Friday, August 27, 2010

BEST OF THE WEST: My Fifteen Favorite Western Films

.
After having viewed literally hundreds of Western movies, I've decided that the 15 listed below are those that I most enjoyed. I own 10 of them on DVD and 1 on VHS (as it hasn't yet been released in the DVD format; but I will buy two copies of it the day it appears on the market). These movies have been arranged in alphabetical order. Alright, get along little dogies . . .
.

.
Blazing Saddles - 1974
Starring Clevon Little and Gene Wilder
.
A Western town is appointed a new sheriff who turns out to be Black and this upsets the local sensibilities, etc., etc., etc.
.
Everyone's seen it and everyone's laughed.
Look, ordinarily there's nothing the least bit funny about flatulence. "FLATULENCE AIN'T FUNNY!" ...except in that one scene with the cowboys around the campfire. Oh, my gosh!
.
'Blazing Saddles' is an undeniable classic and anyone who says it ain't is Full O'Sh!t. (That's Irish profanity.)
.

.
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid - 1969
Starring Paul Newman and Robert "Red" Redford
.
Exploits of the famous outlaw duo in their later years.
.
Simply put, this is Hollywood entertainment at its very best.
.
"I LIKE THE MOVIE", Richard Bach said to Don Shimoda in the book 'ILLUSIONS: The Adventures Of A Reluctant Messiah'. And if it's good enough for Bach, it's good enough for you.
.

.
High Plains Drifter - 1973
Starring Clint Eastwood
.
A mysterious man arrives in town and offers to help the townfolk defend themselves against the baddies... but there is a catch. A Western movie with a supernatural dimension added.
.
Violent, suspenseful, intriguing, and full of blood, sweat, and whiskey - everything a great Western requires!
.
Calamity Cat said: "Good one-liners. Kind of steamy."
.

.
The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean - 1972
Starring Paul Newman, Anthony Perkins, and Victoria Principal
[DVD: I has it.]
.
A bizarre tale based partially on the life of the infamous Judge Roy Bean, the self-described "Law West Of The Pecos".
.
An unacknowledged classic; almost abstract, turn-of-the-century Texas on peyote. Newman was excellent as the charmingly warped purveyor of frontier justice. This movie is so askew, but it don't mean a thing 'cause it does have that swing! In its own way, it is as off-the-wall as 'Blazing Saddles', and it requires that you BYOL (Bring Your Own Lunacy). You'll need to bring an insane appreciation for black comedy with you.
.
Watch for Stacy Keach's scene as Bad Bob - the original Bad Bob - that nasty, albino gunslinger. (He likes his horse flesh smothered in onions.)
.
Ask anyone what Paul Newman's best Western was and anyone will tell you, "Butch Cassidy..." But ask me, Black Cole Kid, and I'll tell ya, "Beano!"
.
"For Texas and Miss Lilly!"
.

.
Monte Walsh - 1970
Starring Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, and Jeanne Moreau
[VHS: I has it.]
.
The story of two older cowboys coming face to face with the reality that "the days of the cowboy" are numbered.
.
No, I won't say this is the best Western ever made, because it's not. (Although it's damn close!) But it IS my all-time favorite. Why? Because when I watch this film, I feel as if I'm watching the story of my life in cowboy garb and projected onto the screen.
.
One of the most melancholy movies ever, and one of the silver screen's greatest romances - Monte and his "Countess". I saw it for the first time (or so I once believed) one night in 1989 with Calamity Cat. I was so moved by this movie, that first thing the next morning, I watched the entire film for a second time before returning it to the rental shop. That was two viewings in about 12 hours.
.
It wasn't until years later that I came across an old journal I had kept of a trip we took to Las Vegas in July of 1974, when I was 14 years old, and discovered to my surprise that not only had I seen 'Monte Walsh' before 1989, but I'd even seen it on the silver screen. In 1974 I wrote:
.
"We checked out at 11:15 and then ate breakfast. We shopped and then us kids saw a movie, 'Monte Walsh' (a Western) and 'Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid' (a Western). While we saw the movie, Mom & Dad gambled and Dad won 86 dollars." [Remember the days of the "double-bill" movie theaters?]
.
Don't be fooled by cheap imitations (i.e., the inferior Tom Selleck remake of 2003); see the first 'Monte Walsh' or don't see it at all!
.

