Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of finishing post and releasing my 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.


Week 129: The Last Sunset

THE LAST SUNSET, Kirk Douglas, 1961


A fellow Western watcher dismissed this film but when I saw it come up on the Criterion Channel, it was hard to avoid because of my love for the film’s director, Robert Aldrich. He is the grandfather of the tough-minded cinema made popular by John Millius and Walter Hill. I’m glad I didn’t listen to the dismissive advice and watched this one.

It’s a solid Western with a good power battle between Hudson and Douglas. The latter steals the show with his half-bad guy, half sympathetic gunfighter, a man who only wears iconically only carries a derringer in his belt. His obsession with Dorothy Malone, as sexy as ever, was believable but the film makes two big mistakes: 1. The romance with her and Hudson develops way too quickly. 2. Kirk’s interest in the daughter doesn’t come soon enough, also put on fast track in the film’s last quarter. The other mistake the film makes is losing Cotten too early. His presence as the drunk, pathetic husband is quite good and I would have done more with his character.

The familial twist near the end is a good one and it has actually inspired me to write a new Western script, riffing off some of the ideas presented here.

Watched on Criterion Channel.