Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
"The law won't let you get away with this." "What law?"
on 15 January 2010
Disturbing though it is to have to quibble with Trevor Willsmer and Bob Salter, the Lone Ranger and Tonto of the Amazon buffalo plains and Injun reservations, I can't quite see where these glowing reviews are coming from.
This is the second Anthony Mann western I've seen (Winchester '73 was the other) and both have been relative disappointments. Granted the visuals are wonderful, what with the careful framing of so many shots, the rich Technicolor, the magnificent Oregon landscapes and the perfect lighting of the night scenes so that they're neither murky nor - as so often - over-lit. What joy to have a western made almost entirely in the great outdoors with hardly a studio set in sight, and astonishingly enough we read it was filmed in just 6 weeks.
But for an hour the picture meanders at wagon-pace along the trail via a pretty perfunctory rescue from a lynching and a low-key Injun attack. It altogether lacks the inexorable pace and narrative logic of the best westerns. The central relationship between James Stewart and Arthur Kennedy, the two frontier raiders, goes nowhere very much in this time, and saloon gambler Rock Hudson's appearence is a non-event since no use is ever made of him.
Even in the last half hour, when comradeship turns into antagonism as Stewart embraces the law and civilisation while Kennedy chooses the continuing path of lawlessness, the pursuit is brief, unconvincing and largely off-camera, and the resolution passes without tension. While Kennedy with superficial geniality convinces as a man not wholly bad but prey to greed, James Stewart for me here (as in Winchester '73) has neither the physique (he was initially rejected by the US airforce in 1942 as being underweight) nor the voice to persuade me he's an ex-bandit and desperado. To my mind he looks and sounds more like the area human resources manager for Wells Fargo Bank, sent to Oregon to introduce a staff performance incentive scheme.