Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Decision at Sundown Review

Decision at Sundown (1976)
Dir. Budd Boetticher
Starring: Randolph Scott, Noah Beery Jr
Randolph Scott plays Bart Allison, an angry man who is informed by his partner Sam (Noah Beery Jr.) that Tate Kimbrough is about to get married in a town named Sundown. Bart goes to the ceremony and objects, leading to several standoffs with the sheriff and his deputies (who are in Kimbrough’s pocket) while the truth about why Bart is there is slowly revealed, feuds are resolved, and Bart is still drunk and pissed off.

The most interesting thing about this movie is how it flips the roles of the protagonist and the antagonist. In most movies the hero would be getting married and the villain would interrupt and makes the threat. This film has its hero make the threat, and the reveal that his reason for revenge is misguided and that the villain is kind of a jerk, who is currently seeing Ruby behind his fiancée’s back and has a history of fooling around with other married women. As the film proceeds it shows that Tate isn't liked by the townspeople that much and they basically tolerate him because they have to. Even Tate's fiancée seems like she's had enough of his shit once the wedding gets interrupted. But Bart Allison comes across as a bit of a stubborn jerk who will not listen to reason, even from his friend Sam. Sam reveals to the doctor the reason for Bart's actions: Bart was married to Mary, a woman who wasn't cut out to be married. She had an affair with Tate, he left her, and she killed herself right before Bart came home from the war. Bart was a man who didn't really know her or what she wanted, and he set out on a erroneous quest. Sam, alongside the town's doctor (played by John Archer), are the 2 most noble characters in the movie. 

The things that stand out to me the most about this film were the wedding scene and the argument in the bar over free drinks. When Bart and Sam arrive in town there is a sign posted in the bar stating that “all drinks are on Tate Kimbrough”, which Bart ignores and leads to an argument between the sheriff and Bart. But the standout scene for me is the wedding scene. This movie is a great example of why you should never ask if anyone objects during a wedding ceremony, but it leads to Bart Allison objecting and being kind of a badass, saying “If you marry this man you’ll be a widow by sundown” and proceeding to pay the preacher in advance for the funeral that he’ll have to do at the end of the day. Later everyone states that Bart was kind of dumb for not just shooting him there but he said that he wanted Kimbrough to know why he was being killed. He also shows some decency after an unarmed Sam gets shot in the back, after he was told he could have safe passage out. These acts lead a lot of the townspeople to acting against Tate, and made Bart look like less of a jerk.
This film was the third of the seven films dubbed the “Ranown Cycle” that were directed by Budd Boetticher and staring Randolph Scott, and the only film of the cycle not written by Burt Kennedy (Harry Joe Brown handles scripting).  While the films of the Ranown Cycle were B-pictures, this is a case where the only thing limited on the film was the budget, the film is very well made with a lot of artistry. Randolph Scott was good in the film as the lead, and Noah Beery Jr. and John  Archer were great in their supporting roles. 

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