Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Anthony Mann's Ragged West

Anthony Mann is responsible for some of the finest westerns not made by John Ford or Sam Peckinpah, particularly the 5 quintessential ones (including Bend of The River , The Man From Laramie, and The Naked Spur) he made with Jimmy Stewart in the 50’s. All of his westerns are marked by his utilization of landscape as both mood and character, and for the ragged psyches his principles display, aberrant types that usually only surface briefly as villains in the traditional western. The Furies (1950, Criterion, $39.95, 109 minutes) was his second western, derived from a novel by Niven Busch, the man also responsible for the purple emotions of the infamous Duel in the Sun.A quivering Barbara Stanwyck and a vibrant Walter Huston (in his last screen role) burn up the screen as a high-strung, near wild daughter and father with a relationship that edges towards the uncomfortable. The clouded skies are black with rumblings and the jagged mountain rocks and palatial ranch house provide all the hints you need as backdrops, as this western romps from gothic aria to scissor-tossing revenge tale. Sometimes the West you know ain't exactly the West you knew. For those viewing this underrated near-classic for the first time like myself…Wow.

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