Saturday 2 February 2013

1,001 Films: "Ride Lonesome" (1959)

Ride Lonesome is the most noted of the run of Westerns star Randolph Scott made in partnership with director Budd Boetticher, with Scott in the role of a bounty hunter attempting to bring in a killer, aided (reluctantly) by a gang keen to benefit from an amnesty on past crimes - an uneasy alliance, this, at best - and hindered by both some pesky Mescaleros and the killer's even more murderous brother Lee van Cleef. Burt Kennedy's screenplay forms a careful examination of the ties that bind us (to others, to our past); the semi-ironic title seems to refer to the sheer impossibility of travelling alone in the West.

Though obliged to work with a decidedly B-list cast - the stolid Scott now looks like a poor man's Chuck Heston, while chief villain Pernell Roberts resembles the affordable Burt Lancaster - Boetticher reveals himself to be a director of commendable patience, taking a particular care with scenes of dialogue and characterisation. In doing so, he establishes all the film's relationships with a depth and complexity that might otherwise have been beyond the actors, while still managing to bring matters in well under the 90-minute mark: today's directors could learn a lot from him. It's shot crisply and attentively in CinemaScope by Charles Lawton Jr., and there's an early role for James Coburn as one of Scott's tagalongs.

Ride Lonesome is available on import DVD through Creative Films.

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