Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hard-Riding Women

Like Westerns, but looking for something crazy, and maybe a little psychosexual? Try Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar (1954).

It starts with a bang. Johnny Guitar, Sterling Hayden, riding along a trail, passes construction work for the railroad dynamiting through a ridge. He overlooks a stagecoach holdup and rides on. He's on his way to Vienna's place, a casino out of town (but on the new rail line), run by Joan Crawford. But she's got a bit of trouble - Mercedes McCambridge leads a posse in, dumps a dead body on the roulette table and accuses Crawford of harboring the gang that done it, lead by her boyfriend, the Dancin' Kid (Scott Brady). Hayden shows up and plays a little guitar for the Kid to dance to, and it's all quite threatening.

The key to the movie is McCambridge's hatred for Crawford, because she has a yen for the Kid, but was too much of a virgin to let him know. Then there's the back story between Crawford and Hayden. It's all expressed in the most overwrought and melodramatic way possible, up to and including a classic hideout behind a waterfall.

It could be ridiculous (well, maybe it is), but this is Nicholas Ray, so it's also wonderful. Needed more guitar, though.

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