74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Western Painting
Alan Ladd starred in one of the most spare and beautiful westerns ever captured on film in George Stevens' portrait of a lonely gunfighter and the bond he forms with a family of homesteaders under seige out west. Jack Schaefer's very good western novella was lofted to greatness by Ladd's quiet performance as the gunfighter Shane, who gets a glimpse of the life he would...
Published on 12 July 2005 by starlighthotel
14 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice views of the mountains but.......
I can't believe all these ***** reviews. Before the lynching party can get booted and saddled up, sure, the film has a satisfying outdoor feel to it, and the theme of an outsider blowing in from nowhere like St George and having despatched Jack Palance's dragon blowing out again before he can eat his hosts out of pork and beans is a perennially fascinating one. The...
Published on 18 April 2010 by Humpty Dumpty
Most Helpful First | Newest First
74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Western Painting,
This review is from: Shane [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Alan Ladd starred in one of the most spare and beautiful westerns ever captured on film in George Stevens' portrait of a lonely gunfighter and the bond he forms with a family of homesteaders under seige out west. Jack Schaefer's very good western novella was lofted to greatness by Ladd's quiet performance as the gunfighter Shane, who gets a glimpse of the life he would have preferred rather than the hand he was dealt.
A story and film which sounds simple, and is often described as such, is really anything but, its complexity hidden by its scope and the subtle manner in which it is told. Shane is the mythic figure, riding in on the horizon and staying to help a family fend off a rancher trying to drive the farmers off their land. It is a story of changing times and complex relationships.
Shane forms a bond with farmer Van Heflin and becomes his friend because of his decency and acceptance of Shane, even though Shane's gun and his readiness to draw at the slightest sound reveals a past and a way of life Shane would like to live down. Shane knows he is on the way out as the west changes and it is ironic that he chooses to help the family trying to build a town and a community, the very things that will be his demise.
Brandon De Wilde is excellent as the young boy who needs a larger than life hero to look up to and finds him in Shane. As he and Shane form a bond, an inevitable confrontation between a deadly gunfighter hired to get rid of the homesteaders will force him to put on his gun and live up to everything the young boy feels in his heart for Shane.
Jean Arthur gives a wonderful and often overlooked performance as the wife who loves her husband and son dearly, but can not deny the feelings she has for Shane. There is a point in the film where she tells her husband to just hold her and not ask any questions; everyone who has been watching knows why she does this. It is a platonic love for Shane she would never act on but it is still there.
Heflin is also excellent as a solid man trying to hold the other farmers together even as a deadly gunfighter in black, symbolic of the good verses evil of the story, kills one of their own. He is no fool and senses the feelings between his wife and Shane, but knows that neither would ever betray him; Arthur because she loves him and Shane because it is not the kind of man he is.
Shane's feelings for Arthur are not the threatening kind, but more a loneliness when he looks at her, as she represents everything he wanted but knows he will never have because he is a gunfighter. He tells Arthur that a gun is just a tool like an axe or a shovel, no better or worse than the man who carries it. We know Shane is the good man, and Jack Palance the bad man, quick on the draw and evil, but no match for the soft spoken but deadly Shane.
The way the inevitable gunfight comes about and the way this film ends continues the larger than life myth of the American gunfighter. There is a nice score from Victor Young and good support from Edgar Buchanan as a farmer and Ben Johnson as a rancher who changes his spots, won over by the kind of man Shane shows himself to be.
Shane is not only one of the great westerns, but one of the best films of any genre. It is an artistic portrait of a gunfighter and the changing landscape of the American west, as general stores and churches began to replace the lawlessness that had been settled by a fast and accurate draw for so many years.
If you do not own Shane, your film library is incomplete. Every serious film buff has a spot for this masterpiece on their shelf somewhere. Make one on yours.
65 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We need you, Shane!,
Shane is a masterpiece, irrespective of genre. Naturally, most discussion of the film comes up in the context of 'great Western' debates but this is a little unfortunate since Shane is a great film which happens to also be a great Western.
