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Customer Review

on April 19, 2000
Often mentioned as one of the greatest westerns ever, it is easy to see why. This film stands as a masterpiece of the art, even more so since it was filmed so long ago. It starts with a great story, the story of Shane (Alan Ladd), a quiet gunslinger who is trying to escape his past and befriends a pioneer family that has settled out west. He attempts to settle down and become a hired hand to Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) and his wife Marian (Jean Arthur), but the ranchers who need to drive cattle through the homesteaders' property are attempting to drive them out. Shane tries to stay out of the disputes, but keeps being drawn in and is finally compelled to put his six shooter back on when the ranchers hire Jack Wilson (Jack Palance) a noted gunfighter to intimidate the farmers.
This story is outstanding in so many ways. It is a classic battle of good and evil. It has its share of fist fights and shoot outs, but this film is more about principles than action. It exemplifies principles and values that unfortunately have become outdated in today's society such as, character, integrity, loyalty, pride in accomplishment, persistence and the willingness to fight for what is right. It is also an excellent human interest story and succeeds in getting the viewer to love the homesteaders and hate the ranchers.
George Stevens directed this film late in a notable career and does a splendid job. The locations were breathtaking, shot with majestic mountains in the background of almost every scene. The cinematography was stunning, and the color rich despite the fact that it was filmed almost 50 years ago.
The acting was superlative. Van Heflin wins us over almost immediately with his high minded principles and unshakeable character. He actually has far more lines than Ladd, who was more of an icon of strength than a vocal character. Jack Palance is the archetypal western villain and went on in his career to become the most prominent and enduring villain in movie history. His sneering arrogance and haughty gait made him the villain we loved to hate for decades.
Elisha Cook, as Stonewall Torrey, had a prolific career as a supporting actor, with over 150 appearances in film an TV that spanned almost 60 years. This is one of his best an most memorable roles as a fearless, proud and petulant former confederate that gets goaded into a gunfight with Jack Palance.
Brandon DeWilde as young Joey, gave a compelling performance. One of the best scenes in the movie was when he asked Shane to shoot at a small rock and Shane shot it 5 or 6 times and hit it every time. The wide eyed look of surprise was terrific. Though he went on to do about a dozen mostly minor films, he was never able to capitalize on his success in this role.
Finally, there is Alan Ladd. I've often heard criticisms of his performance of being too low key. I could not disagree more. His understated performance made him loom large as an imposing figure in the film. It created an almost godlike presence. This strong silent portrayal is very attractive adding humility to his many positive qualities. This unassuming style is also what made Gary Cooper so popular.
This film is on my top fifty list of all time. It is a magnum opus that the film industry can be proud of. It combines great filmmaking, direction and acting with a memorable and morally instructive story. This should be required viewing for any serious film buff. A perfect 10.
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