil." Actually, the movie just sheds light on the existence of evil in places where people naively pull the wool over the eyes not to see it. Look no further than HeyLIARy.
What about Nightingale? Was he shady or just his men? I personally don't think he was. He struck me as an ambitious justice-seeking marshal with political ambitions and he refused to even consider an illicit sexual liaison. But it's not a good reflection on his character that the majority of his men were corrupt, so maybe he was too, at least a little; and it would overtly manifest down the line in office.
Despite my criticisms, any movie that can spur such questions is worth checking out.
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