God Bless The Western: A Top 5 Introduction
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)
A 1973 Western Film, directed by the genius Sam Peckinpah. It stars James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson, but here comes the catch: it co-stars Bob Dylan! Okay his role is quite unimportant, and he doesn’t do much apart from standing there and wearing a hat, but hey it is Bob Dylan! He also composed most of the film’s score, including the song “Knocking on Heaven’s door”. Now if you think “What? Knocking on heaven’s door is not originally by Eric Clapton?!” please go into the next dark corner and be ashamed of yourself. The Fflm tells the late story of Pat Garrett and Outlaw Billy the Kid. Garrett becomes the Sherriff of Lincoln County in New Mexico and gets the Order to go after his old Friend William Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid. Does he fulfil his orders? Watch it and you will know, dagnabbit!
Rio Bravo (1959)
This film is going to make you go “Ooooooooooooh”. The kind of “oooooh” you do when you see a puppy or a duck mommy with little ducks behind her. Okay, it is maybe more of a girly western, instead of a real men with big balls production, but see the positive: you might actually get your girlfriend to watch this one with you! Released in 1959, it was directed by Howard Hawks and stars John Wayne, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson. But the real star in this film is definitely Walter Brennan. He plays “Stumpy”; a crippled, slightly deaf old guy. Whose name is Stumpy. STUMPY. He is one of three deputies to John Wayne, who plays the Sheriff and struggles to keep the bad guys brother in Jail.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
What can I say? It was directed by and stared Clint Eastwood, which should be enough to persuade you to watch this film, but if you are unimpressed by that, then hold onto your britches. The film is based on Forrest Carters novel, telling the story of the Missouri Farmer Josey Wales; whose family was brutally murdered by a bunch of military guerilla fighters. He makes up his mind to avenge his family and find peace with the world, and along the way he somehow ends up with a strange mixture of people including an old wise Indian, a young Indian girl (who provides you with a vomit-inducing sex-with-old-man moment), and a mother and daughter from Kansas. The finale is marked by an epic battle between Wales’ new little family and the guerilla fighters. The film is packed with peeing your pants laughter potential and those grumpy Clint Eastwood moments, in which he seems to be a tough guy but involuntary (invariably) shows that he has a big heart.
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
If you haven’t heard of this film yet, you should go and hang yourself. Sounds harsh, but it’s the only way you’ll learn. Oh, OK fine, just see the film and pretend you have always been a big fan. Whatever saves us money on rope. It was released in 1960 and stars the best of the best in the Western Scene: Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Charles Bronson are just a few to name of this glamorous cast. Also worth mentioning is that Horst Buchholz, a German actor, was casted to play a young Mexican. It would be much too simple to cast a Mexican for that part, right? The film starts in a small Mexican Village, which is constantly threatened by a gang of bandits, led by the villain Clavera (Eli Wallach). Some of the villagers head off to find help, hiring seven gunmen to protect their village from Calvera. In the end just six of the magnificent seven stay on to fight the final battle against the bandits. Who will win? Watch it!
3:10 to Yuma (1957)
No, not the one with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. I usually like those guys, but compared to the original of 1957, their 2007 version stinks. Sorry guys, but it takes a lot to out-cowboy Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, and you two aint got it. Van Heflin plays Dan Evans, a poor farmer and family father looking for a quick buck where he can – and he finds it in the dodgy company of Ben Wade; leader of a gang of outlaws. Wade gets captured in the saloon, his men get away and the townspeople are afraid of them coming back to get their leader. The marshal decides to get two volunteers to sneak him out of town and get him on the 3:10 to Yuma, where he is supposed to be imprisoned. Evans, desperate to get to some cash, offers to be one of the volunteers. Yes, essentially it is a whole film about bringing a man to a train station. But trust me, there guns, horses whiskey drinking and spitting cowboys a-plenty on the way!
So there you go, once you got these fellas under your gun-totin’ belt you can relax, safe in the knowledge that you are no longer a yeller-bellied, know-nothin’ pansy.
Got essential Western-watching suggestions of your own? Spell them in bullets below (or just write them down, whatever spooks your steed less.)
By Maria Engel