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Monte Walsh

4.6 out of 5 stars 163 customer reviews

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(Nov 16, 2010)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

An aging cowboy loses his partner, his girlfriend and his place in the changing Old West.


Westerns circa 1970 were mostly about the end of the West, and Monte Walsh is smack-dab in the middle of that melancholy moment. Lee Marvin and Jack Palance play middle-aged cowboys whose wandering ways are getting hemmed in by corporations, fences, and their own aging muscles. Not only is the boss man (grizzled veteran Jim Davis) laying off his longtime ranch hands, he doesn't even own the ranch himself anymore. The movie that emerges from this weary milieu is a curious, meandering artifact: the shapeless early going consists of fairly broad slapstick scenes of cowhand tomfoolery, and comes around--almost reluctantly, you sense--to a conventional frontier-justice story in its final half-hour. The movie's got Marvin's unimpeachable presence, a nice understated turn from Palance, and the welcome novelty of Jeanne Moreau playing Marvin's prostitute galfriend. Monte Walsh is one of the few films directed by the esteemed cinematographer William A. Fraker, and it might serve as a model for why more cinematographers aren't directors: it looks great, but the internal rhythm feels off, the tone is variable, and scenes tend to play more like set pieces than essential parts of a whole. Granted, many of those set pieces are pretty tasty: Marvin and Moreau have a couple of touching scenes together, and there's a strikingly strange sequence with Marvin trying to break a particularly feisty horse in the streets of a town at night. Some of the film's best moments (such as Marvin's dismissal of an offer to ride in a Wild West show) are very much of their era in moviemaking, as is the theme song sung by Mama Cass Elliot. Throw in a score by the great John Barry, and the film's cult reputation is easily grasped--but its relative obscurity isn't hard to understand, either. --Robert Horton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Lee Marvin, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Palance, Mitchell Ryan, Jim Davis
  • Directors: William A. Fraker
  • Writers: David Zelag Goodman, Jack Schaefer, Lukas Heller
  • Producers: Bobby Roberts, Hal Landers
  • Format: Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: November 16, 2010
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0042RJWTM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,416 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Monte Walsh" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
Based on the western classic by Jack Schaefer, MONTE WALSH is a sad, poignant tale about Schaefer's view of a vanishing lifestyle and the last American Cowboy.

Now to the inevitable arguments and comparisons that have arisen, given the remake that was recently produced. This original 1970 version of the film, as opposed to the very likeable and viewable new Tom Selleck version, brings with it some striking differences.

In the first place there's just no one else like Lee Marvin and his immortal portrayal of Monte Walsh. Yes, Selleck does a marvelous job in the remake but the hard, chiseled features that made Marvin a western legend are difficult to upstage. Marvin not only delivers the hard edge that all have come to expect from the cowboy stereotype, he also shows an amazingly soft side that comes through in spades throughout the film. And that voice!

Secondly, there's just no one else like Jack Palance. While Selleck did a good job of holding his own, when compared to Marvin, I came away liking Palance's wonderful portrayal of Monte's trail partner, Chet, far better than that of Keith Carradine in the remake. Palance pulls off the likeable and agreeable Chet but maintains a tough side that is all his own. And like Marvin the striking silhouette and the gravelly voice create a believability that was lacking in the Carradine portrayal.

Next there's Martine. Jeanne Moreau portrays the perfect Martine with her infrequent but sad smile. It literally lights up the screen and then vanishes as Martine, a prairie prostitute, inevitably contemplates the harsh realities of her existence. The hollow, sad eyes are beautiful and yet leave you with a sense of pain that would surely have been characteristic.
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Format: VHS Tape
MONTE WALSH is haunting and lyrical; a slow, dark, and melancholy poem on celluloid. It's Henry David Thoreau in a Stetson and down on his luck.

The episodic story revolves around two friends - older cowboys - who are trying to survive in the dying days of the big cattle ranches, as absentee Eastern corporations buy up the Western landscape, altering the only lifestyle that these hard-working, free-spirited men know and can embrace.

While many cowboys are sent packing as ranches are being dismantled or rendered inactive, Monte (Lee Marvin) and Chet (Jack Palance) are trying to remain on horseback doing the work that defines who they are and gives them a sense of accomplishment. But these are dead men riding in the dusk of their times; and what's worse, they know it. The serene pale pink and blue canopy of the fading daylight envelops these men and symbolically illustrates the sundown that lays heavily on their hearts. The truth dogs Chet until in a relaxed moment at the close of a day, he acknowledges what all of the ranch hands know but have avoided admitting. "Nobody gets to be a cowboy forever," he warns his friend. But Monte is incapable of adjusting, and he will remain astride this horse called "Honor" even if it takes him into the horizon of a sad and solitary existence.

For Monte and Chet, some solace can be found in retaining their work ethic for the faceless employers and in the relationships that they clumsily but sweetly form with a prostitute and a lonely widow - two women who can understand the pain that these men carry and who can share in their growing sense of isolation. The subtle and beautifully rendered relationship between Monte and his "Countess" is easily one of the silver screen's greatest tragic romances.
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Format: VHS Tape
I rank it as one of the all-time best movies ever made--- for those who love the American West and that way of life. If you like "Shane", Jerm. Johnson, and similar--- you will like this movie. Mama Cass's rendition of "The Good Times are Coming" is perfect. It has been 30 yrs-- and I still love the atmosphere and story of this GEM!
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Format: VHS Tape
This film captures as no other the lives of the American Cowboy. What is felt most poignantly are the relationships among the men who punch cattle. The film conveys all the facets of life, both physical and emotional. No other film exhibits the profound attachments and respect felt by the men for their horses and the environment in which they lived and which was their livelihood. The Comeraderie and competition which were part of their daily existence was so accurately portrayed that one can't help feeling sad that a way of life which expesses this kind of freedom has passed from the scene. The tenderness of the relationship between Jeanne Moreau and Lee Marvin is so real and yet so subtley played by both that one has to marvel at the direction of this movie. No other movie conveys the feelings this one does. The cold, the loneliness, the uncertainty, the sad knowing that it is all over for the cowboy,that his era has ended. Momma Cass's voice as the continuo for the film was a stoke of genius. Her melancholy "There Are good Times Coming" is an untruth which we all know .The characters know also but their refusal to acknowledge makes us empathize and we like them more for not giving in. Their time on the scene was short only about twenty years but the spirit they conveyed is still part of the American psyche. I rank it number one in all the westerns ever made.
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