Rabu, 09 Maret 2011
Wichita (1955) - Jacques Tourneur
Of Jacques Tourneur's entire output, his four horror pictures (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, The Leopard Man and Night of the Demon) and his great noir, Out of the Past, were enough to convince (one) that he was a Hollywood great. And now this widescreen western joins that list.
Joel McCrea plays Wyatt Earp in his early days (though, at 49, he is playing a 26 year-old!). It is 1874, and Earp turns up in Wichita, Kansas, a railhead and booming destination for the great Texas cattle-drives. He finds it a lawless place, filled with saloons and whorehouses catering to raucous, drunken, violent cattlemen. After a child is killed during a night of brawling and random gunfire, Earp accepts the city fathers' offer to become marshal.
Using 'Scope for the first time, Tourneur makes spectacular use of the frame. He stages his actors deep and wide; filling the picture with colour and action (or stillness) to illustrate the subtle shifts in emotion and status between the characters. Throughout, however,, Earp is set apart, at the edge of, or alone in, the frame. He only comes to the shared space at the centre for his romance with Laurie McCoy (Vera Miles) or his new (historically accurate) friendship with the young reporter, Bat Masterson (Keith Larsen). The movie's entire presentation of good and evil is skewed; the cowboys seem perfectly decent when we first meet them, and, in an amusing joke upon the expectations of the Western audience, Earp's brothers are mistaken for hired killers. As with so many 50s westerns, the supporting cast is peppered with reliable, familiar faces, including Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Wallace Ford, Edgar Buchanan and the legendary, ubiquitous Jack Elam.
A fascinating and masterful achievement, Wichita won a Golden Globe for "Best Outdoor Drama", and is probably the finest "unknown" western of the decade.