So apart from my own books, what else do I enjoy enough to recommend to others ? Here are a few of my favourite western films and books.
- Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
- Sergio Leone's masterpiece. Only to be watched in widescreen. The visuals are
beautiful and their combination with the music creates a unique form of film - not for nothing were these known as 'film operas'. I
distrust any movie with a running time of over two hours, but this is a rare exception.
- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
- Leone's first use of a trilogy of characters, which was developed futher in 'Once
.....in the West'. Stunning in its style and again in the use of music to echo and comment on the characters and actions. And just plain
good to watch.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
- Once of the first 'buddy, buddy' movies and still the best. Witty, beautifully
paced and very quotable. Hardly a classic biopic, but there's a surprising amount of truth in the script. Butch may not have looked as good
as Paul Newman does, but he really was that charming.
- The Magnificent Seven (1960)
- More accessible to western sensibilities than 'Seven Samurai' and much wittier. A rare example
of a large cast handled splendidly, with everyone getting a fair chance to shine. It showed a new side to the gunfighters, not the man of
glory in earlier films, but someone with emptiness in his life. Maybe it is only the farmers who win.
- Stagecoach (1939)
- What a great year for movies 1939 was. From a simple story of ill-assorted travellers coming under
threat, we get action, comedy, romance and some stunts that still look breathtaking today. Maybe it would have made more sense for the
Indians to shoot the coach horses, but who cares ? This is how to make a simple idea into something brilliant.
- Young Guns (1988)
- Alright, so the cast were young but then so were the characters they are playing. Billy the Kid was
barely 17 at the time of the Lincoln county wars when this is set. Most movies about the Kid try and shoehorn all his adventures into one
film, making for a disjointed narrative. This one just sticks to the early part of his story and is all the better for it. It gets
surprisingly close to the spirit of Billy as a bolshie little show-off, not some tragic western figure.
- Shane by Jack Schaefer.
- Although is the film is equally famous, I prefer to read the book. A masterpiece of writing,
getting into the characters and world all from the viewpoint of a boy who doesn't necessarily understand what he is witnessing. Jack
Schaefer is an excellent writer, with a real feel for the people and places of his subjects. Almost anything by him is recommended if you
can find it.
- The Fortune Hunters by JT Edson
- One of Britain's most proflic writers and the best known western author (he even has
a fan club). Books from the 60's and earlier 70's are the best; later ones lose the way rather. His characters are lively and fun to read
about and his books are extremely well researched. This one is actually a classic murder mystery, with people gathered together for the
reading of a will; there's even a murder in a locked room. Agatha Christie goes West !
- The Rushers by JT Edson
- This one has a military setting. The cowboy heroes are forced to take command of a run-down,
isolated cavalry unit until the real officers arrive. Great use of the frontier fort setting, and a sympathetic attitude towards the
Sioux who see their sacred land being invaded by gold prospectors.
- Apache Rampage by JT Edson
- Not as tacky as the title suggests. What happens when our heroes, some soldiers and a
travelling troupe get trapped in a town when Apaches are on the warpath. A study of the tensions within western society, with prejudice
and hypocrisy to the fore. A rattling good read that climaxes with a terrific fight. This would make a great film.
- The Buffalo Soldiers by John Prebble
- A new lieutenant is given a patrol of untried, barely trained solders, most of
them recently freed slaves. Together, they must find Indians who have stayed off the reservation too long to hunt the buffalo that they can
no longer find. The officer drives himself and his men to extremes; the further he goes in his quest, the harder it is to turn back. A
powerful story with a carefully detailed setting.
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