Old West highwayman Bill Miner, known to Pinkertons as "The Gentleman Bandit," is released in 1901 after 33 years in prison, a genial and charming old man. He goes to Washington to live and work with his sister's family. But the world has changed much while he has been away, and he just can't adjust. So he goes to Canada and returns to the only thing familiar to him -- robbery (with stagecoaches changed to trains).Written by
Ken Yousten <email@example.com>
To honor the film's 20th anniversary, the movie was screened at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival. See more »
After Bill reunites with his Sister they walk together toward the house to meet her husband and pass a 3 point spring tooth harrow. The three point system wasn't invented until the late 1920s. See more »
This really is a masterpiece of film - and, unfortunately, largely unknown to the greater film-watching public in the United States. It is beautiful to watch, to listen to (with its soundtrack including both original work by award-winning composer Michael Conway Baker, of Canada, and the Chieftains), and to examine as a chronicle of the period that concluded the Wild West's grasp on the 19th Century and its reach for the 20th.
Bill Miner, the "Gentleman Bandit," was a historical figure whose long prison term for stagecoach robbery left him entirely unprepared (vocationally) for his release back into society - a society that was now devoid of stagecoaches, and beginning to discover the wonders of motorcars and moving pictures.
The 29-year-old director, Phillip Borsos (1953-1995), made this film tribute to the last outlaw of the Wild West and to the region that he lived in. While others might have gone heavy-handed and clichéd in such a production, Borsos' eye and ear both figure significantly in the film's direction, and its numerous examples of originality:
a senior citizen star (the late Richard Farnsworth - whose Hollywood career had started as a stuntman, in Westerns - playing Bill Miner as a thoughtful and kind gentleman) who even gets to look hunky;
a respectful treatment of an early 20th Century feminist (played by Jackie Burroughs);
cinematography that highlights the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, rather than some anonymous California desert;
a soundtrack that ISN'T Coplandesque (or Morriconesque);
a 'cowboy picture' where the hero gets the girl, but doesn't get vulgar or trite or even testosterone-driven; AND
an accurate look at the turn-of-the-century a hundred years ago in a landscape that hasn't entirely disappeared. Yet.
I have hummed the music from its tuneful soundtrack since the first time I saw it in its initial U.S. theatrical release, and have wanted to visit Kamloops, BC, ever since. If you can stand movies without gratuitous pyrotechnics or violence, don't let another day go by without checking out this film classic.
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