The Tall T is the backbone of the Western, the closest any film could come to a definition of the genre and a textbook for any filmmaker wanting to worth within it.

Budd Boetticher’s film is also arguably the best Western ever made. It may not match the grandness of the epics made by John Ford but simplicity is its secret weapon. It’s like the director widdled the genre down to its core elements. And years before Peckinpah verbalized the idea in Ride the High Country, Boetticher’s characters were expression the notion of a desire to enter their house justified. What makes The Tall T all the more interesting is that goal is shared by both its hero, a never better Randolph Scott, and its villain, the unforgettable Richard Boone. They have the same literal and figuritve goals, to own their own ranches and to be justified in their lives. Boone has just gone about it the wrong way. In both this and 7 Men From Now, the main villain has a lot of respect for the hero ; in both movies, the antagonist even saves the protagonist from being killed. Similarly, Scott’s heroes give the respective villains a chance but they can’t help themselves. But unlike Lee Marvin in the earlier film, Boone is actually lonely for Scott’s friendship, craving the company of a man he can respect. That makes his death all the more tragic, even if he does deserve it.

Something I noticed on this watch was how dramatically the tone of the film shifts when they discover the outlaws at the station. What has so far been a fairly lighthearted affair turns on a dime into what almost resembles horror films to come decades later like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In fact, this time I realized that Anthony Mann’s Man of the West and The Tall T are both precursors to that violent classic. Just look at the moment when Scott finds out the father and his boy have been thrown in the well or when Scott blows Billy’s face off to see the possibly influences.

There is more I could write about this film, I certainly will for my book, and I’m sure there is still much more to discover on future viewings.

Watched on Tubi.