Even though Tarantino described, Django Unchainedas a ‘ Southern,” the movie still brings to mind all the truly great Western classics. Here’s a list of my five favourites although I am very sure everyone has their own very distinct opinion. I realise I am lacking a Sergio Leone purely because I felt three Clint Eastwood’s a bit much, am not massively keen on, Once Upon A Time in The West, and prefer the following.
The Wild Bunch (1969)
An enormously moral and audacious tale of nine old, gnarled desperadoes who head South to Mexico during the countries Civil War in 1913 for one last heist and one huge hoot, The Wild Bunch, jacked up the tired old western with pure Bolivian marching until it exploded. Indeed, ‘Bloody Sam’ took 12 days to film the final shoot out, used a whole regiment of Mexican soldiers as extras and discharged more blank rounds of ammunition than was fired during the whole of the Mexican Revolution itself. ‘I know it’s sexist,” said Peckinpah ‘I know it’s old, I know it’s out of date. But I love it so.’ Peckinpah began filming The Wild Bunch, as a filmmaker and exited as an adjective.
Director and star Clint Eastwood finally received the accolade he deserved by winning four Oscars forhis efforts. Eminently droll and totally without cliché and aided and abetted by the magnificent Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris it examines the veiled layers of women's rights, racism, life vs. death, honour, introspection and vengeance in a time governed by instinct. The script was written by David Webb Peoples who also penned, Blade Runner, “ I’ve killed about everything that’s ever crawled on this earth and now I’m going to kill you Little Bill”.
My Darling Clementine (1946)
To pick any one picture from the great slew of magnificent, John Ford Westerns is a chore. I could have easily gone for any of the great John Wayne vehicles, Stagecoach, The Three Godfathers, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon or even The Man who Shot Liberty Valance, and on another day might do sobut for now the one I’d like to see most again is, My Darling Clementine, that tells the familiar story of the OK Coral (another excellent version that might have made my list is Tombstone of 1993) with Henry Fonda on his finest form as Wyatt Earp, Ward Bond and Tim Holt as Morgan and Virgil Earp respectively, Victor Mature as Doc Holliday while the Clanton’s are excruciatingly well realised by the great Walter Brennan and real life felon and legendary cocks man John Ireland . A dark brooding masterpiece shot in darkly contrasting black and white, it is faultless.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Again directed by and starring the quite excellent, Clint Eastwood, in the title role, this is an achingly well-observed, morally intact tale of revenge and justification set in the aftermath of the Civil War. Beautifully scripted with a good deal of wit by Phillip Kaufman and co starring Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke and John Vernon alongside a gaggle of great western stalwarts such as Woodrow Parfey, Royal Dano and Len Lesser this is an unimpeachable necessity for all lovers of the genre.
The Gunfighter (1950)
A seminal Western from director Henry King (who also helmed Jesse James with Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda) that stars Gregory Peck as reformed gun fighter, Jimmy Ringo who alights upon a backwater to visit his estranged wife and child. Disenchanted, the moody, taciturn pistolero has made every effort to escape his violent past but his massive reputation precedes him making him a target for every young fool looking to make a name for himself such as Hunt Bromley played by uber brat Skip Homeier. A classic, almost biblical tale, the thrust of this tragedy has been borrowed by ensuing Westerns and gangster movies such as Carlito's Way that tells of an ill fated and ultimately doomed protagonists who can't escape "the life." Bob Dylan in his song Brownsville girl describes the film: “"Well, there was this movie I seen one time, About a man riding 'cross the desert and it starred Gregory Peck. He was shot down by a hungry kid trying to make a name for himself .The townspeople wanted to crush that kid down and string him up by the neck."
All are available on DVD