From the opening scene to the immortal closing shot Shane captures the imagination and the emotions. It is not that Shane offers anything particularly new in terms of storyline: the mysterious drifter wandering into a town where a struggle between homesteaders and cattlemen is going on was and has been a staple of Western story-telling from the beginning of the genre's popularity. Rather, Shane manages to encapsulate everything that we dream the West to be about - the good and the bad.
Each scene, character, line of dialogue, moment of action is so deliberately crafted and delivered that it borders on the extreme. Take for example Shane's arrival at the home of the Starrets, he is seen riding into view through the antlers of a grazing deer. Or the symbolic importance of Shane and Joe finally uprooting the tree stump which Joe states has been a burden for nearly five years - surely the fact that the stump is finally uprooted on the day of Shane's arrival and with his assistance holds serious implications for the meaning of Shane's presence in the valley. These are but two examples in a film which makes a point in every scene.
Such an approach to telling this tale has lead to the claim that Shane is film dedicated to the myth of the American West, that through the characters and the words they speak we see the West as we imagine it to have been, not what it was or will ever be. However, more than that the myth that pervades Shane is one that is true for all people in all places at all times: the hope for a new start, a life of peace and prosperity earned through hard work and self sacrifice, the renunciation of violence in favour of dialogue and compromise, integrity and principle instead of meaness and greed, chivalry, fidelity, friendship and love. The list is not complete, but you get the idea.
Shane was made more than 50 years ago. It is still as beautiful to watch today as it was back then when it won an Oscar for photography. As for the story, that too is as relevant today as then - by its own admission Shane is a fairy tale of sorts and as such is eternal.
One final point. In my book Once Upon a Time in the West is the ultimate Western fairy tale. Sergio Leone set out to deliberately tell a Western tale which drew on all the earlier great Westerns and present them in a romanticised fashion. The fact that Shane figures heavily as a point of reference in Leone's film is of no surprise. What precisely those references are I'll leave to you to discover for yourself!
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can be watched time and time again...,
In the extras, the two old gents speak engagingly of how they went out to make just another western, and how they came back with Shane. This speaks volumes on how a film can have intellectual depth without any pretension.
A beautiful understated study of unrequited love, perfectly acted by Jean Arthur and Alan Ladd, set against a magnificent landscape. Van Heflin being the opposite of Alan Ladd: uncharismatic, stolid, ordinary yet even so managing to convey convincingly a character that Jean Arthur would stick by. Brandon De Wilde growing up before our eyes, culminating in the poignant final scenes where we see the end of his childhood. Jack Palance giving us a great villain and the only hissable baddie in the film. All the supporting characters have light and shade, even the diehard free range cowman is able to explain where he is coming from and gets our understanding if not our support.
Although, technically unsophisticated by today's standards and the studio interiors do let the atmosphere slip sometimes, the DVD shows how superb tripack Technicolor was. I don't think the day-for-night shots have ever been bettered.
George Stevens has created a work of great depth in a simple style.
