Sunday, November 23, 2008

Riding Lonesome

Cineastes have long sang the praises to the smartly layered Westerns that sprung forth from the collaborative efforts of director Anthony Mann and star Jimmy Stewart, now the time has come to heap equal praise on the body of Western work cobbled together on a shoestring by maverick Budd Boetticher and cowboy icon Randolph Scott. The Films of Budd Boetticher (1957-60, Sony, $59.95. The films included, Decision at Sundown (’57), The Tall T (’57), Buchanan Ride Alone (’58), Ride Lonesome (’59), and Comanche Station (’60), were all made on low budgets at Columbia, shot and completed in a few weeks in sturdy California locations, and none run past 80 minutes. The titles tell all--Western miniatures, lean and compact tales, long on simplicity and burnished by starkness, propelled by the aging and ever stoic Scott’s overriding aura of inherent desert loneliness and frontier morality, and fierce individualism. The B-movie constrictions don’t harm Boetticher’s virulent style at all, in fact in all of these films the slightest movement is a form of tensile action that directly underscores the streamlined plots, with Scott oozing prairie dust and wisdom while epitomizing both survival and individualism as he rides tall in the rugged landscape. Like the more ballyhooed Don Siegel, Boetticher presented action with a kinetic grace, like the more poetically corrosive Sam Fuller the director sprinkled in an ever-present ideology between setting and camera angles, and like the much more successful Robert Aldrich his thematic vision flourished wonderfully in the confines of genre picture making.

No comments: