Sunday, January 16, 2011

Young Billy Young

This 1969 movie, directed by Burt Kennedy, had a lot of scenes that reminded me of ASJ episodes. But throughout the course of its 89 minutes, the music in Young Billy Young kept me from enjoying it as much as I might have otherwise as it was very jarring, very out of context--very 1960s in tone.

The opening scenes of a train making its way through the West reminded me of all the train scenes in ASJ that were used to show the passage of time and the movement of characters from one place to another. The train passes through what is apparently supposed to be a Spanish-speaking region, and for quite a while there is no dialog at all in the movie; when people do finally start talking, it's in Spanish. Suddenly, a group of men are lined up against the wall of a church and another group of men who look like soldiers executes them, in an obvious reminder of Kid's daydream or, rather, nightmare, in Miracle at Santa Marta.

Another early scene occurs in a saloon, where the title character, played by Robert Walker, gets into a gunfight and uses his fast draw to his advantage, reminding me of Kid in Exit from Wickenburg. But unlike Kid, Billy has no evident compunction about killing people. He escapes and encounters Ben Kane in the desert, played by Robert Mitchum. Kane is a lawman who travels around the West cleaning up lawless towns; he has a secret which is revealed in the second half of Young Billy Young.

They meet up with Paul Fix (Clarence in Night of the Red Dog), who plays a stagecoach driver and has an important part at the end of the movie. Angie Dickinson also stars in the film. There is a climactic gunfight that reminded me of Stagecoach Seven: two men inside a small building trying to hold off a much larger group that was shooting at them.

I think the plot is supposed to be serious but there are many slapstick and sort of silly moments in it, which lessened its impact. There were long periods without dialog, but they seemed to go on interminably instead of add to the suspense. Young Billy Young was filmed at Old Tucson Studios and, having been there, I recognized the location and some of the sets, which made it difficult for me to accept that the movie was set mostly in a lawless place called Lordsburg.

Plus, an early scene in the film occurs in Bisbee but it didn't at all resemble the Bisbee I have visited. However, the scenery was beautiful--lots of scenes in the desert filled with saguaro and ringed by mountains. Although several veterans of Westerns were associated with Young Billy Young, the movie just didn't resonate with me.