Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Randolph Rides Again

As promised, we continue with the Budd Boetticher Westerns with The Tall T (1957). Although there are comic elements, it is a very different beast from Buchanan Rides Alone.

It stars Randolph Scott, who used to be ramrodder and top hand for Mr. Tenvoorde at the Tall T Ranch. I had to look that up, because it is pronounced like "Mr. 10-40", and I don't think they had multi-weight lubricants in the old West. He lives at his own place on the Sassafree. On his way into town, he meets a station master and his son at a lonely stagecoach station, and promises to bring the boy back some candy. He meets up with coach drive Arthur Hunnicut, driving old maid (Maureen O'Sullivan) and her sleazy new husband, then heads for some hi-jinks with Mr. 10-40. The tone is light and silly.

He hitches a ride back to his spread with the bride and groom, but when they reach the station, the tone changes. Without too many spoilers, let just say that they meet up with some bad men. The leader of the gang is Paladin himself, Richard Boone. His gang consists of a cheerful idiot (Skip Homeier) and a creepy psycho gunman called Chink (Henry Silva!). Next comes the war of nerves: Scott and the civilians vs. the bad guys.

Boone makes an interesting bad guy - philosophical, glad to have people to talk to who aren't twitchy killers. He sometimes wishes he had taken a different path. But that doesn't make him Scott's friend.

The story comes from an Elmore Leonard novel. It has lighter moments, brutal violence (offscreen, mostly) and psychological depth. Chink is creepy, Boone is interesting, and so on. But Scott's cowboy is both honest, honorable, and deadly competent. It's the code of the old West.

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