Oh! And the wood chopping sequence with Victor Young's music is one of my all time favourites.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great westerns.,
This is a classic and over the decades since its making has lost none of its charm. It has everything a good old fashioned western should have. Theres the quiet unassuming hero, Alan Ladd, who can only be pushed just so far and the dastardly bullying villian Jack Palance that he's going to have a reckoning with.The stirring music has you hooked from the start. Its wonderful, put your feet up and imagine yourself in the one and nine pennies at Saturday morning pictures.This is how cowboy films were meant to be. "Come back Shane, come back"
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Western Poetry in Technicolor,
This review is from: Shane - Paramount Originals (includes Limited Edition reproduction film poster) [DVD] (DVD)
The simple story of a Wyoming range war is elevated to near-mythical status in producer/director George Stevens' Western classic Shane. Alan Ladd plays the title character, a mysterious drifter who rides into a tiny homesteading community and accepts the hospitality of a farming family. Patriarch Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) is impressed by the way Shane handles himself when facing down the hostile minions of land baron Ryker (played by Emile Meyer), though he has trouble placing his complete trust in the stranger, as Starrett's wife Marion (Jean Arthur) is attracted to Shane in spite of herself, and his son Joey (Brandon De Wilde) idolises Shane. When Ryker is unable to drive off the homesteaders by sheer brute strength, he engages the services of black-clad, wholly evil hired gun Jack Wilson (Jack Palance). The moment that Wilson shows he means business by shooting down hotheaded farmer Frank Torrey (Elisha Cook Jr.). This is the film's most memorable scene: after years of becoming accustomed to carefully choreographed movie death scenes, the suddenness with which Torrey's life is snuffed out, and the force with which he falls to the ground - are startling. Shane knows that a showdown with Wilson is inevitable; he also knows that, unintentionally, he has become a disruptive element in the Starrett family. The manner in which he handles both these problems segues into the now-legendary "Come back, Shane" finale. Cinematographer Loyal Griggs imbues this no-frills tale with the outer trappings of an epic, forever framing the action in relation to the unspoiled land surrounding it. A.B. Guthrie Jr.'s screenplay, adapted from the Jack Schaefer novel, avoids the standard good guy/bad guy cliche: both homesteaders and cattlemen are shown as three-dimensional human beings, flaws and all, and even ostensible villain Ryker comes off reasonable and logical when elucidating his dislike of the "newcomers" who threaten to divest him of his wide open spaces.
George Stevens' classic Western "Shane" stars Alan Ladd in one of his most memorable screen performances. Beautifully filmed in Technicolor in the great Wyoming outdoors, under the towering peaks of the Grand Tetons, it may be said to be a rich and dramatic mobile painting of the American frontier scene.
Like other Westerns, "Shane" deals with the genre's perennial issues and embodies its basic social types: the "man of action" (Alan Ladd), the "anti-violent pacifist" (Van Hefflin), "the hired-gun and incarnation of evil" (Jack Palance), the "naive wife-mother" (Jean Arthur), who initially resents the stranger for teaching her son how to handle a gun, until she realises its necessity. The movie features two parallel stories: the social conflict between hard-working farmers and just as stubborn ranchers, and the mythic confrontation between right and wrong, good vs evil.
Splendid in every way, "Shane" is one of the most poetic American films about childhood and growing up. The film features breathtaking cinematography, which won an Oscar Award.
"Shane" is one of those rare films that achieved both critical acclaim and box-office popularity. Released right after the psychological and introspective High Noon, some critics saw it as a refreshing return to classic American issues of "man against man" and "man against nature" in the construction of the West - in reality and myth.
Oscar Nominations: 6
Oscar Awards: 1 (Best Cinematography)
DVD extras include: Original theatrical trailer, limited-edition film poster, chapter selection & language options. Aspect ratio is full-frame.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Iconic western gets a lavish and fully deserved re-issue,
This review is from: Shane - Paramount Originals (includes Limited Edition reproduction film poster) [DVD] (DVD)
Shane is one of those films that seems to viewed as genre specific .It's always lauded as a great western , quite rightly, because it is a great western. Genres should in reality be cast aside because Shane is ostensibly a great film that just happens to be a western.
Released in 1953, just one year after "High Noon" the film was actually filmed in 1951 but due to director George Stevens extensive re-editing of the movie it didn't appear till April 1953.Even then the original distributor Paramount considered selling it on fearing it would never see a profit , though it did go one to make a more than handsome one for the fretful studio. The film was almost never made because the directors original choices for the roles of Shane and Starrett-Montgomery Clift and William Holden respectively - weren't available. Alan Ladd as Shane and Van Heflin as Joe Starrett ,as well as Jean Arthur as Starretts wife Marian were chosen from a list of available actors with current contracts. Thus is movie history made , random choices from a cobbled together list.
