Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of making my own 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 Seventy One: Fort Massacre
I thought I’d seen McCrea’s best performance (Ride the High Country) but his work in Fort Massacre makes a strong argument otherwise. As a half-made sergeant who is both right and wrong, sort of like Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide, the underrated actor delivers a frightening, sensitive, and commanding performance.
The movie, directed by Newman whose other films I’ve yet to see, is well-constructed. It has a tough minded quality like the work of Robert Aldrich and lacks the sentimentalism of John Ford’s cavalry pictures. In many ways, from shots to character conflicts, it reminds me of our own cavalry film made back in May of this year, Counting Bullets. That lean tone is what carries Fort Massacre along, aided by two stellar actors. McCrea isn’t the only one who shines in this as John Russell steals ever moment he’s in as the character Travis, a name I couldn’t help but grin at every time he was called on screen. Russell has such a physical presence, such a stoic but vulnerable feeling in his work. This made me really want to dig into his other Western films and watch Lawman.
The film doesn’t pull punches and would never be made today. I probably like it even more because of that.
Seen on Amazon Prime.