.
Once Upon A Time In The West - 1969
Starring Charles Bronson, Jason Robards, Henry Fonda and Claudia Cardinale
[DVD: I has it.]
.
A railroad man attempting to complete his line to the Pacific Ocean hires a sadistic killer to remove all "obstacles". And just who is that man with the harmonica?
.
Unquestionably one of the very greatest Western movies ever made. It's complex, stylish, beautiful, and intense. Sergio Leone's "Spaghetti Western" made with a big budget and partially filmed in the United States. Yeah, 'The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly' was mostly good, but THIS is GREAT!
.
You can count on both hands how many sentences are spoken in the first 14 minutes of the film, and yet in just those first nearly wordless 14 minutes, you will immediately recognize that you are about to see a genuine movie masterpiece! The sound is fabulous! The Ennio Morricone music soundtrack is the best in the history of Western film, and the cinematography... well, watch for the famous crane shot when Jill enters the train depot and we view her through the window until she exits the back door and then we are carried up and over the roof until we see the whole town laid out before us. It's one of the most famous shots in moviedom.
.
'Once Upon A Time In The West' is a real, honest-to-goodness "must-see!"
.

.
Rustler's Rhapsody - 1985
Starring Tom Berenger
[DVD: I has it.]
.
A spoof that pokes fun at and rips off just about everything you can possibly think of from the Western genre: old moldy "B" oaters, Sam Peckinpah's bloodbaths, "Spaghetti Westerns", you name it!
.
The critics panned it, the public scorned it, but I thought it was uproarious! It's every Western movie rolled into one. Without a thorough knowledge of the Western genre, many of the jokes will go undetected (like the slow-motion shot a la Peckinpah), but to the ACMV ("Advanced Cowboy Movie Viewer") it's a "gotta-see!"
.
Calamity Cat said: "I can see where the casual viewer might not find this amusing, but if you know anything about Westerns, you'll find it hilarious."
.

.
Red River - 1948
Starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift
.
A man's character and personality gets twisted when he attempts to complete a grueling and ambitious cattle drive.
.
Vintage Wayne in a truly "classic" Western. They don't come much better than this. Stylish costuming, good black & white photography and score. The ending is something of a cop-out, but that's it's only flaw. If you don't like 'Red River', you just don't like Westerns.
.
Calamity Cat said: "It was interesting to see Wayne as an anti-hero".
.

.
Shane - 1953
Starring Alan Ladd and Jack Palance
[DVD: I has it.]
.
A drifting, loner, retired gunslinger comes to the aid of settlers in their battle against a ruthless cattle baron.
.
This movie contains many of the traditional elements of the great Westerns and it should be seen by all fans of this genre. Jack Palance as the hired killer, "Wilson", is a villain for the ages! A classic in every way.
.

.
The Shootist - 1976
Starring John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, and Jimmy Stewart
[DVD: I has it.]
.
An infamous elder gunman, dying of cancer, tries to live out his last days in peace, but various characters attempting to capitalize on his notoriety, make it impossible.
.
John Wayne's last movie and his finest performance. Anyone who says The Duke couldn't act must find a way to deal with 'The Shootist'. It's a rich but subtle portrayal and just a fine Western in every respect. (Even as an old woman, Lauren Bacall was still hot!)
.

.
Support Your Local Sheriff - 1969
Starring James Garner and Walter Brennan
[DVD: I has it.]
.
A gunslinging stranger, on his way to Australia, is finally convinced - for a short while - to take the job of sheriff in a lawless town.
.
Ridiculous nonsense. A movie full of stupid characters with low or nonexistent morals. Isn't it great?!
.
This is one funny movie, pardner. I don't know anyone who doesn't like it.
.

.
Tombstone - 1993
Starring Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell
[DVD: I has it.]
.
The silver screen's best version of the famous "Shootout At The OK Corral".
.
Who hasn't already seen this one?
You there, in the vest, is it?
.
If for no other reason, you must see 'Tombstone' for Val Kilmer's brilliant portrayal of the consumptive John "Doc" Holliday. Rarely has an actor lit up the screen like this and absolutely COMMANDED the viewer's attention. I can think of only a few other instances, such as James Dean in 'East Of Eden' and 'Giant', Treat Williams in 'Hair', and Robert DeNiro in 'The Deer Hunter'. Kilmer undebatably delivers one of Hollywood's all-time great performances!
.

