ADAPTED AND DIRECTED BY JEFF NICHOLS AND STARRING THE VOICE OF MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY incidentally there is an audio trailer at the link and he does a really good job sounding like a dumbass farm dog who thinks he’s badass but he’s a good boy to the bone really
WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED OF THIS BEFORE, REPEAT ARE YOU READING ME WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED OF THIS BEFORE
Friendly Persuasion is a charming movie with a wonderful message about family, sticking to your beliefs, and the circumstances in which it might be necessary to modify them slightly. Apparently Ronald Reagan showed it to Mikhail Gorbachev, presumably to distract from the nukes. It is, as you will notice, directed by William Wyler, who made a lot of really good movies back in the day.
Gary Cooper is, well, Gary Cooper except he says “thee” a lot, even when grammatically incorrect. He and his family–wife, young adult son (Norman Bates? No, that can’t be right.), younger adult daughter, and kid boy–are Quakers, and what’s more, his wife Eliza (Dorothy McGuire) is an elder in their church. As such, music, Coop’s impromptu coach races with his best friend-slash-bitter rival (Robert Middleton), dancing and consorting with young men, and any kind of fisticuffs or combative sport play, are expressly forbidden.
Naturally enough, before the end of the movie, Coop has bought a secret piano, his trotter has made old Sam Jordan’s mare eat dust, young Mattie has made out with young Gard Jordan, Eliza has stricken a man with a broom in anger, and…also…
Young Anthony Perkins has gone to fight in the Civil War.
This is far from the best or most original of movies examining the concept that sometimes pacifism won’t work because sometimes the other people won’t let it, but I feel justified in saying it’s the most charming and perhaps the most wholesome.
It had, collected on one shelf inconveniently at eye level:
Hour of the Dragon – by Robert E Howard
People of the Black Circle
And these were directly opposite the intriguing-looking
Enter the Wolf – by E. E. Knight. Not sure, but it seems to be a vampire novel in the Larry Correia school of EAT HOT LEAD FOUL SPAWN variety. Which is the only way vampire novels should be written, honestly.
I also had to renew
Veteran of the Old West: Pistol Pete – by Frank Eaton. Last week was slightly too hectic to sit down and give this biography the attention it deserved.
There was also a free books table outside from which I snagged a very nice copy of
Pride and Prejudice – by Jane Austen. This one is going to be my contribution to the white elephant gift exchange for the Winter Solstice Pagan Festivities.
So, Conagher is a western, in case the fact that Sam Elliott and his moustache are the hero lead and Katharine Ross the heroine didn’t tip you off. It’s based on a Louis L’Amour book, and it’s neither his strongest book nor the strongest adaptation (if the fact that it was made for TV didn’t tip you off). But on the other hand, it’s based on a Louis L’Amour book and it stars Sam Elliott, Sam Elliott’s moustache, Katharine Ross, and a parcel of other actors who can wear hats with an aura of authenticity–which is always a marker of true quality.
The plot, such as it is, actually keeps the leads apart for the bulk of the movie. Ross is Evie Teal, a homesteader whose husband dies almost immediately in a riding accident, leaving her with two step-children, a cabin, two mules, and fifty dollars–in Indian country, miles away from town. Fortunately for her, the stage line decides to use her house as a temporary station, allowing her to earn a little money until the main station is built. At this point (delivering the stage horses), Sam Elliott as the titular Conagher wanders in….and immediately wanders back out, with barely enough time to make an impression on the kids or Mrs. Teal.
Conagher’s plotline takes him to a cowpunching job for an old rancher. It’s not the best job, because the Old Rancher’s cattle are getting stolen by the neighboring outfit and he figures he’s too old and tired to put up too much of a fight–even if some of his own men are in on it. But Conagher rides for the brand, and when he takes a man’s money he does the job….even if his boss doesn’t even particularly fancy a fight.
