Tuesday, December 19, 2006

West World

I caught the last half-hour of The Magnificent Seven on TV last night, and it got me wondering -- what's the coolest western film of all time?

Part of me is inclined to stop right where I began and award the title to the Magnificent Seven. I mean, Charles Bronson is in the film, and he's probably the fifth coolest actor in it, behind Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Yul Brenner, and Robert Vaughn. Hell, he might even be sixth if you count perennial badass Eli Wallach. John Sturges does a nice job with the direction, and the action scenes are solid, if not mind-blowing. All true. But the plot is a watered-down rehashing of the excellent Kurasawa classic, The Seven Samurai, and the rest of the acting is poor. (Apparently, in the '60s, all Mexicans thought, spoke and acted like Speedy Gonzales.)

All things considered, I'd probably have to go with an Eastwood film, a qualifier that narrows my choice down to merely half of all westerns ever made. Despite the great work he did in the '70s and the brilliant reinvention of the genre he made with Unforgiven, I think I've got to go with an easy answer: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. An incredible trio of actors -- Eastwood, Wallach, and the evil-mustachioed Lee Van Cleef -- in a beautifully-filmed story. The third part of the Sergio Leone trilogy, this flick runs long enough to be a trilogy of its own, with massive set-pieces (the Civil War battle, the P.O.W. camp) and really intimate stand-offs. Plus, Ennio Morricone adds one of the greatest film scores of all time. (Suck it, John Williams!) So, yeah, that's my choice.

What about the rest of you? What's your favorite western?


Smitty said...

My favorite?


The dude hauls a WWI-style machine gun around in a coffin.

Mike said...

OM, I caught the same first half hour or so of The Mag 7 the other day too.

And that's a half hour more than I've ever seen. It looked ok, but I was a bit thrown that Sturges seems to have combined Mifune's farmer-samurai and the young boy into one character, overacted shamelessly by that Latino-looking guy with the German-sounding name.

You've probably guessed, but I wasn't much of a western fan as a kid, and I'm only catching up recently.

I'll have to say Unforgiven, but that's because it's one of maybe 5 decent Westerns I've seen.

Ooooo, another one: The Wild Bunch. I think Peckinpaugh + a leather-faced William Holden is "cool" by definition, no?

Which Leone-Eastwood flick is the remake of Yojimbo? Fistfull of Dollars?

I wanna see that. If anyone can do Mifune, it's Clint.

Otto Man said...

That character is easily the worst part of TMS. Every time, I wish he'd die.

Yeah, Fistful is the remake of Yojimbo. It's a very solid flick and definitely worth watching, but it lacks the sprawling canvas that makes TGTB&TU so amazing.

Wild Bunch is terrific, as is all of Peckinpah. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is a-ma-zing.

Yossarian said...

Fistful and Yojimbo were remade again in '96 in that Bruce Willis' POS Last Man Standing.

I, myself, love Magnificent Seven. I love Seven Samarai more, but I don't always have four hours to watch a single movie.

Oh, yeah Shane is pretty good too.

InanimateCarbonRod said...

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is one of my favorite movies of all time. I knew that the girl I was dating was going to become my wife when she got me a vintage TGTBATU poster for my birthday, so that movie holds a special place in my heart.

I should say that TGTBATU is the third in a trilogy. Clint Eastwood plays the Man With No Name in all of them. A Fistful of Dollars is the first, followed by For a Few Dollars More. All three are fantastic with great scenes that you will remember forever. Leone directed all of them and Morricone did the music for all of them.

Another fantastic western by Leone is Once Upon a Time in the West which could be considered cooler since Henry Fonda plays a bad guy and James Coburn plays a good guy. Charles Bronson and Jack Elam (the googly eyed doctor from The Cannonball Run) are in it, and the first scene of the movie is one of the greatest scenes you'll ever see.

More cool is that it was written by Dario Argento and Bernardo Bertolucci. (To be a fly on the wall during those writing sessions...)

Norbizness said...

I always liked the compactness of High Noon, but in terms of all of the conventions being packed into a single movie, nothing beats Once Upon a Time in the West (as suggested by i.c.r.)

Mr Furious said...

While it injects a little bit of Dirty Harry into the Old West, I was always a big Josey Wales fan.

Yeah, I know it doesn't have the same cachet as the "classics" you guys are debating, but it has the best lines...

"You a bounty hunter?"

"Man's got to make a living—"

"Dyin' ain't much of a livin', boy."

Of course, The Unforgiven realy re-set the genre. And made it real. Guns that misfire... Missed shots...

Related: The other day on Jim Rome there was a "Big Valley" vs. "Bonanza" debate. Rome's a Big Valley man. I concur.

(Today's word verification? "amsxy" I hope my wife thinks so...)

Mike said...

Agree about Shane. Great movie. But I hesitate to call it "cool."

Though Palance is a bad-ass supremo there.

Good call on High Noon, Norbizness. Great & cool. Best B/W photography around in that one.

peb said...

I was dying to be the first to mention Once Upon A Time In The West, but I.C. Rod beat me to it. So let me at least offer this little tidbit about it. Originally, Sergio Leone wanted Eastwood, Van Cleef and Wallach to be in it. But he wanted these guys to be the three gunfighters at the beginning who get shot by Charles Bronson to signify the end of that chapter of Western history. Not surprisingly, they all passed on the opportunity.

The Doc said...

I'm a big dork, but my favourite western movie is The Searchers. I almost want to say The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly, but I'm going with The Searchers because it's John Wayne actually acting, and John Ford trying to break and re-make the western.

- The Doc (in case I come up as Anonymous again)

Otto Man said...

Really, peb? That's incredibly cool.

Once Upon... is a close runner-up for me. I love Fonda and Robards in that flick, each dirtier looking than the other.

Sandro said...

You people have it all wrong.

1) The War Wagon

2) The Villain

3) Silverado

4) The Night of the Lepus (Rory Calhoun and Dr. McCoy? gold!)

And, if you really must have Eastwood,

5) Paint Your Wagon