Shooting, The (1966)

Shooting, The (1966)

“I pretty much believe she means to kill someone.”

In the desolate west, a miner (Warren Oates) and his dim-witted working companion (Will Hutchins) are hired by a strong-willed woman (Millie Perkins) to lead her to town across the desert; but it soon becomes apparent that she’s sending signals to a sharpshooter (Jack Nicholson) along their path.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Deserts
  • Jack Nicholson Films
  • Millie Perkins Films
  • Monte Hellman Films
  • Revenge
  • Strong Females
  • Warren Oates Films
  • Westerns

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “puzzling but excellent existential western” — “directed by Monte Hellman in the Utah desert in 1965, in conjunction with Ride in the Whirlwind” — presents an “unusual, interesting West” that “is ugly, barren, and godforsaken.” He notes that “Oates gives a solid performance as a [former] bounty hunter” and Hutchins “is surprisingly effective as his simple-minded companion,” while Jack Nicholson — “who produced this film and wrote Whirlwind” — plays an “evil Jack Palance-like gunslinger” who “keeps threatening Hutchins,” though “we have faith that the intelligent Oates could outwit Nicholson in a fight.”

Peary discusses the film in greater detail in his first Cult Movies book, where he points out that despite Hellman presenting a “realistic” West, “the situations he places his characters in are existential in nature.” He writes that, “In The Shooting, neither Grashade [Oates] nor… Coley [Hutchins] understands why the Perkins character refuses to give her name or why she hires them“:

… and he points out that “just like the driver and the mechanic in Hellman’s modern-day ‘road’ film Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), the men in these two films end up taking part in journeys that go nowhere.”

Watching Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting back-to-back, it’s interesting to imagine Perkins’ character(s) somehow spanning both. Her unnamed “Woman” has a lot more speaking time than put-upon Abigail in Whirlwind — perhaps not surprising, given The Shooting was scripted by a woman (Carole Eastman); and while The Woman comes across as harsh, demanding, annoying, and even cruel (she shoots her own horse), one can easily see how things would get to that point while living in this type of unforgiving environment, with no other women seemingly around. As Peary writes, the mysterious “end may ask more questions than it answers” — but it does give some sudden and fascinating insights into what this otherwise inscrutable film may have been all about.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Warren Oates as Willett Gashade
  • Will Hutchins as Coley
  • Millie Perkins as The Woman
  • Gregory Sandor’s cinematography

  • Carole Eastman’s authentic-sounding dialogue

Must See?
Yes, as a unique cult favorite.


  • Cult Movie


One thought on “Shooting, The (1966)

  1. Not must-see.

    Much quirkier / less satisfying than its ‘brother’-film ‘Ride in the Whirlwind’, even though Hellman maintains a similar tone (as much as possible, at any rate).

    There is also a similar element of mystery. However, that element plays out differently. Whereas it helps ‘Ride’ to build and unravel in ways that pull us in, it serves as a source of frustration in ‘The Shooting’ since there’s next-to-no development. We’re really just waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the punchline.

    The dialogue works well-enough half of the time but the other half is either clumsy or nonsensical.

    At least Oates and Hutchins have a workable rapport as characters and actors. But Perkins and Nicholson are hampered by roles that are sketchy – which is still not as bad as the fact that they’re dull.

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