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The Films of Budd Boetticher (Tall T / Decision at Sundown / Buchanan Rides Alone / Ride Lonesome / Comanche Station)
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It's scarcely coincidental that the three Ranown titles on a par with Seven Men from Now were likewise written by Burt Kennedy. The Tall T (1957), based on an Elmore Leonard story, centers on a life-or-death situation with Scott and another man's just-married bride (Maureen O'Sullivan) held hostage in the backcountry by three cold-blooded killers. Its fierce air of menace is enhanced by a bracing strain of dark humor, and Richard Boone is brilliant as the outlaw leader, an intelligent man who loathes his brute partners in crime and craves Scott's respect--even as he won't hesitate to kill him. Ride Lonesome (1959), widely regarded as the series peak, maddeningly has been the hardest to get to see, especially in the CinemaScope format Boetticher deploys so fluently. This time Scott is a man bringing a jokey outlaw (James Best) out of the badlands, with the apparent intention of collecting the bounty. Because local Indians are on the warpath, he's soon acquired unwanted traveling companions--a stationmaster's wife (Karen Steele) and two amiable galoots (Pernell Roberts, James Coburn) looking to take Scott's prisoner away from him. And somewhere behind, riding hell-for-leather with his gang, is Best's outlaw brother (Lee Van Cleef). This was Coburn's first film, and upon recognizing the young man's unique talent and appeal, the director wrote new material on location to enlarge his part. Comanche Station (1960) closed out the cycle with its purest, sparest manifestation. Scott rescues a white woman (Nancy Gates) from longtime captivity among Indians and sets out to return her to her husband. Chief rival in this case is Claude Akins, appropriating a few moves of Lee Marvin's from Seven Men from Now. The opening and closing images of Comanche Station define and crown this magnificent body of work. Yes, we've skipped a couple of titles--merely damn good movies rather than masterpieces. Critics habitually pegged Scott as a limited actor (an opinion in which he good-naturedly concurred), but he rises to the offbeat challenge of Decision at Sundown (1957), whose would-be hero gets just about everything wrong, from the nature of his grievance to the impact his quest has on everybody else. Unlike Boetticher's celebrated journey Westerns, this is a town movie, and so is Buchanan Rides Alone (1958). Buchanan, too, is a bit of a departure in being free of guilt or obsession; the happy-go-lucky cuss is merely passing through the border community of Agrytown on his way back from lucrative adventures in Mexico when he falls afoul of the corrupt clan running the place. Boetticher's dry sense of humor informs all these movies, but this one is played close to outright comedy--very black comedy. It's also the only Ranown entry whose cheapness is conspicuous, with tacky sets, crude Pathe Color (with which cameraman Lucien Ballard struggles gamely), and an uncredited score scrapped together from the Columbia music library. But as its criss-crossed motives and multiple betrayals play out, you may find yourself wondering whether this sardonic movie might have inspired Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961).
There's a bonus to the set, a feature-length portrait, A Man Can Do That. Written by film critic-historian Dave Kehr and exec-produced by Clint Eastwood, the documentary includes testimonials from Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Towne, and other directorial admirers, plus the eloquent participation of Boetticher himself a year or so before his death in November 2001. Each of the Kennedy-scripted Ranowns gets a full-length audio commentary (Jeanine Basinger's on The Tall T is a model of historical perspective and stylistic appreciation), and there are pre-film introductions by Eastwood (Comanche Station), Martin Scorsese (The Tall T, Ride Lonesome), and Taylor Hackford--but watch these after seeing the movies, to avoid spoilers. As for the DVDs themselves, these movies have never looked better. Even Buchanan Rides Alone. --Richard T. Jameson
"Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That" Documentary
Audio Commentary with Film Historian Jeanine Basinger
Audio Commentary with Film Historian Jeremy Arnold
Audio Commentary with Taylor Hackford
Clint Eastwood on "Comanche Station"
Martin Scorsese on "The Tall T"
Taylor Hackford on "Buchanan Rides Alone"
Taylor Hackford on "Decision at Sundown"
Top Customer Reviews
Two of these seven Ranown westerns are not actually from Ranown, though they were made with Scott, Beotticher, and Kennedy. Those two - Seven Men From Now (1956) and Westbound (1959) are not in this set. The other five are. I have seen each, and here is my take on them.
"The Tall T" (1957) Ranown starts off with a bang. Perhaps the best of them. Scott was never better. Richard Boone played the heavy - I'd say the best of them in all the Ranown westerns. Henry Silva is also very good as another heavy. Maureen O'Sullivan was perfect in the female lead. A great early story from Elmore Leonard. Boetticher did a great job directing a taut, lean story, scripted by Kennedy. Many say it was the best of the Ranowns. This film includes a horrible way to "dispose of" two people (father and his young son) that is not shown, just described. The horror created by the description is more frightening than anything you could feel if you actually saw it. While there may be one Ranown western that was as good - "Commanche Station" (1960) - none were better.
"Decision at Sundown" (1957) A misfire.Read more ›
Their first collaboration, "Seven Men from Now," is already available in a nice package from Paramount with lots of extras: 7 Men from Now (Special Collector's Edition).
The remaining film, "Westbound," is available in Warner's Archive Collection: Westbound
Also worthy is "Ride the High Country," Randolph Scott's swan song from 1962, directed by Sam Peckinpah.
Together with the five James Stewart/Anthony Mann collaborations ("Winchester '73, Bend of the River, The Naked Spur, The Far Country, and The Man from Laramie" - all are available on DVD), these films defined the adult Western movement of the nineteen-fifties.
OK - I should also include "Hondo" and "The Searchers" (John Wayne/John Farrow/John Ford) in this list. Great movies all.
The films have been detailed elsewhere. My favorites are "RIDE LONESOME," "COMANCHE STATION" and the "THE TALL T." They all feature Randolph Scott's as a consistent hero with different names. A hero in a changing world who still operates under a moral code that seems quaint.
On a side note: What or who is the "tall T"? It is never mentioned in the film. I can't recall if it is mentioned in Elmore Leonard's story "The Captives." Personally, I think the "T" is part of the architecture of the ranch where Scott rides a bull. It is prominent in one particular shot. And it is tall. Why this is the title of the film is a puzzle unless it is here where the story is set in motion. Or perhaps it is a physical body gesture that Scott makes at a place in the story that is a turning point. It is a human crucifix position as well. Perhaps that is the reference -- like John Wayne's crossing his arms at the end of "The Searchers," about which there is much speculation (some think it's an homage and tribute to his friend Harry Carey).
There's a clean, sun-baked look to these morality tales that sort of frames the simmering tensions that are usually played out in an explosive climax. Often in a natural "arena" setting. Boetticher was very enamored of, and comfortable in, a bull ring.
The underrated Randolph Scott is perfect as a taciturn, leathery-faced loner.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Budd Boetticher films are excellent. Really like all of them. Highly recommended.Published 28 days ago by A. Blankenship
Had a chance to buy this set when it was released but passed, thinking I could buy it some other time. I heard that the set was OOP and highly coveted. Read morePublished 5 months ago by E+1
I love Randolph Scott western movies, and Budd made the best films. This set was ordered for my private western collection.Published 15 months ago by Roy
VERY NICE SET ----This set has IMO 3 of the best westerns ever made. They are Tall T, Comanche station & Ride Lonesome.--- The others in this set are average to below. Read morePublished 17 months ago by g
Randolph Scott is one of the greatest cowboy actors ever. I like Boetticher's approach to things. If a character is punched in the face at the beginning of the movie, he will... Read morePublished 20 months ago by RITMISProf
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