Shane takes the premise of the mysterious stranger riding into the life's of a community and irrevocably altering events and futures and does it without sentiment or garishness. The film has a lean aesthetic poetry to it, from the sparse literate dialogue., to some of the wonderfully composed shots -Shane's gradual appearance through the antlers of a grazing deer may allude to him finding himself on the horns of a dilemma , or more likely suggests some elemental connection with the landscape-either way or not it's a fantastic image. The script here with young Joey Stark (Brandon De Wilde) saying " Somebody's coming Pa" and Joe replying matter of fatly "Well let him come" suggests that events are now in motion that cannot be stopped and they are ones that will have some irrevocable bearing on the life's of this family.
Shane's acceptance by the Starks gives him an insight into the sort of life he could have lived had he not chosen the life of a gunslinger . His attraction to Marian is based more on a unconsummated need for love and acceptance rather than anything sexual and his empathy with Joe Stark is gained through their almost ritualistic up-rooting a stubborn tree stump .Of course conflict comes through Shane's brandishing of his guns but as Shane explains to Marian "A gun is a tool , no better or worse than any other tool, an axe a shovel , or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it".I,ts a flawed argument for sure but in this movie guns are central to final resolutions. Incidentally Alan Ladd was not comfortable using guns .The scene where he teaches Joey how to use a gun had be re-shot 119 times.
Shane's affiliation with the Starks means he has sided with the "Sodbusters" a derogatory term used by the men of Rufus Ryker ( Emile Meyer) a cattle baron who wants to remove the homesteaders who have settled on his land . His sneering disorderly ranch hands constantly hang around "Graftons Mercantile " the towns main store riling and unsettling the farmers .This leads to the memorable bar fight where Shane is goaded by a ruddy faced cow poke (Ben Johnson) and the twos fist fight - a fascinating contrast of styles , Shane cool, studied and technically correct against the cowboys bull in a china shop approach -leads to an all out bar fight with Joe Stark fighting alongside Shane .The lines have been firmly drawn .
Joe Stark is faced with keeping the farming community together as some wilt under Rykers bullying and the plain fact his wife is attracted to Shane. At the 4th July dance , a rare moment of simple enjoyment for this community , Shane and Marian engage in a twirl while Joe looks on, symbolically fenced off from the pair. Ryker attempts to mediate by offering Stark a bribe , never an option for such a honourable man , and thus the situation escalates with the arrival of hired gun Jack Wilson ( Jack Palance ) who is seen arriving in town leading his horse on foot. This was not a deliberate act, but one brought about by Palance,s lack of ease around horses
Wilson, in a memorable scene( "Pick up the gun") provokes drunken homesteader Frank "Stonewall" Torrey( Elisha Cook Jr ) into a gunfight and mercilessly guns him down leading to the inevitable confrontation with Shane , who has to physically subdue Joe Stark to prevent his involvement in the climatic gun battle and thus more than likely save his life. It's brilliantly staged and Shane his job here done and possibly mortally wounded rides off with young Joey chasing after shouting those famous lines "Come back Shane" .
Shane won an Oscar for best cinematography (colour) which is scant reward for a film as iconic as this. It has been referenced in many other movies with De Niro,s legendary "You talkin to me" line from "Taxi Driver" being lifted from the exchange between Shane and the cowboy . It is referenced in "Pulp Fiction" , "Once Upon A Time In The West" by comedian Bill Hicks , even "Star Trek Deep Space Nine" and has even been remade , or near as dammitt by Clint Eastwood with the excellent "Pale Rider". Warren Beatty copied the way the gun fire sounds so loud in Shane for the climatic shooting scene in "Bonnie And Clyde". It's one of the best western s ever made , arguably the best but like I said before , Shane is when all the gun smoke has cleared , an all time classic of any genre and this Paramount re-issue with it's unforgettable poster does it full service.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do not miss.,
This review is from: Shane [Blu-ray]  [US Import] (Blu-ray)
This bluray is region free and is simply one of the greatest movies ever made. The bluray transfer is looks absolutely stunning. Do not miss this movie. It is a massive improvement on the dvd release.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shane Blu,
This review is from: Shane [Blu-ray]  [US Import] (Blu-ray)
Not a review, just info. that this Blu-ray is in 1.37.1 and plays Region B. Not much at all in the way of extras but the picture quality is very fine (detailed, clear, with weight) and one is given obviously more of what's onscreen than on previous releases. Sound is without problems and fully adequate. I'd say a worthwhile purchase if you like this film.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic!,
This is a gem from my youth, and so well made that the false mythology it was based on really doesn't matter. There is no dirt, the limited violence derives from the stereotypes, there is a little mystery about the background of Shane himself, and even of the arch baddy, Wilson, because he clearly comes from the same milieu as Shane. But though we saw similar stock characters in hundreds of westerns, before they became more 'realistic', these are so well played that they become real characters. It was another era, but one that provokes a happy, escapist nostalgia in people of my generation. I can't imagine why I've waited so long to wallow in it again.
