on 30 June 2011
This was a thoroughly enjoyable book for me as a life long fan of the genre. The author selected 27 of the finest westerns, chosen according to how representative they were in terms of theme and plot. I couldn't really argue with most of his main choices: all the big classics are there, like "Shane", "High Noon", "The Searchers", "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and the "Outlaw Josey Wales" etc. Representative lesser known films are covered expertly too such as "Johnny Guitar" (strong female leads), "Ulzana' Raid" (the brutal Apache Wars) and "Vera Cruz" (Mexican Revolution backdrop). The various chapters provide illuminating details about the concepts behind these movies, their production and artistic aspects, with plenty of career background on the Western's finest exponents: John Ford and John Wayne, Howard Hawks, Sam Peckinpah, Sergio Leone, Randolph Scott, Anthony Mann and James Stewart and Clint Eastwood. It's remarkable just how many other 20th century male Hollywood stars cut their chops in Westerns, including Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Montgomery Clift and Richard Widmark and also showcased some of the finest red neck character actors like Lee van Cleef, Walter Brennan, Jack Elam, Strother Martin and Ben Johnson. The story of the Western goes hand in hand with the history American cinema as an art form that has inspired generations of film goers and practitioners.
on 10 February 2014
It is a shame that the author of this book is a poor writer. More often than being filmed, movies are "lensed", and then rather than being shown, they are either "screened" or "unleashed". The sort of writing that is too often considered smart in some American circles. It makes one realise that one advantage printed books have over e-readers is that they do less damage to both themselves and the wall, when thrown with some force.
It is a shame because really the content of the book is quite interesting. In examining the making and content of some key western films it does combine to provide a useful history, intermingled with how derivative and/or influential they each were. Even though, sometimes his insight and critical faculties are too often overwhelmed by his evident enthusiasm.
It is also a shame because on the whole the author's judgement of what films to select is good. We all have our own favourites, of course, but it is good to see "Ride the High Country" and "Ulanza's Raid" given the prominence they deserve. But, "Wild Rovers" not even getting a mention is a shameful oversight. And, he is surely right that "The Law and Jake Wade" is underrated and indeed it is a very fine film. But the title is not awful - the film just deserved a better one.
A book really for enthusiasts, who will enjoy it.