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March 14, 2010


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"A fair number, alas, of know-somethingish, self-styled cinephiles out there like to rehearse their "takedowns" of something like The Searchers by beginning, "And who could actually live in Monument Valley, anyway? It's a freaking desert.""

Seriously? I always thought the obvious takedown of The Searchers, besides that it's not quite the unbridled depiction of a bigoted homicidal maniac that it's often described as, and is arguably a little more restrained than one would like, is that it's a film of brilliant parts and some really mediocre ones (the comic interludes, casting Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles and her whole subplot, some of the early scenes with Ward Bond). But the parts of the film that I used to think were pure dross have grown on me, and I'm not sure the movie would work without them. Perhaps the only real criticism you can level at The Searchers is that it's pitched on a rather epic and depersonalized scale and at times suffers a bit from the lack of a more distinctively Fordian touch.

Tony Dayoub

You had me at Clint Walker. Did you ever see CHEYENNE as a kid? He was a very magnetic lead on TV, and I'm surprised he never made it big in the movies (except for his appearance in THE DIRTY DOZEN).


Am surprised at how few of Douglas' films I've seen, but Dave K.'s "unflinching apprehension of violence" is a perfect capture of why RIO CONCHOS has stayed with me since I was 14: the usual fractious mismatched set of killers sent on a mission of extermination, and by the end, they plausibly sacrifice themselves to complete it. Anthony Mann always treated killing with gravity (the gut-shot deaf mute staggering down a ghost-town street to die in MAN OF THE WEST); the conclusion of Douglas' CONCHOS has the same endgame severity-- no zingers or gung ho.


"A fair number, alas, of know-somethingish, self-styled cinephiles out there like to rehearse their "takedowns" of something like The Searchers by beginning, "And who could actually live in Monument Valley, anyway? It's a freaking desert." Or some such other equally obvious observation. "
Seriously? In the parlance of my hometown of Dublin, Ireland anyone who starts up with that deserves the Seven Shades of Shite kicked out of them.

Peter Nellhaus

It's been years since I saw this on television on late night. I've been thinking a bit more about Leigh Brackett lately because of the brouhaha over Kathryn Bigelow's filmmaking, and Brackett's initial notice as a woman who "wrote like a man".

As for Douglas, I've come to appreciate his solid craftsmanship, most recently with a viewing of "Fortunes of Captain Blood".

Michael Adams

While Rio Conchos may very well be Douglas' masterpiece, lots of his lesser films are worth seeing, too. The Iron Mistress, also available from the Warner Archive, has its moments. Many of his low-budget efforts are quite good, especially San Quentin. The Falcon in Hollywood is one of the best in that series.

James Russell

The funny thing about freaking deserts is that people actually do live in them, sometimes even thrive in them. I know, I've seen them do it. High time I watched The Searchers again.

Out of interest, I know the Warner Archive releases are bare bones DVDRs, but do they at least do anamorphic transfers for widescreen films? I'd hope they put at least that much effort in.

Glenn Kenny

@ James: Yes, they do. In the case of "Seven Saints," my illustrations are pulled straight from the disc, which is anamorphic and very handsome overall.

The Siren

Re: The Searchers; as I recall Olive Carey makes a remark about how inhospitable the country is, a nod to those wondering how on earth anyone is farming in Monument Valley.

I Was a Communist for the FBI was easily my least favorite Shadows of Russia entry; I could not get into it, despite the fine camerawork. But now I definitely want to see Seven Saints.

About the Sierra Madre--I can't speak to the merits of this particular comparison since I haven't seen Seven Saints. I don't doubt the sincerity of Dave Kehr's reaction, nor yours, for a single second. But is it possible that the freshness of an unsung movie like the Douglas influences the viewpoint? Walter Huston's dance and Bogart's agonized face, as well as the Casablanca fadeout, have been so mythologized that they lose impact. It's like trying to look at "The Last Supper" with new eyes. I know that it helps me immensely to just stay away from a beloved movie for a while, lest familiarity breed, if not contempt, then fatigue.


ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY, man! Plus, you know, if you lived in Paris, back in January-February, you'd've had a chance to see a fairly complete Douglas retro at the Cinematheque Française: http://tinyurl.com/yce65nm


Was looking forward to seeing this several months back on Encore Westerns, but they panned-and-scanned it (as usual). I think I mentioned this at Dave's place, but Netflix has a number of Douglas films for instant viewing, including THEM!, RIO CONCHOS and another Clint Walker vehicle, FORT DOBBS.


Wasn't this supposed to be a followup to Rio Bravo with Hawks directing?
I thought I read that in Todd McCarthy's biography on him.

Glenn Kenny

Duggan, I just happen to have Todd's Hawks biography at my elbow, and you are more or less correct. In the wake of "Rio Bravo" Warners had set the film up for Hawks, but Hawks didn't want to do it, insisting on going forward with an Africa-set adventure picture...hey, weren't we just talking about "Hatari?" The resulting conflict severed relations between Hawks and the studio for good, and McCarthy relates the incident as an example of how ruthless and single-minded Hawks could be in following his own path. After letting Hawks keep the 80 grand they'd given him to prepare the script, "Warner quickly put the film into production," McCarthy wrote, in 1997. "[D]irected by Gordon Douglas[...]" he continued, "it is a film of no reputation, not even available on videotape."

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