19) Ride the High Country (1962, Peckinpah)

This is the only Randolph Scott movie I’ve ever seen, and it actually makes me want to see more of his movies. He has a remarkable and notable screen presence, one that calls attention to himself but is also a tad dignified. I can’t completely explain it-just watch this movie and witness him and Joel McCrea expertly play off of each other. Its wonderful, and their performances drive this grand western, which exists as a bridge between the old school Ford/Hawks westerns and the Leone/later Peckinpah/Eastwood westerns that would come to redefine the genre.

Despite the fact that it drags a tad in the middle, its that section that causes much of the tension in the rest of the film, and leads the heroes to a seemingly impossible situation. Torn between loyalty and duty to his partner and a desire to improve his standing, one of the main characters (I won’t say which one) changes drastically from being “One of the good guys” to being a heavy, and then back again. Out of the few Peckinpah westerns (read: three) that I have viewed, this one probably features his most straight forward, less complex characters, however. This isn’t a knock on the movie, because what transpires still makes for great drama.

When one discusses classic gunfights, the one in this movie strangely gets overlooked. Not only is it a climatic scene, but it also is tense, not flashy at all, and displays violence as being quick and merciless towards everyone. The gravity of what happens comes into focus, and the movie achieves a sad sense of grander. No wonder Scott quit after this movie wrapped; its cliche to note this, but I cannot blame him for doing so.

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