The two plotlines do eventually intersect, as we know they will; Conagher faces off with the thieving Ladder-5 rustlers…with a somewhat unexpected result. No, really, it doesn’t go the way you’d expect at all, but that’s the price of realism. A hero who has been shot and bleeding out for several hours isn’t magically going to be well enough to start up a righteously vengeful crusade tomorrow–and lowlifes who have made their living stealing cattle for old men aren’t going to have a lot of interest in fighting an actual range war against someone who know’s what he’s doing. And this is a realistic (AKA, low-budget) western. There’s nothing fancy or shiny or glossy about it. Just about the biggest stunt is a man jumping off a cliff. It’s all for the best, too–there are no dramatic blood-squibbed shoot-outs, just blood seeping, men cursing and slowly dying; no big setpieces, just a sense of urgency as Injuns attack the house, well-conveyed by decent actors and camerawork.
Anyhow, Conagher, having finished doing what a man’s gotta do, including punching the daylights out of his once-compadre-turned-no-good-skunk, turns in his notice to the Old Rancher and rides off to announce to Evie that he’s moving in. (Which is one way of breaking the news, I guess.)
And that’s what’s there. Like I said, it’s not the greatest western ever, but it’s got it’s definite good points. I wouldn’t have it on my computer if The Mother of Skaith hadn’t had a sudden hankering for Sam Elliott movies…but now that it’s here it’ll stay.
Rated: four hombres out of five.
– “He don’t look too good.” “That’s ’cause he’s dead.”
– “Kill him? Kid, I may be an outlaw but I’ve never killed anyone in cold blood. Least of all a hombre.”
– “Montana….sounds good.
– Conagher announcing that his mustang would probably founder on corn. Said “mustang” is very obviously a well-fed Quarter Horse….but it was a nice thought to include.
it’s a good movie. It’s got layers and backstory and wholesomeness and stuff. It’s not a masterpiece, because it doesn’t really have quite enough characterization–or high-powered enough actors–to give its secondary characters enough weight and standout impetus, and at a certain point, without that impetus, the plot doesn’t have enough of its own momentum and then just starts to lurch from one Western trope to another. Fistfight! Range war! Solo gunfight duel in the rocks! Riding off into the sunset! They’re good tropes, sure, and they’re well-performed, but they don’t really flow. Plus, it’s a lot more satisfying to watch Joel McCrea’s hero teeter on the line between “vengeful madman” and “guy who really, really, really likes cows” than it is to see him finally fall squarely on the squeaky-clean side of the equation. I mean, not that I’m complaining that he turns out to be a good guy. It’s just that the wheels start to fall off the plot when he does.
Special notice goes to Paul Brinegar and Hal K. Dawson as George Washington Jeffrey and Thomas Jefferson Jeffrey, camp cooks, comic relief, and moral centers of the film. Phyllis Coates is adequate in her part, which is good but not particularly outstanding.
Rated: four dry rivers out of five.
State of the author: Extremely tired and without wifi.
Problem a) will eventually be resolved. Problem b) will with any luck be resolved sometime next week, because by golly, if I can’t mindlessly browse the internet to wind down at night I might just go crazy.
I have also gotten my first paycheck.
On an entirely unrelated note, all taxation is theft.
The Law and Jake Wade (1958) – Some movies are just low-key brilliant, and this is one of them.
So: Robert Taylor and Richard Widmark are ex-outlaw buddies. Taylor (Jake) has gone straight, gotten engaged, and has a job. Widmark (Clint) is an outlaw who was tried, found guilty, and condemned to hang. For old times’ sake, Jake busts him out, but Clint isn’t quite content to let things lie just like that. Clint wants his share of an alleged twenty thousand dollars. And Clint wants to know what Jake’s been doing since they parted company…and, oh, by the way? Jake’s new job is: US Marshal.
You see, Jake and Clint, they was friends back in the day. Rode together in the war. Kept riding together, in the same gang, afterwards. Clint liked Jake, you see, and Clint, well, he don’t like very many people. And then one day, just as they finished knocking over a bank, Jake all of a sudden sprung a conscience and rode out on them. With the $20,000. And friends, Clint figures, don’t do that sort of thing to friends.
There’s also been some bad trouble with the Indians, up in the hills. It doesn’t last very long, but it does get rid of the rest of the gang. So now it’s just Clint and Jake. (Also Kidnapped Fiancee and That Other Guy [played by DeForest Kelly], but they’re not particularly important.) What is important is these two men and their battle, and how fair or not the fight is going to be, and who is going to win. Because it’s not nearly as clear-cut as it might be,
Highlights: Clint smoking menacingly (it’s a lost art); Jake spotting Clint as he snipes out an Indian lookout–but neglecting to mention the rest of the war party; and Widmark’s line when it’s revealed that Jake has been bluffing him with an empty gun: “….but then, it might’a gone off like a canon. And then think how silly I would’a looked.” It’s a rare villain who can crack a joke at his own expense. Or, in the setup to the final faceoff, Jake (now having the upper hand), throws Clint’s gun down the length of the street. Clint’s expression of astonished betrayal and wondering, “I was gonna hand you yours!” is just perfect.
