Saturday, November 24, 2012

WINCHESTER ‘73 (1950)

From beginning to end this western is stamped as cent percent classic. The film is first collaboration between director Anthony Mann and wonderful Jimmy Stewart starring as morally upright gunslinger Lin McAdam. As per its prominent title, the film is a tale and journey of a rare Winchester rifle model of 1873, regarded as ‘The gun that won the west.’ To cowboy, outlaw, cop or Indian, the rifle was a treasured possession. It opens with rivalry to win the gun in bulls-eye and coin in air aim competition between two equally strong gunslingers- morally upright Lin McAdam and Dutch Henry Brown, who’s on other side of law. Though it’s Lin who won, the gun no longer remain under his possession. As some sort of inexplicable destined role, it keeps shifting its place to different men wither through cheating effort, gambling or chance. And along its course, it also keeps shifting the life of men who’re under its possession. Fate has stronger role playing here in form of gun and its beholder.

Perhaps Mann didn’t get his due during its time when western was regarded as forte of Master John Ford. But he has made some of the brilliant westerns that didn’t seem dated; perhaps he’s the one who changed the conventional western and added more dark, bitter and morally tentative side in his westerns. Stewart is always a man to watch in those golden American cinematic years and he proved his versatility number of times. He’s in great form here accompanied by extremely strong supporting cast played by Shelly Winters, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally, Millard Mitchell. The film was shot so beautifully in classic B&W frames especially all those gun blazing confrontations on screen including that absolutely breathtaking climax shoot out on rock cliff between Stewart and McNally.

Timeless Western.

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