.
True Grit - 1969
Starring John Wayne, Glenn Campbell, and Kim Darby
[DVD: I has it.]
.
A young girl hires an old, drunken, cantankerous marshal to help her track down her father's killer.
.
John Wayne won a "Best Actor" Oscar for his portrayal of the stubborn, curmudgeonly, and one-eyed but determined Marshal Rooster Cogburn. Excellent story, characters, and dialogue; completely first-rate with plenty of humor and action, and lots of gorgeous scenery. Like the tail fins on a 1959 Cadillac, it's a genuine American classic!
.

.
The Westerner - 1940
Starring Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan
[DVD: I has it.]
.
An innocent cowboy is accused of horse stealing and eventually winds up involved in a feud between Judge Roy Bean and the local homesteaders.
.
Walter Brennan pretty much steals the show from Gary Cooper, but both are fabulous as they play off each other in a subtle psychological war: Cooper's laconic cowboy Vs. Brennan's semi-deranged judge. The scene in which Cooper waits for the jury's verdict is a masterpiece of subtlety and humor. 'The Westerner' is at times extremely funny and then deadly serious - a combination that rarely works in movies but succeeds brilliantly here. Some really nice black & white photography is the icing on this delicious Western cake. Great stuffs!
.
OK (Corral), those are my fifteen favorite Western films.
What's that you say? That was only fourteen?
Ahh, glad to know y'all are payin' such close attention!
.
Right you are - that was only fourteen. That's because I am saving what I consider to be the greatest Western movie ever made for another blog bit. It deserves its own web page, and besides that, this blog bit is plenty long already, and I'm tired of all the bitchin' 'bout how long my blog installments are.
.
Later today or tomorrow, I will return with, not my favorite Western (that's the original 'Monte Walsh', remember?) but, "the greatest Western ever made", which is my second favorite by only a horse's... uhm... eyelash. So, don't forget to... "Come back! Reader. Reader. Come back!"
.
~ Stephen T. McCarthy
[or, "The Black Cole Kid"]
.
Link:
See my full-length review of 'Monte Walsh': "Dead Men Riding"
.
YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.
.

12 comments:

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I can remember 5 I think Support your local sherriff was hilarious, especially when James Garner as the sherriff divided the cells with chalk lines.
Good choice

Have a lovely week-end.
Yvonne,

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent choices! Blazing Saddles would be my first pick as well. And can't beat Tombstone.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

YVONNE ~
You're right, that was a very memorable scene in "Sheriff".
Thanks!



ALEX ~
Thank you!
But then of course, if "Blazing Saddles" had been called "Zany Saddles" instead, then it would have been my last pick on this list.

Yup, "Tombstone" is one of the few really recent Westerns that I especially liked. But replace Val Kilmer with a lesser actor and it probably doesn't make this list.

~ "Lonesome Dogg" McStetson

DiscConnected said...

Who are you and what have you done with Stephen McCarthy?

There's no way that the McDogg I know would put "Rustler's Rhapsody" on his list of favorties.

In order to do that, one has to be a (gulp) "confident" heterosexual!

Again some suprise choices STMc! I have seen many, although I do not know that I have seen "Monte"

I do disagree with you on flatulence...it just ain't funny to women folk! I'll bet if you're out with yer buddies and one of them steps on a duck, you still yuck it up!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

DISCDUDE ~
Ha! You made me laugh out loud with the "confident heterosexual" remark. Man, is "Rustler's Rhapsody" a funny movie, or what?!

I'm really glad to know you've seen that one - few have. What a shame that such great spoof has gone pretty much ignored!

>>I'll bet if you're out with yer buddies and one of them steps on a duck, you still yuck it up!

Aww, ya see? You don't know McDogg like yaz thinkz ya do. Not only do I not "still" yuck it up, but I "never did" yuck it up. I was always more likely to just move quickly "against the wind".

Well, I'd better cut this short because I'm startin' to get the shakes. I needs to pour me a shot of whiskey... with a hair in it, of course!

~ Black Cole Kid

Postscript:
Boom!-Boom! Rock 'N' Roll Hoochie Koo!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

DISCDUDE ~
Post-Postscript:
If you've never seen "The Westerner", you ought to put it on yer NetFlix list. Roy Bean's main man is named "Chickenfoot".

~ "Lonesome Dogg" McStetsondude

arlee bird said...

Aw Shucks pardner, you left off some of my favorites. Guess I'll eventually have to do my own Western list. In all fairness though, I haven't seen half of the ones you have on your list. The ones I have seen I can agree with you on. I'm not quite the western afficianado that you are and have probably seen far fewer of them, but I guess I'll have to say good list based on what I do know and try to look up some of these.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Mr. Paulboy said...

