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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

WINCHESTER ‘73 (1950)

The first of five Westerns from director Anthony Mann & James Stewart not only reinvigorated the genre (on screens big & small), but also paved the way for big-time profit-participation by movie stars. If only the film were as interesting as it was influential. It’s a fairly standard revenge tale with the eponymous rifle setting up a portmanteau of episodes as we follow a doomed line-up of temporary rifle owners. Meanwhile, Stewart (who opened the film by winning the prized Winchester fair & square) moves ever onward in his obsessive hunt for a killer, and the accumulating pressure is relieved at regular intervals thanks to the Winchester ‘73 trickle-down theory. The secret behind Stewart’s quest is conveniently held for the last two reels, but you’ll be neither satisfied nor surprised. You will get to see a set of youthful turns from rising stars like Shelley Winters, Tony Curtis & Rock Hudson (all seriously miscast), and a grandly scaled perf from slimy Dan Duryea as a scaldingly amoral killer. He’s worth all the fuss.

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