And did you know Jack Palance's first name was Walter?!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic statement of the frontier creation myth,
George Stevens' 1952 Western Shane packs a huge reputation. Rated by the AFI as No.45 in a list of 100 best films ever made, and at No. 3 in a list of top 10 westerns, it is universally acknowledged as a classic of the genre to set beside High Noon (1952) and The Searchers (1956). It has influenced many films that came afterwards from Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) to Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider (1985). That great director of Westerns Sam Peckinpah cited Shane as his favorite film and paid ironic homage to it at the end of his Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) when kids throw stones after Garrett as he rides away having slayed his man. Shane's influence has even reached beyond Westerns. My favorite `remake' is Itami Juzo's Japanese classic Tampopo (1986) where a truck driver comes to the rescue of a woman running a ramen (Chinese noodle) shop in Tokyo. And yet, I think it worth while to stand back for a minute and question the greatness of Shane rather than simply paying lip service to the generally held view. What is it exactly that has elevated this routine potboiler (while making the film nobody expected the film to be anything else) to classic status?
The first thing that most lovers of the film point to is the film's classical simplicity. Under the opening credits a stranger named Shane (Alan Ladd) rides away from the camera into Johnson County, Wyoming c.1892. He finds the Starrett homestead to be under threat from a band of men run by cattle baron Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer) who claims the range for himself. Shane is taken with the Starretts - good family man Joe (Van Heflin), his attractive wife Marian (Jean Arthur) and their young son Joey (Brandon DeWilde). He decides to stay and help them out. The Starretts are one of a few homesteaders holding out against Ryker and things come to a head when Shane tunes up one of his men Chris Calloway (Ben Johnson) in a fistfight at the local store. Seeing Shane is a gunfighter albeit trying to stay good, Ryker hires his own gunfighter Jack Wilson (Jack Palance) to assert his own authority. Wilson succeeds in baiting one of the homesteaders named Frank `Stonewall' Torrey (Elisha Cook Jr.) into drawing his gun first and shoots him dead in cold blood. Ryker has realized Joe Starrett to be the leader of the homesteaders and knows Torrey's death will draw his man into a confrontation which Wilson will of course win. Shane knows Joe is no match for Wilson and knocking him out he rides into town and faces Wilson himself. As everyone knows Shane prevails, the homesteaders' community has been preserved and the mysterious `good' gunfighter rides off into the mountains as young Joey yells after him to come back. The closing credits appear over the image of Shane riding away, but into (as opposed to away from) the camera.
The greatest films often have the simplest of stories (in this case a Jack Schaefer novel adapted by A. B. Guthrie Jr.) and most people will voice their approval simply by accentuating the tremendous professional accomplishment with which the film is brought off. Loyal Griggs' Oscar-winning photography is as great as everyone says it is, the location-shooting of Jackson Hole Wyoming with the looming Grand Teton massif dwarfing the action with astute use of telephoto lenses. The release of Shane was delayed while Stevens tinkered forever with the editing, but the final results are exemplary with explosive scenes of action punctuating the stately pace of the narrative as it unfolds. The casting has also been noted as exemplary, though that apparently was a happy accident. Stevens had wanted Montgomery Clift for Shane, William Holden for Joe and Katherine Hepburn for Marian, but when all three proved impossible Stevens went for Ladd on the spur of the moment as one of a few Paramount lead actors then available. Van Heflin was a similar story, while Jean Arthur had appeared for Stevens in two previous films and was trusted even though she was in her 50s and arguably too old for the part. As the film is very much a narrative shown through a child's perspective the casting of Brandon DeWilde was important. It turned out successfully, the boy having previously impressed on Broadway and able to bring a sense of innocence to his role in the film. Also from New York came Jack Palance who gives a nasty psychotic edge to his character which is particularly gripping. The gunning down of Torrey is the most cold-blooded moment in a film which overall is tamer than usual for a Western in terms of violence.
