“They’re men, honey, and you ain’t — remember that.”
An embittered bounty hunter (Jimmy Stewart) seeks help from a grizzled prospector (Millard Mitchell) and a dishonorably discharged “Indian fighter” (Ralph Meeker) in trapping an outlaw (Robert Ryan) who is travelling with a vulnerable young female companion (Janet Leigh).
- Anthony Mann Films
- Janet Leigh Films
- Jimmy Stewart Films
- Love Triangle
- Robert Ryan Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “in his third Anthony Mann western, James Stewart is a hard-bitten man” whose actions — “like most Mann westerners” — are “determined by his past. … Having lost everything dear to him, he suffers guilt and self-hatred — his need to take out his anger on another man, who is much like the immoral ‘beast’ he has become, is obviously his way of attacking himself”. Peary adds that “as usual, Mann uses his landscape as more than a backdrop: as the terrain becomes rougher and the stream they follow becomes more turbulent, the tension among the characters increases and their cruelty becomes more evident”. However, Peary writes that “the script by Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom is weaker than those used in other Mann westerns”, with “trite” dialogue and Stewart’s “character… poorly developed, so that we can’t really understand… the exact nature of his neurosis”. He notes that “this is the one Stewart hero in a Mann film that could just as easily have been played by other actors”, but he concedes that “Ryan makes a great villain”.
I share Peary’s concerns. Stewart’s character is too much of an enigma to relate to: we hear in passing about the injustices he suffered while away at war, but his bitterness and deceit prevent us from sympathizing with his goal of bringing Ryan back (dead or alive) at any cost.
While Ryan is a “great villain”, his psychopathy — emblemized by his near-constant sneering smile — is so obvious it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine Leigh maintaining her loyalty to him for so long. Indeed, this entire group of men are so tough and self-serving that it’s difficult watching naive Leigh navigate among them, knowing she’ll inevitably be taken advantage of.
However, the action scenes are all exciting, Mann keeps the pace moving quickly, and excellent use is made of rugged outdoor locales. Film fanatics will want to check this one out.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine cinematography and direction
- Excellent use of outdoor locales
Yes, as a well-crafted if harsh outing by a master director.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)