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Customer Review

on August 2, 2000
Without a doubt one of the best westerns ever made. The film has everything; a truly epic scope, Montgomery Clift, Howard Hawks and of course John Wayne. Easily the best film about cattle driving. A western of epic proportions with awe-inspiring cinematography by Russell Harlen that perfectly captures the beauty of the open trail. This film is also blessed with one of Dimitri Tiomkin's best scores, Tiomkin also scored 'High Noon'. Montgomery Clift is excellent in his film debut as Matt, a brooding performance that showcased his talents that would later flourish in movies like 'From Here To Eternity' and 'A Place In The Sun'. But John Wayne surprised everyone from John Ford to himself creating an extremely complex multi-layered character; Thomas Dunson, that remains one of his best performances, second only to Ethan Edwards in Ford's 'The Searchers'. And what would a great Howard Hawks western be without Walter Brennan? An ambitious western that covers a lot of ground and is filled with classic Hawksian touches especially during the campfire scenes. The scenes right before the stampede where there is complete silence (only a coyote is heard from a distance) and any sound could stir up hell-storm of crazy running cows is pure Howard Hawks. And then one of the most exciting sequences in western history ensues, easily the best stampede ever filmed. As for the story, it is basically 'Mutiny On The Bounty' for the open trail. Dunson is being forced to round up his cattle (and some of his neighbors) and take them up the Chisholm Trail. An epic and extremely difficult cattle-drive becomes possible because of Dunson's determination. But when another easier trail is made clear but Dunson decides to do it his was, the hard way. This makes the men uneasy and Dunson becomes a tyrant and slowly goes mad. This is one of the best psychological transformations of any character in film history. This causes a mutiny that is lead by Matt (Clift), his own step-son, that makes for one of the most compelling conflicts in film history. But, as memorable as this western is, it still has one or two 'bad scenes'. Basically almost all the scenes with Joanne Dru are badly made, save the scene when Dunson asks her to bear his son. The scene when Clift first meats her during the Indian attack is especially bad. And the silly ending is a huge letdown. These two driving forces clash in a much-anticipated showdown and shouldn't be stopped by a woman. The intensity near the end, I think, was so unbearable and Hawks had too many emotions exploding in those few moments that maybe he didn't know how to handle them. But still this remains a memorable western and one of the best. From a scale of 1-10 I give this film a 10!
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