Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Man of the West (1958) Film Review - Cinecon 44 Screening

Plot Summary - In which rawhide-vested, black cowboy-hatted Link Jones (Gary Cooper) - the strong, silent type - gets mixed up with a gang of seriously rotten men out in the Old West. Riding a train to Fort Worth, his long legs barely fitting into his seat, with plans to use his bag of gold (donated by his small western town) to hire a schoolmarm to bring back to the town. But when bad men try to rob the train while all the "able-bodied" men are off board and loading up lumber (hey, shouldn't these guys have gotten a comped ticket since they had to work?!), three of them - Link, a friendly gambler, and a pretty singer (Julie London) - get left behind when the train breaks away. A hundred miles to the next town, looks like they'll have to walk - but wait, Link knows of a secret farmhouse hidden nearby. They go there only to find the train robbers and Link's aging, crazed in the head, uncle (Lee J. Cobb) there - a very bad man who steals, murders, and the like with his band of three desperadoes. In his younger years, under the tutelage of Uncle, Link was once part of that no-law world of bandits - but he set off on his own to seek a new life, and now lives in happiness with home, wife and kids. Uncle corrals him back into the gang, and let's put it this way - these guys are a real bunch of slimy, dirty cretins. Link fakes cooperation to protect his new pals from the train - but there's little he can do other than uncomfortably sit and watch as one of the men (Jack Lord) forces the girl to undress in stripper style (first the shoes, then the stockings, then the jacket, etc.) as he prompts the poor, distressed woman on brusquely shouting "take off your clothes!" while the bunch of men all sit and stare. Meanwhile, this lonely gal begins to fall for Link - but he's a strong-willed man with family values now. Lots of fights, gun battles, killings, and grave-digging at gunpoint to follow.

Review - Screened on the opening night of Cinecon 44, this entertaining western, directed by Anthony Mann, was a treat to see in very widescreen, CinemaScope splendor. The cinematography is visually interesting and included nice looking color, many of the scenes are actually quite dark, night scenes. The plot is compelling - Lee J. Cobb does a good job playing the grizzled and whacked older uncle to Cooper (Cobb was in reality ten years younger than Cooper!). Of course, Gary Cooper is weathered, yet still very handsome in this; Jack Lord, of Hawaii Five-O, is real good as perhaps the baddest of the bad men - - of course, it did seem like one of the main reasons they put in the stripping scene was to show off Julie London's body - I'm sure the men watching appreciated this (don't get too excited, she's still wearing lots of 1800's undergarments). Quite a good film. Rating - 8/10 stars

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