What's on at Stratford Upon Avon - Vintage Sundays
The ultimate western, which draws from all the archetypes of the genre and distils them down to their mythic core, Sergio Leone’s revisionist masterpiece is fifty years old this year.
To get his hands on prime land in Sweetwater, crippled railroad baron Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti) hires some killers led by blue-eyed sadist Frank (Fonda), who wipe out property owner Brett McBain (Frank Wolff) and his family. McBain’s newly arrived bride, Jill (Cardinale), however, inherits the land instead. Both outlaw Cheyenne (Robards) and mysterious ‘Harmonica’ (Bronson) take it upon themselves to look after Jill and thwart Frank’s plans to seize her land. As alliances and betrayals mutate, it soon becomes clear that Harmonica wants to get Frank for another reason – “something to do with death”.
Underpinned by complex moral themes and spectacular
vistas of Monument Valley, The Searchers follows a
grizzled war veteran (John Wayne in one of the best
performances of his career) on an obsessive five-year
odyssey to rescue his niece from the Comanches who
abducted her. It’s a grim quest, but one which is
miraculously purified of its furies in a final moment of
epiphany. For many, it’s the greatest film in the genre.
★★★★ “In the flawed vision of The Searchers we can see
Ford, Wayne and the Western itself, awkwardly learning
that a man who hates Indians can no longer be an
uncomplicated hero.” – Roger Ebert
George Stevens’ legendary rendition of the quintessential frontier myth earned six Academy Award nominations and made Shane one of the classics of American cinema. The story brings Shane (Ladd), a drifter and retired gunfighter, to the aid of a homestead family terrorized by a wealthy cattleman and his hired gun (Palance). In fighting the last decisive battle, Shane sees the end of his own way of life. Mysterious, moody and atmospheric, the film is enhanced by the intense performances of its splendid cast.
In 1913, as the wild frontier is tamed and the new world of the twentieth century takes hold, an aging gang of gunslingers head to Mexico for one last job: the robbery of a railroad store. But a posse of bounty hunters are lying in wait…
Brutal, callous and passionate from its opening sequence, Peckinpah’s elegiac film rewrites John Ford’s western mythology by looking at the Old West from the point of view of the marginalised outlaws rather than the law-abiding settlers.