Now, all of these things I have mentioned are a given in any good film, but for a film to be accorded classic status there has to be even more to it than that. To really understand Shane I think we have to place it into its historical/cultural context and see it for what it really is. For this we have to grasp that the whole Western genre is about the creation of a country, the creation of the USA no less. The greatest Westerns amount to deep meditations on this creation process. Creation myths loom large behind gangster films as well (The Godfather and Once Upon a Time in America preeminent among them), but the Western more than any other genre deals directly with the way the European colonizers pushed westwards in pursuit of their "Manifest Destiny" to make the USA what it is today. The different elements of this process make for all the different types of Westerns that are in existence and are perfectly encapsulated in the work of John Ford. Starting with the Westerns depicting the wars of independence (Guns Along the Mohawk) going down the wagon train (Wagon Master) or the railroad (The Iron Horse) to the wars against the Amerindians (Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande) and then to the frontier Westerns celebrating the founding of civilization in the wild west where the enemy wasn't so much the Indians, but the unscrupulous members of settler communities both in towns (My Darling Clementine, Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 3 Godfathers) and on the range (My Darling Clementine partly and Hawks' Red River wholly). Beyond that there is the civil war Western (The Horse Soldiers), the racialist Western (The Searchers, Two Rode Together, Sergeant Rutledge) and then the apologist (I am sorry to the Indians) Western (Cheyenne Autumn). The `Western as a creation myth' means that the best of them deal with something that lies sacred within the American soul. Far from just being shoot 'em up escapist action, they document what past generations went through in order to make the country what it is today. In that sense they are endowed with a mythic aura which remains somehow "holy".
Shane is a classic example of the frontier Western where decent law-abiding folk seek to establish a community against the odds. The wars against the Amerindians have been fought and won. Now it is the claims from rival bands of migrants who came from the East that provides the confrontations. There is an interesting scene in Shane where Ryker confronts Joe at his ranch and lays down his argument for claiming the land as his own. It is a sympathetic argument coming from a cattle rancher who was indeed the first one to arrive in Wyoming. The fact that he didn't settle there paved the way for new settlers to arrive and `squat' on his land. Ryker's methods (culminating in hiring a psychotic gunslinger) of course mark him out as the baddy of the piece, but it doesn't take much imagination to acknowledge him as a man of good qualities as well. He even admits that he likes Joe Starrett at one point. This moral ambiguity is underlined by the character of Ryker's henchman Calloway. At first he confronts Shane and is beaten up for his efforts, but when Ryker hires Wilson he changes horses and rides to warn Shane of the trap awaiting Joe. In the world according to Shane civilized communities (re: the USA) are established by three main elements - determined settlers like the Starretts stubborn enough to dig in and support one another, `good' gunfighters like Shane who are prepared to help them in the absence of any law enforcement (in the film it is emphasized repeatedly how far away the nearest sheriff or army officer is), and bad men turned good (Calloway) who show the civilization process taking place literally in person. Shane himself it is hinted at was once a bad gunslinger just like Wilson, but his self-reformism is underlined as being essential for a new nation to come into being.
