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 Twenty Seven: In Pursuit of Honor & Gunman from Bodie
In Pursuit of Honor
Not a traditional Western, In Pursuit of Honor deals with the end of the calvary in the U.S. military, a historic event used as inspiration to create an epic, daring journey of survival and encourage. Like my own upcoming film Texas Red, it takes place in the 20th century instead of the usual 1800s setting for this genre. Also like my new project, the film follows men on the run from larger numbers, against the odds.
Though my research after finishing the film has led me to question just how “based on a true story” it is, the truth remains that this film works even if it’s all a fabrication. It is thrilling, disturbing, sad, and ultimately inspirational without bordering into cheesiness as is often the case with “horse movies”.
I was drawn to this film by Don Johnson, one of America’s most underrated actors, and he did not disappoint. His performance grounds the film. He brings the weight of war and a hard life to his character; I believed him from beginning to end, even in the movie’s most fantastic moments. Though Craig Sheffer might be the “lead”, it’s Johnson’s show.
But Sheffer and the rest of the cast are good. It’s nice to see Steiger even if his accent did get a little on my nerves. I highly recommend this one, a different kind of Western and a very touching story.
Seen on Amazon Prime.
The Gunman From Bodie
I can’t stay away from these B-Westerns, so often better than the bloated, over-stylized and over-thought “A-Pictures”. This was my first outing with the Rough Riders, though I wasn’t aware this film was part of a series when I selected it for viewing.
What followed was a solid, well-plotted Western with some memorable moments. I like how complex the story gets as it goes along, adding elements of deception and surprise. Not being familiar at all with the three leads who play in all the Rough Riders films, I had no idea who was good or bad for the first part of the film and enjoyed finding out!
One sequence I liked in particular involved two back to back gunfight moments in which the light in the room is purposefully extinguished to confuse our hero. This is a great technique that I haven’t thought about implementing into my own Westerns until now. Not only does it make realistic sense for the time period but it also provides for an intense cinematic scene.
Overall, this was fast and fun, the kind of Western I’m starting to appreciate more and more.
Seen on Amazon Prime.