Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Ride Lonesome

Ride Lonesome (1959)
Dir. Budd Boetticher
Starring: Randolph Scott, Karen Steele, James Best, Pernell Roberts, James Coburn, Lee Van Cleef

Ben Brigade (Scott), a bounty hunter captures and escorts the outlaw Billy John (Best) to town to be hanged, but Billy John warns him that his brother Frank (Van Cleef) will be on his way to stop him. On their way  to Santa Cruz, he rescues a woman (Steele), and picks up a pair of gumen (Roberts and Coburn) who are more interested the the reward being offered for Billy John.

The film is the sixth of the Ranown films that Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher made together, and by this point they were fully aware of what they were doing and what kind of films they wanted to make. Really the 7 films that they made together really should be talked about in the same way that the collaborations between John Wayne and John Ford or James Stewart and Anthony Mann are talked about. These films are great pictures, but at the same time they were different from other westerns of the era in how they handled violence, but more importantly how they handled the relationships between characters. Each of the films feature different actors in the "villain" roles opposite Scott, but the amazing thing about the films is that each one features a realistic, well rounded character. You may not like the antagonist of the Ranown films, but you can't say that you don't understand them. Most of the movie revolves around the interactions between Ben and Pernell Robert's character Sam Boone. Sam and Whit (Coburn) want Billy John for themselves so they will be granted amnesty for turning him in. The more typical thing for a movie to do would be to put the characters against each other, but this film has the characters learn to respect and work together, and in the end when they don't stand off against each other, it makes sense and it feels right.

Granted the weakest thing about the movie is Lee Van Cleef's Frank, mainly cause he is sidelined the entire film and pretty much shows up and is gone in a flash. There really isn't anything that he could of done differently without something added to the story to show him to be more of a threat. As it is the film just sets him up as a big threat and it feels a bit anti climatic when he's quickly taken out.

But really this film is historically important for being the debut of James Coburn. While he doesn't have a lot of lines, and he looks kind of scrawny, he's pretty good in his supporting role. But it's neat to see him so young in a genre where he'd go on to have bigger and more important performances.

Honestly you can't go wrong with any of the Scott/Boetticher collaborations*, and this is a great one. It's worth watching if you can see it, and really Sony needs to get these films back into circulation. They previously had released a box set of Boetticher films that included all of his collaborations with Scott other than Westbound and 7 Men from Now, but it has gone out of print, and the films are only available through overpriced DVRs only available through Amazon. Getting actual dvds back into print (or even better, the films on blu-ray) would help the films gain some more appreciation. As it is now, the best way to see them is either wait for them to air on either Turner Classic Movies or Encore Westerns. (7 Men from Now is still available on cheaply dvd from Paramount, but it can also be viewed for free here on YouTube through their Paramount Vault account.

Ride Lonesome is really good, and needs to be seen by anyone with an interest in Westerns. But really, just go watch all of the Ranown films. They are some of the best westerns ever made, and well worth your time.

*Except maybe Westbound, which isn't bad but it is definitely the weakest of their films and the made to fill a contractual obligation. It's not bad, but it doesn't feel as revolutionary and as groundbreaking as the other films that they made together.

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