One huge reason for Shane's classic status lies in its presentation of the title character. Alan Ladd's Davey Crockett suede outfit replete with tassels has come into ridicule from some, but it is attuned with the idea of him being in a sense a `founding father' who rides into the community and changes everything (and everyone) for the better. The casting of Alan Ladd is key here for he brings a sense of almost religious awe to the role. There's none of the simple manliness of John Wayne or the upright morality of Gary Cooper (and Lord knows what Montgomery Clift what have brought to the role!). Like Terrence Stamp's character in Pier Paolo Pasolini's Theorum (1968) Ladd brings the aura of an angel as he transforms each member of the Starrett family by turn. His first action in the film is to stand by Joe as the Rykers confront him. He shows the way to deal with them later in the fistfight in the bar which Joe eventually joins in. Then when Joe is losing his leadership of the community at Storrey's funeral it is Shane who speaks up and rallies everyone back around him. Shane shows Joe the way to stand up to the Rykers (to create a new country) by filling him with fighting spirit, but when Joe wants to take things on alone, Shane shows his decency by knocking him out and undertaking Wilson on his own. Countries are made by plucky settlers like Joe, but the help of a skilled hand with guns is still needed if they are to survive.
Then there is the effect Shane has on Marian. First seen in masculine trousers and shirt, he reawakens the feminine in her as she gradually learns to take more pride in her appearance, donning a dress to go into town, taking time to do her hair, wearing her wedding dress for the 4th of July celebrations (which also happens to be the Starrett's wedding anniversary), dancing with Shane while her (almost!) cuckolded husband looks on. The scenes between Shane and Marian are charged throughout with erotic tension, but this being 1952 we have to look hard to really see it. There is an enigmatic scene where Marian asks her husband to simply hold her without asking any questions - a statement of her never-to-be-consummated love for Shane. Key for me is the scene where Shane has just knocked Joe out and is about to ride off to fight Wilson. Marian asks, "Are you doing this for me?" After a pause Shane says, "For you and for Joey." As a man we can guess his real motivation here, but in the bigger scheme of the film he is doing everything possible to found a country worth living in, the woman a symbol for the domestic hearth that is the very center of civilization and the boy who is the future. Joey will reap the gains of the struggles and sacrifices that have played out in previous generations.
Joey turns out to be the most important character in Shane, for he represents the future generations of Americans, many of whom of course watched it in 1952 and acclaimed it an instant classic. Closely linked with the idea of the film enshrining a creation myth is the deployment of the gun as a symbol. Joey's fascination with guns throughout the film underlines this idea very acutely with Shane becoming a surrogate father who will teach him the thing his real father has so far refused to do. The film starts off with Joey pretending to hunt an elk with a fake rifle, leads through several scenes where the boy expresses his desire to learn to shoot to parents who wont listen, eventually forces Shane to teach him and then gets a graphic impression of what guns are really for when he watches the final shootout. Now, it's worth examining this closely for there are many layers of symbolism at work here.
First of all, when the boy pesters his father to teach him how to shoot, it is actually code for "Dad, can you teach me all the things I need to know so that I can grow up?" The gun is on one level a catch-all term for everything a kid needs to negotiate his rites of passage on the frontier away from law enforcement. His father may well be gunned down at any moment and there's no telling when a man (even a young boy) may have to defend his family. To grow up fast was an important necessity of frontier life. Settlers wouldn't be able to survive if they didn't learn how to use guns properly. The boy thus becomes a conduit for all the settlers who need to grasp the lesson Shane teaches at the end when he blows away the objects that are impeding the establishment of civilization. At the hoedown one of the settlers senses Shane is a gunfighter and voices his disapproval, but Shane demonstrates the necessity for guns otherwise they will all just have to pack up and go back east, back to Europe even. Joey swallows his lesson in the course of the film as of course do we in the audience. It is worth stating that George Stevens had fought in World War Two and had seen in the flesh what happens to a man when he is hit by a bullet. He shows in Shane that civilization sometimes has to be maintained by the use of violence and that message would not have been lost on American audiences in 1952 just after the carnage of the Korean War had finished.
