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Monday, March 5, 2012

BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE (1958)

This film is the odd-man-out in the run of seven Western Moral Fables Randolph Scott made under Budd Boetticher’s steady hand. In general, the films are remarkably well-balanced little dramas that set the broad Western landscape & Scott’s laconic acting style against a festering personal loss he’s riding away from and an unforeseen violent crisis he accidentally rides into. Working out the acute situation helps the chronic one . . . Fade Out. But here, Scott plays, of all things, a happy-go-lucky fellow who rides into Agry City, the West’s least friendly town, owned & operated by the corrupt & corpulent Agry Brothers. Befriending a young Mexican (Manuel Rojas) who claims a revenge for his outraged sister by shooting the youngest of the loathsome Agry clan, Scott finds himself thrown in jail with his new bud on a murder charge. It’s a fine set-up, but the dark, bleakly comic tone the story asks for, seems to be outside Boetticher's range; and the switch from the great outdoors to city streets & stark interiors (along with some seriously sub-par acting) emphasizes a budget that’s two sizes too small for the job. Still, the storyline is a neat bit of work and there’s a tremendous sick gag ending where a series of bad guys can’t stop themselves from trying to grab a bag of loot that’s landed in No-Man’s-Land between warring parties. A decidedly venal construct worthy of early Sergio Leone.

DOUBLE-BILL: This plays much better if you’ve already seen a couple of the stronger entries in the series; try THE TALL T/’57 or RIDE LONESOME/’59.

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