Robert Taylor is The Man. Is there a movie he hasn’t been cool, commanding, and tall in the saddle in? I didn’t think so. Widmark is just as excellent, cool as a cat and twice as malicious, commanding respect from the other thugs because he’s three times as badass as anyone else there and they know it–but not quite able to get it, anymore, from Jake. DeForest Kelly and Henry Silva, as girl-menacing thuggish henchmen, are good enough at their roles to make it very satisfying when they bite it. Patricia Owens gives an adequate performance in a nondescript part. Mostly, it’s the guys’ show. And boy, do they go for it.
Night of the Grizzly (1966) – It’s fun for the whole family. No, really. Just as long as there’s a nice safe couch and/or bookcase for the littler ones to hide behind occasionally.
So this movie is about:
Ex-lawman Big Jim Cole (Clint Walker) is retired and moving to a new town to take up ranching with his family. Unfortunately, he picks the mountain that Old Satan, a giant and bullet-resistant grizzly bear, lives on; and, a further problem, that the rich banker guy in town wants to buy for his sons and is willing to be slightly unethical about getting. Old Satan promptly proceeds to eat Big Jim’s livestock. Big Jim is in trouble, because he’s put just about all his money into the farm and if he can’t come up with the cash to pay the banker guy (I forget just what the details are, but, y’know, not all that important), he’s Gonna Lose The Ranch and have to go back to lawmanning. Worse yet, a bounty hunter drifts into town and he has a grudge to settle with Big Jim Cole…
This is a really wholesome family movie. Honest. And I still had to watch this during the day. I have no idea why, but it was genuinely freaking me out. Possibly because there is so much left to the imagination–we see horribly wounded and dead animals…from a distance; we see canvas-covered shapes roll past on a flatbed wagon and know what happened to the hunting party–so much buildup of dread and angst is produced that even the fake bear is scary.
That, or I had a high fever at the time. I dunno.
Other than that, the movie has an extremely Disney-esque feel and look. The family is heartwarmingly sweet (they even sing songs in the wagon): Big Jim Cole (Clint Walker), Big Jim’s Wife (some lady with extremely 60s’ hair), Charlie (boy), Gypsy (a very cute little tot of a girl), and Blonde Cousin Girl (who also has 60s hair.) Blonde Cousin is soon making sheep’s eyes back at Younger Annoying Son of Antagonist, but that is a small plot thread that goes nowhere. Gypsy makes friends with Jack Elam’s character, in a relationship that can only be described as heartwarming. (The little girl is seriously adorable.) Young Charlie, however, is left with Leo Gordon’s Cass Dowdy, arriving in the last reel, to hero-worship. And Cass Dowdy, a hunter–for man or beast–happens to have a grudge to settle with Big Jim Cole. Also, there is a bear.
And oh my gosh if the bear has THAT MUCH of a grudge against you and you haven’t got any more collateral, and he keeps eating the hunters, selling out and moving, at least into town, makes a lot of sense. That, or making sure you are using the right caliber gun while hunting. A .44-40? Seriously? No wonder Old Satan just gets pissed off when people shoot him.
Highlights: Cass, very much at large from some other, non-Disney movie, strolling into
the general store (it’s a dry county and there’s no saloon), and his reaction on being offered a choice of Sarsaparilla, coffee, or lemonade. In fact, Leo Gordon’s seemingly firm conviction that he’s in a Mann or Ford-type western ends up stealing the show in just about every scene he’s in. (And his righteous anger at Big Jim for stealing his boots is a sight to behold.)
Irrelevant trivia! Ron Ely, who has a small part as “Elder Annoying Son of Family-Friendly Antagonist,” later played Tarzan in the 1967 TV adaptation. In fact, that might be him in the background of the above picture but I’m not sure.
Rated: four basset hounds out of five. A little more dirt and a little less Disney would have worked wonders.