Friday, May 21, 2010


It's appropriate that Valerie French's character, Mae Horgan, wears scarlet because she is the cause of all the suffering in Jubal. Mae is married to Shep Horgan (Ernest Borgnine, excellent as a coarse and clueless man with an annoying laugh who nonetheless loves his wife dearly), the owner of a large cattle ranch who finds Jubal Troop (Glenn Ford) almost frozen to death on his way home one night.

Shep brings Jubal to his ranch and offers him a job, which doesn't go over too well with cowhand Pinky (Rod Steiger, as a very effective villain) although the other man, violin-playing Sam (Noah Beery, whose voice is as distinctive here as it is in Something to Get Hung About, where he plays the Sheriff), is friendly enough and tries to be the peacemaker between them.

Jubal is a film that is mostly psychological rather than action-oriented. Jubal impresses Shep and is offered the job of foreman, which angers Pinky since he's been working on the ranch a lot longer than Jubal. Pinky then proceeds to foment trouble between Shep and Jubal whenever he can, and Pinky's words have serious repercussions. And Mae, who has already seduced one cowhand, makes repeated attempts to seduce Jubal and his determined and continued refusal angers her, with tragic results.

There is a subplot in Jubal about a group of religious pioneers heading westward to the "promised land," which serves as a counterpoint to the behavior of the cattlemen but otherwise seems awkward in the movie. Jack Elam (Boot Coby in Bad Night in Big Butte) has a cameo but the role is very small and I didn't recognize him.

There is also a scene about thirty minutes into the movie involving cougars, which naturally reminded me of The Fifth Victim. The color seemed a bit faded in the DVD I watched but the scenery--according to IMDb, the movie was filmed around Jackson Hole, Wyoming--was great. My favorite line was uttered by Shep, "You fellas were any slower, you'd be doin' yesterday's work!" At 101 minutes, this 1956 movie is an interesting alternative to the more common shoot-'em-up Westerns of this era.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


You would think that with Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Lee J. Cobb as the main characters, Lawman would be a great movie. Unfortunately, you'd think wrong. Not even supporting performances by John McGiver (August Binford in A Fistful of Diamonds and Doc Snively in Witness to a Lynching), J.D. Cannon (Harry Briscoe in five episodes), and Sheree North (Bess Tapscott in The Men That Corrupted Hadleyburg), all of whom are instantly recognizable, can salvage this 1971 film.

Here's the plot, which makes a lot more sense reading it than watching it unfold on the screen: A sheriff, Lancaster's character, from one town goes to another to arrest a group of ranchers, led by Cobb's character, who accidentally killed an old man during a night of drunken revelry in the sheriff's town. Naturally the men do not cooperate and go peacefully back to stand trial.

The rest of Lawman is about what happens when the sheriff goes after the men. Along the way, there are various incidents involving the ASJ guest stars and other actors. It is difficult to keep track of everyone and I was unable to develop any interest in any of the characters.

Lawman seems like a movie composed of scenes strung together without any purpose or reason; it is disjointed and the plot did not hold my attention through its 99 minutes. The music, composed by Jerry Fielding--so I had hopes it would be good but even here I was let down--is intrusive and annoying. There are some weird scenes interspersed throughout, such as two coyotes eating a dead horse. The love scene between Lancaster and North is not believable. The climax, a showdown on Main Street, is violent and although part of it is unexpected, it still is ultimately unsatisfying.

The best part of Lawman is the fact that the church in town looks almost exactly like the one in ASJ. There are no DVD bonus features but that was fine with me as I had no interest in spending any more time than necessary on this movie.