Richard’s Year of Movies — Bend of the River

Last Saturday I was getting ready to meet my parents to see Avatar, and as usual had the TV on in the background.  I flipped over to AMC and there was Jimmy Stewart on a horse bantering with another guy on a horse that he’d apparently just rescued.  The whole scene was loaded with all kinds of classic Western jargon, so it got me intrigued enough to DVR the rest of it to watch later.  Ah, technology.

The film was Bend of the River from way back in 1952, and it’s a great, unassuming old-fashioned Western.  You’ve got brave settlers, former outlaws trying to go straight, good men turned bad by the lure of gold, but what struck me most was the scenery.  No matte paintings or CGI here, they were actually out there the mountains and it just looks spectacular.  And it’s not made a big deal out of — there’s giant snow-capped mountains just casually in the background.  It really gives the film a sense of place that too many modern films never seem to get.

Reading up on the film on Wikipedia, turns out the director, Anthony Mann, was pretty influential in the genre, looking at Westerns in a more modern, mature way than had been previously.  There’s shades of gray as opposed to the classic black hat/white hat line Westerns usually straddled.

Not bad for something I stumbled upon by accident one morning.

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