Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Far Country

The Far Country (1954)
Dir.Anthony Mann
Starring: James Stewart, Corinne Calvet, Ronda Castle, Walter Brennan, Jack Elam, John McIntire

Selfish adventurer Jeff Webster (Stewart) runs afoul a crooked sheriff while herding cattle to Alaska

This is a movie about Jimmy Stewart's character herding a

It has the distinction of being one of the few westerns that deal with the expansion into Alaska, but unlike North to Alaska, The Far Country is a more serious affair. Not that it's super serious and grim. James Stewart's Jeff Webster starts the film more cold blooded and mean and only caring about his money, and he mellows a bit as the film goes on, becoming more concerned with the people that surround him. He gets an arc at least. But it's a real slow burn waiting for him to change his ways, even though you know that's what's going to happen. Also he seems to waste a lot of time flirting with Ruth Roman's bad girl Ronda Castle, even though you know he's going to end up with Corinne Calvet's Renee Vallon. It's one of those things that's weird cause she's awful to everyone in the town, but everyone including Webster knows that she's in league with the villain of the story. That's the most ridiculous thing about the movie.

Probably the best thing about the movie is Webster's sidekicks Ben and Rube played by Walter Brennan and Jay C. Flippen. At times they work as comic relief and at other times they work as the conscience of Webster. Between them, the two female leads, and Jack Elam and Robert J. Wilke in roles as henchmen, the films packed with entertaining actors. John McIntire's Gannon is the most typical thing about the movie, but that's more a fault of the period that the film is made rather than a problem with him as an actor.

What's interesting about the movie is that it has two women and how they are in opposition to each other. Ruth Roman's Ronda is a bad girl, running a bar and a brothel, and using her position of power and her wealth to make things worse for the town people. At the onset of the film, it seems that she and Webster are perfect for each other due to their selfish tendencies. Corinne Calvet's Renee is the complete opposite of Ronda, she's more concerned with the well being of the townspeople, and she even has dreams of becoming a doctor so she can look out for their physical wellness. The story progresses with Renee being jealous of the attention that Jeff gives Ronda, but at the same time he constantly tells her that she's a kid. But as the film proceeds and Ronda is shot down warning Jeff of an ambush by Gannon. It can be seen as possibly a change of heart by the character, but at the same time you have only seen her do things that benefit her own self interest, so it made me wonder if her actions were one of self preservation. Maybe she knew that Gannon was not match for Webster, and she needed someone to help her keep her power. It's not something that's dwelled on too much as Jeff moves on with the hunt for Gannon and Corrine as soon as Ronda is gone.

On thing that the film had going for it was a great showdown between Webster and Gannon where they just kept shooting at each other until both men where lying on the ground and only one survived. It was a nice change up from the more traditional two men shoot one falls down that you usually get.

I'll say this, I wasn't bored. I wouldn't call it on the the best Stewart/Mann collaborations, but it's entertaining enough, and if you have any of the James Stewart western collections it's probably in it. It's interesting to see Stewart play against type. I'd probably recommend it, but only to someone that's already seen Winchester '73, or Man from Laramie.

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