Friday, September 17, 2010


No, this is not a Harry Potter prequel! But Warlock did give me a definite sense of deja-vu. This 1959 movie, which is in color and is 122 minutes long, stars Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, and Anthony Quinn, with DeForest Kelley in a supporting role. L.Q. Jones (Clint Weaver in Stagecoach Seven and Peterson in McGuffin) and Ann Doran (Mrs. Simpson in Witness to a Lynching) make cameo appearances; Jones appeared about thirty-five minutes into the movie and although bearded, I immediately recognized him by his voice. I could not, however, tell who Doran was until I looked at the cast list.

Warlock, which is the name of the town where all the action occurs in this film, reminded me somewhat of The McCreedy Bust: Going, Going, Gone. When the movie begins, a group of riders storms into town, shooting off their guns, while the townsfolk scurry out of the way. But instead of humiliating someone by forcing him to dance a jig, the gang shames the sheriff in another way and runs him out of town. Then the gang proceeds to hurrah the town and intimidate all the law-abiding people who live there.

In an attempt to restore law and order, a town committee hires a "marshal," Fonda's character, who along with his sidekick, played by Quinn, rides into town and cleans it up. Their relationship reminded me of the two characters in the recent movie, Appaloosa. There are several subplots involving love interests, a gang member who deserts the gang (Widmark's character), and how the two main characters relate to each other. One of the love interests, played by Dolores Michaels, doesn't believe in killing; of course that reminded me of Louise in Everything Else You Can Steal.

Themes of change and redemption are important aspects of this movie. There is lots of shooting but for some reason, Warlock did not have the feel of a movie that was filled with action, perhaps because there were long periods where the people were engaged in just talking to each other.

What made Warlock look familiar was the fact that it was partially filmed in the Moab area! I immediately recognized Dead Horse Point in one scene and other places I recently visited in other scenes. In fact, Warlock also filmed at the place where I stayed, which at the time was called White's Ranch. I enjoyed the movie because of that but I wouldn't rank it among my top favorite Westerns.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Jack Bull

This two-hour 1999 HBO movie, starring L.Q. Jones (Clint Weaver in Stagecoach Seven and Peterson in McGuffin) as a nasty and selfish rancher named Ballard, is set in Wyoming when the territory is on the verge of becoming a state. John Cusack stars as Myrl Redding, the horse trader who seeks justice and wreaks vengeance on Ballard. John Goodman plays Joe Tolliver, a judge, who appears more than halfway through The Jack Bull.

His bailiff is a woman--considering that Wyoming was the first state to give women in the US the vote, this is a nice touch in the movie. I immediately thought of Judge Handley when this character made his appearance. Amnesty from the governor of Wyoming Territory plays an important role in the film and the climax of The Jack Bull surprised me.

Notable for its beautiful cinematography--except that it was filmed in Alberta, Canada, not Wyoming--The Jack Bull is also interesting for its set design. The ranches and towns, saloons and offices, all look very different from the way they were depicted on ASJ. The buildings are much smaller and darker, the streets are a lot muddier, the interiors of buildings and the furniture in them are a lot simpler in construction and appearance, and the people look a lot dirtier as well. Probably this is a much more realistic portrayal of life at this time than how ASJ showed it.

The Jack Bull is based on an 18th century book by Heinrich von Kleist entitled Michael Kohlhaas about a horse trader of the same name in what is now Germany two hundred years earlier. It is a true story, and to see it transposed to the Old West of America makes the movie all the more remarkable. The moral issues that are explored in the film still resonate today. Available on DVD, the movie is definitely worth watching.

But by the end of The Jack Bull, I still didn't understand what the title means.