Second, the important scene where Shane shows Joey how to shoot is set on the morning of American Independence Day. It is also his parents' wedding anniversary. Marian is even wearing a wedding dress when she tells Shane off for showing Joey his gun. This connects the need to learn how to use a gun properly ("A gun is a tool just like a pick axe or a shovel...it is only as good or as bad as the man using it," Shane tells Marian) with the very creation of America itself. It may be sad to acknowledge, but in history new societies are established through violence. In America it was through the Indian wars, then the Civil War and in Shane the Range War. This birth element is emphasized by the idea that men and women come together and make a new society together in marriage so as to give their Joeys all the chances in the world to live and prosper - both made necessary by the mastery of the correct way to handle guns. Joey's gun education undergone through the film is shown as an essential element of the creation myth process.
Third, this scene is one example of many in countless Westerns where older experienced men are obliged to show youngsters about life - this is defined as handling women, cattle, drink and guns. Faced with a youngster the older man will feel obliged to pass on his knowledge, his mantra for survival if you like. The way Shane teaches Joey here is important. He says something like, "Some like to use two guns, but one's enough if you know how to use it...A gun is as good or bad as the man using it". That is the difference between the honorable gunman and the killer or in this film the difference between Shane and Wilson. On issuing his words of guidance Shane pulls the trigger and in an explosion of noise we see the boy's amazed expression. Of course Marian's outward reaction is indignant and moralistic as a mother's should be - she upbraids Shane for teaching Joey about guns and offers the pacifist argument that the valley would be better with no guns at all, even Shane's six-shooter. Underneath everything however, she knows that if they are to survive on the frontier might is going to have to be fought with might (her pacifism is hardly to the fore when earlier in the film she states her admiration of Joe and Shane for their fist-fighting skills!) and Shane's lesson to her son is an important one. The absence of policemen or cavalry officers means these people have to fight and protect what's theirs and the use of guns is perfectly acceptable if it means bad men who prey on them are removed from their midst. Hence the need for 'good' gunfighters like Shane who will stand up for the people they care about. It is worth pointing out that in the course of the film Shane does remove the evil guns of the Rykers and then takes himself away as well meaning that Marian's pacifist vision of a gun-less valley is achieved, albeit only within in the confines of the film. We know perfectly well other Rykers will come along and guns will remain necessary - it's a statement of a controversy that runs to this day in the States. For many the gun is such a powerful symbol of nationhood, of independence and America itself that it is regarded as an infringement of personal rites to even think of banning it.
Fundamentally then, Shane is a very well made, precisely articulated statement of the frontier creation myth. Its simplicity proves rather deceptive as we sift through the various strands of meaning embedded within the work. Like all great Westerns it really is so much more than it appears on first glance and fully merits its classic status. If I have a criticism to make (the reason I knock one star off my evaluation) it is that the film consists of stock Western situations which have been done even better in other films, and because of that the film does not feature in my top 10 Western list. The whole establishment of the frontier through a marriage of law with outlaw theme is given a much greater and more penetrating treatment in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The hoedown in Shane is well-mounted, but it pales in comparison with similar dance scenes in Wagon Master and My Darling Clementine. And if you want a really classic shootout then Fred Zinnemann's High Noon is your film. For the record my favorite Western is The Searchers and my favorite frontier Western My Darling Clementine. Still, Stevens does do an excellent job with Shane. The casting of Alan Ladd as an angelic gunfighter and the exploration of the symbolism of the gun all seen through a child's perspective are all original things which finally set the seal on the film's reputation. The film's final image of the boy screaming to his hero to come back never fails to bring a tear to my eye. Far more than the concluding gunfight, it is this child's image of the hero he wants his father to be like riding off into the mountains that constitutes the true emotional climax of the whole film.
This is a review of the Paramount DVD which looks and sounds well enough. The aspect ratio is labeled as `Full Frame', but on my widescreen TV the only setting that doesn't induce distortion is the standard 4:3 ratio which beggars the question - how `Full Frame' is `Full Frame'? The disc comes with an interesting commentary by George Stevens Jr. and the film's associate producer Ivan Moffat. Wikipedia have stolen most of the plumbs from it however and there is no need to buy this disc just for that.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Shane [VHS] by George Stevens (VHS Tape - 1999)
Used & New from: £2.99