I always appreciate your lists. A few of these movies I have not seen, like R. Rhapsody. Others I have seen but maybe should see again, because I they were "eh..." sorts of movies to me when I first saw them. But if you sez they is good, they maybe I should revisit them.

In my spare time, of course. Ha.

Like The Life and Times of J.R.B. I recall not liking it at all. I also loathed Once Upon a Time in the West. Bleechh.

But on my top 15 WOULD appear Blazing (or Zany) Saddles, Monte W., Wild Bunch, True Grit, Tombstone, Shane, and Red River. What else? We've talked about this off the blog, but I loved The Magnificent Seven, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Unforgiven, Silverado, The Big Country, and Back to the Future Part III.

Well, maybe not the last one.

If you are answering this: welcome back!

Mr. Paulboy

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

r-LEE-b ~
>>Aw Shucks pardner, you left off some of my favorites.

And those would be? . . .

I'll warn you in advance that I'm not a fan of those old black and white Jimmy Stewart Westerns that all the "professional" movie critics seem to be so enamored with. And as far as "Johnny Guitar" goes - yeah, sure, I thought the sets and the lighting were really interesting, but otherwise, that is one seriously overrated movie. And the same goes for a lot of the other "stuffs" that some of the professional critics seem to feel obligated to play up.

But do bear in mind that my Western movie lists were related to the Dreck of the West, a handful of little known or largely forgotten Western Gems, and my Top 15 favorite Westerns.

There's a lot of stuffs that does not meet the requirements of those 3 lists but which I nevertheless enjoyed and recommend (e.g., "The Searchers"; "Stagecoach"; "The Big Country"; "Blood On The Moon"; etc.) So, just because I failed to mention a certain movie does not mean that I have dismissed or overlooked it.

~ Stephen
"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

SixGunBoy ~

>>Like The Life and Times of J.R.B. I recall not liking it at all. I also loathed Once Upon a Time in the West. Bleechh.

Uh... [Cough!-Cough!]... Uhm, my friend... my good, good friend... Hmmm... How duz I respond to that without WHACKING YOU - Without Whacking you REALLY, REALLY HARD?...

Mmmm...
;o)

Uh... Let's just say that... Well... OK, maybe you've never been dru-- That is to say that some of the funniest lines ever written appear in "The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean". Like, uh, "We're going to have peace here, and I don't care who I have to kill to get it."

Yeah, well, come to think of it, maybe that's not so funny after all. It seems to have been the United States of America's foreign policy for the last 50 or so years. (But then again, maybe that was the point of putting it in a Western movie?)

Bad Bob? The "ORIGINAL" Bad Bob? That wasn't funny? And you didn't appreciate an old Western-type judge coming back and "ruling" against the corrupt oil companies in a very violent and fiery Western-type of way? As that dude said in the movie "The Spirit Of '76": "Duuuuuuude."

And you "loathed Once Upon a Time in the West"? You mean that movie that is unquestionably one of the Ten Best Western movies ever conceived in the mind of mortal man? THAT "Once Upon A Time In The West"?

Well, you know, we're all entitled to our opinion. But... in my opinion, our engagement is off and I want the ring back!
:o)

>>But on my top 15 WOULD appear Blazing (or Zany) Saddles, Monte W., Wild Bunch,...

Well, as long as "Monte" and "Wild" make your Top 15... I s'pose I can... for-- for-- forgive... y-you... somewhat.

[You loved "Silverado" but you loathed "Once Upon A Time..."? No, sorry, ...but I want the ring back!]

>>If you are answering this: welcome back!

I am (ain'tcha sorry?), and THANKS! It's hot to be back.

~ Mad Dogg McStetson

arlee bird said...

I'm inspired now to do my western list so I'll tell you my faves then so you can knock 'em. But it probably won't come overly soon though. Give me 2 or 3 weeks.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

>>I'll tell you my faves then so you can knock 'em.

Knock 'em? ME?!
Now come on, Lee, would I do a thing like that?

[Ya know, yer always telling me to be nice to my readers and I try - I REALLY do - but, damn-it, Lee, it just ain't in me! ...But Christ died for my sins, so, yeah, post yer favorites and I'll knock 'em down for ya. ;o]

~ "Mad Dogg" McStetson