Monday, October 22, 2007

Winchester '73 (Anthony Mann, 1950)

*****
USA

Anthony Mann beefed up a declining genre when he decided to carry his fetish for murky psychologies from the B-noir across to the Western with this - the first of eight he made with the formerly wholesome James Stewart (whose acting had become invisible at some point between Harvey and this). They have an unusually clever script to work with - revolving around a lusted-after rifle exchanging hands with two very different men on its trail - and a terrific cast. Beyond the morbidly hilarious casting of Rock Hudson as an Indian chief (I shit you not) and an unbilled cameo for a young (and already wooden) Tony Curtis as a cavalry recruit, there is the nasal cackle and delicious sneering of Dan Duryea as the trigger-happy psycho (who else?) and the lovely, grounded presence of Millard Mitchell as the hero's seasoned right-hand-man.

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