Friday, December 25, 2009

Rocky Mountain

I never knew that one of my favorite actors was in Westerns! And talk about a connection to ASJ: Robin Hood himself, Errol Flynn that is, starred in several Westerns. Rocky Mountain is the first one I saw, though the last Western Flynn made, and I'll definitely watch his others as Flynn was great in this 1950 black and white movie.

The film has an unusual beginning for a Western, which I won't spoil by describing. Flynn is the leader of a group of Confederate soldiers in California, who are cleverly introduced to the audience as they ride on horseback to fend off an attack by Shoshone Indians. A small dog also has a recurring role, which I found wearisome. The main connection of this movie to ASJ is Slim Pickens (the sheriff in The Man Who Murdered Himself, The Day They Hanged Kid Curry, The Strange Fate of Conrad Meyer Zulick; as well as bartender Mike in Exit from Wickenburg). This is the first film he made--after a successful rodeo career--and he plays one of the soldiers in Flynn's band. Pickens is recognizable only by his voice; in appearance, he is much thinner, younger-looking, of course, and has a mustache. His character's name is Plank.

The plot of Rocky Mountain revolves around what happens after Flynn and his soldiers rescue a stagecoach from the Indian attack, and then have to deal both with the Indians who want revenge and with US Cavalry soldiers who end up their prisoners when trying to rescue the Cavalry officer's fiance, who was on the stage. Most of the movie, which was filmed in New Mexico, takes place on top of a mesa (hence, the title). The ending of the movie is just as unusual as its beginning.

Sidenotes: The sound of rifles slowly being cocked was very effective in creating suspense at one point during the movie. About fifty minutes in, characters talk about poker and the analogy reminded me of dialog in fanfiction stories. There is also a scene in the second half of the movie where Indian drums are played as the background music, and I find it interesting that in Westerns, white people are always so afraid when they hear that sound.

There is an audio commentary by Flynn biographer Thomas McNulty that is well worth listening to. At one point, he talks about the actors in Rocky Mountain and gives a short biography of Slim Pickens, which is very interesting. There are several other bonus features: a) a newsreel about flooding, but there was no sound so I have no idea where it occurred; b) a cartoon about animals, in color; c) an interesting short drama about the conflict between miners and farmers, in black and white; d) another, in color, called "Wells Fargo Days;" and e) another black and white mini-feature called "Trial by Trigger."