“All border towns bring out the worst in a country.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “Welles’s characters are potentially great men but none of them act nobly on their way to the thrones of their particular worlds” — which is why “Calleia, who loves Welles’s Quinlan, is so disappointed: real heroes must have pure pasts.”
Peary notes that “Leigh was never sexier — Welles was the rare director to emphasize her large chest”:
… and “Dietrich (as the only person who understands Welles) has a memorable cameo.”
In the years since Peary’s GFTFF was published, this classic has undergone an infamous revision based on Welles’s 58-page memo written to the studio, which (typical for Welles) messed substantially with his original vision. The “1998 version” is the one I watched for this review (and saw in theaters back in ’98), but the DVD provides ample evidence and discussion of the differences, for those who are interested. Regardless of which version you see, it remains powerful and provocative viewing, clearly demonstrating Welles’ cinematic gifts. With that said, I do have a few quibbles: I’m not a fan of Tamiroff’s intermittently comedic characterization as “Uncle” Joe Grandi:
… or Dennis Weaver’s performance as a loony motel manager:
… and I find it hard to believe that Leigh’s character would go off with a stranger in a border town at night, then get pissy when confronted by the head of a notorious criminal family.
(I know she’s meant to be a “tough cookie” but she simply comes across like a foolhardy rube.) However, Heston acquits himself nicely (despite not attempting a Spanish accent):
… and Welles and Calleia have authentic chemistry together. Watch for tiny cameos by Big Names, including not just Dietrich but Joseph Cotten, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Mercedes McCambridge (!).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)