Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Buchanan Rides Alone Review

Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)
Dir. Budd Boetticher
Starring: Randolph Scott, L.Q. Jones

Buchanan crosses over the Mexico border to Argy Town, a not very hospitable place that is ran by the Argy family. After having a run in with the local judge’s son in a bar, the son is shot by the angry Juan, Buchanan gets framed, and gets drawn into the brothers scheme to extort money from the father of Juan, and to cheat each other out of the money.

This is the fourth film of the Ranown Cycle, a series of seven films were produced by a company founded by Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown, beginning in 1956 with the film Seven Men from Now and ending with the film Comanche Station in 1960, and directed by Budd Boetticher. This film does have some similarities to Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars, with Scott’s Buchanan taking the role of the man coming to town and getting involved with the power struggle the over the town, but he seems less proactive than the heroes of the later movies, never aligning with the any of the villains and spending most of his time either on the run or reacting to the actions of the villians of the picture. The biggest complaint about the film is that it is a bit convoluted, and those complaints do have merit. Most scenes are the three bad guys trying to cheat each other out of some money they plan to get in exchange for the prisoner Juan, but it does get a bit tedious and tiresome. It feels like every ten minutes there’s another scene of Amos Argy informing Simon or Lew on what the other brother is doing. And there’s a few scenes were characters do things that don’t make sense logically in order to serve the story, like leaving a couple of bad guys alone, loosely tied up and with access to their guns and horses, only for them to escape and begin to pursue the heroes again. Those problems are the biggest things that hurt the film.

Randolph Scott is good in the film, he gets to spend the first bit of the movie smiling and joking around, which is a bit different from his other Ranown characters. He ambles through the movie as the hero, but he isn’t very proactive and spends most of the movie waiting on things to happen to him. He has some good scenes with Manuel Rojas’ Juan, and their unlikely friendship causes Buchanan to get drawn into the Argy brother’s schemes. The best thing about the movie is a young L.Q. Jones in the role of Pecos, a man in Argy Town who also hails from west Texas, just like Buchanan. He starts off working for the Argy’s but eventually changes sides and aides Buchanan and Juan, and gives the film a bit of energy in the middle section. His eulogy during the funeral scene is hilarious and the high point of the film. Barry Kelley, Tol Avery, and Peter Whitney play sheriff Lew Argy, Judge Simon Argy, and hotel owner Amos Argy. They are fine in the roles that they have to play, but there isn’t too much to them (which is unfortunate since one of the best things about the other Ranown films are the interesting villains). The characters are motivated by greed, and most of their scenes are just them learning some bit of information and scheming to screw over one of the other brothers. It’s alright at first but after a while it gets a little boring and confusing.

The Ranown films are all important step in the evolution from the early Hollywood westerns to where the genre eventually went with the spaghetti westerns of the sixties and seventies. Their more grown up feel and more complicated characters make them more interesting than the other Hollywood westerns of that era. But really this isn’t the best of the Ranown films, and it wouldn’t be the first of the Scott/Boetticher films that I would recommend to anyone*. It is enjoyable, but it does get a bit repetitive.

*If I had to pick on then probably The Tall T or Decision at Sundown.

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