Western #9: A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

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As far as Spaghetti Western remakes of Yojimbo, I think I slightly prefer Sergio Corbucci’s Django over this film. It’s just got that little bit of ridiculousness that pushes it into “oh my god this is awesome” territory. Fistful of Dollars is still pretty great, even though it is the lesser of the trilogy. What’s funny is most of what I knew about this film before I saw it came from Back to the Future III, so I can’t help but think of Marty McFly during certain scenes — or the whole thing. Regardless, it’s still a fun time. Clint Eastwood is badass.

Western #8: The Culpepper Cattle Co. (1972)

Culpepper

I’ll admit I was a little surprised by this film. There’s no big names in this, but damn if it isn’t a gritty, and sometimes poetic little western. It might actually be the most de-romanticized western I’ve ever seen, next to The Proposition. The story follows a group of cowboys and their newest young member, who’s always dreamed of being a cowboy. He quickly learns what a bleak and violent existence that can be. The ending is pretty great as well, maybe not quite as good as The Great Silence, but it sure is up there.

Grade: B+

Western #7: Tribute to a Bad Man (1956)

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As great as James Cagney is, there’s something very odd about seeing him in a Western. There’s nothing wrong with his performance here as the hard-edged horse rancher who’s quick to lynch the people that cross him, he’s really quite good, he’s just…distracting. It makes the heartfelt story difficult to take seriously in spots, but overall it’s a compelling western that’s good but not great.

Grade: C+

Western #6: Vera Cruz (1954)

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Vera Cruz is an incredibly influential Western from 1954 starring two of my favorite actors, Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper. Robert Aldrich directs the two greats in a story about an ex-Confederate soldier who teams up with a gunslinger and his gang to help escort a countess to the city of Vera Cruz. But when everyone finds out about the large amount of gold they’re secretly transporting it’s every man and woman for themselves.

While the film is tame by today’s standards, at the time it was one of the first Hollywood Westerns to really tap into the cynicism and amoral brutality of the old west. It was no doubt an influence to filmmakers like Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah, whose films a decade later would revolutionize the genre. With revolution, romance, and a hell of a shootout at the end, I’m not sure what more you need in a Western.

Grade: B

Western #5: Night Passage (1957)

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Night Passage is one of those films that may not have a terribly interesting story, but the presence of Jimmy Stewart and the beautiful Colorado scenery sure help to hold your attention. Stewart is an accordion playing man working for the railroad to safely deliver a $10,000 payroll to the railroad workers. When the train is hijacked he hides the money in the shoe box of a little boy, who just happens to be friends with one of the outlaws trying to steal it. There’s a fair amount of tension as our hero spends the rest of the film fighting to get the money back, save the little boy, and save his reputation.

I’ve always been a fan of Stewart’s westerns — he’s the gentler answer to someone like John Wayne. The caring cowboy who can still kick some ass when need be. While Night Passage isn’t one of his more notable films, it’s still a decent effort that’s traditional without being overly stereotypical.

Grade: B-