Each Monday, I share reviews of Westerns I’m studying to prepare for making 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 Thirty Four: Forsaken & The Paleface




This film is no Appaloosa but it is certainly one of the better Westerns to be made in the last ten years, far superior to the big theatrical releases like 3:10 to Yuma.

The surprising highlight is Demi Moore who looks fantastic, beautiful but part of the frontier and reminded me of why I liked her so much in those 80s/early 90s films. I wish the actress could find the right roles like this one to consistently build her presence in movies back to a solid state. Every scene of Forsaken that includes her is better for it.

It’s also nice to see the Sutherlands on screen together, though I wish there was a little more playfulness between them. The film suffers from a lack of humor; it needed a few more light touches to balance out the drama here and there.

Two other things I liked about this film: 1. When people get punched, there is serious damage to their face. It isn’t like most films where two men can hit each other thirty times and have a little cut on their lips. 2. No spoilers but the surprising turn of events at the end of the picture. I was sure it was going to do something that it didn’t and, when justified by the characters’ motivations as it is here, it’s a delightful surprise.

Forsaken does not reach a level of greatness but it definitely has a lot going for it and proves itself to be a strong entry in the genre.

Seen on DVD.


The Paleface

I was a little disappointment in this Western/Comedy, especially with the expectations set by Bob Hope’s involvement.

You’d assume the elements of the Western genre would be overshadowed by the comedy in a picture like this but the opposite is true. It’s the action and stunts that impress, not the laughs or lack there of. Yes, there are some genuinely funny scenes, especially when Hope decides to embody the gunfighter persona but more of the jokes and visual gags fall flat than hit their target. Once we finally get to the action with the Native tribe (which makes up most of the Buster Keaton version), I was a little tired of the routine which is something I don’t remember feeling in any other Bob Hope experience. Maybe it’s my mood these days. After all, a film can feel incredibly different depending on the time and place you watch it.

There is one specific moment I enjoyed in The Paleface: when Bob Hope is punched in the first dentist scene, I love the clever cut that replaces the actor with a stunt man and then hides the actor behind the counter for the reveal. I rewound the scene to enjoy this trick more than once.

Seen on DVD.