Category Archives: Robert Ryan

The Homesman


A spur of the moment decision over summer to watch Howard Hawk’s 1959 Rio Bravo, led to me view a number of Westerns I hadn’t previously seen.

A so-called classic that regularly appears on best of lists of Westerns, Rio Bravo is the story of a small town sheriff (John Wayne) who enlists the aid of a cripple, a drunk and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold the brother of a local outlaw in his jail.

A lot of people I know love the film but I found it overlong, wooden, and there was zero chemistry between Wayne and Angie Dickinson. I watched Hawk’s earlier effort, Red River (1948), which I enjoyed more, especially Montgomery Clift’s performance, and John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), in which an embittered racist civil war veteran (Wayne again) embarks on a journey spanning several years to rescue a niece (somewhat unconvincingly played by Natalie Wood), stolen in a Comanche raid. It is a terrific piece of story telling, as much for what is not said and shown as what is.

Also on the list was Lawman (1971), a pretty average effort, in which a sheriff (an ageing Burt Lancaster) arrives in a town to arrest all the cattlemen whose celebration in his town the year before resulted in the death of an old man, and the excellent 1959 Andre de Toth film, The Day of the Outlaw.… Read more

The heist always goes wrong, part 2: reader picks and other favourite heist movies

ST 2My recent post The heist always goes wrong – ten of the best heist movies ever made, generated some great reader feedback. The best thing about the response was that it pointed me in the direction of a number heist films I hadn’t seen or that I need to revisit.

Based on your comments and the thoughts I’ve had on the subject since the original post, here are follow up list of other films that could be included in a best of heist films list (and my shameless editorialising regarding what I think about the merits of not of them).

Straight Time (1978)

A huge thanks to West Australian crime writer David Whish Wilson for alerting me to Straight Time, which I’d seen previously but forgotten. Dustin Hoffman plays a career criminal just out of prison, trying to stay on the right side of his ball breaking parole officer, masterfully played by one of my screen heroes, M. Emmet Walsh, and avoid the temptation of re-offending.

Straight Time is based on the book No Best So Fierce, by real life con Edward Bunker (who has a small role in the film). Everything about this film works, the script, the down at heel late seventies feel, the cast, which includes Theresa Russell, Gary Busey, Kathy Bates and Harry Dean Stanton.… Read more

Mr Fuller goes to Tokyo

Sam Fuller’s 1955 movie House of Bamboo isn’t one of the greatest film noirs ever made but it’s in there for one of the most interesting, and despite its flaws I have found myself watching it over again.

All the elements associated with Fuller’s style are on display, his ambiguous politics, break-neck story telling style and pulp sensibility, overlayed on this occasion with an oriental aesthete that veers between homage and cliché.

Fuller throws the viewer straight into the action, a precision heist of a US supply train as it speeds through the Japanese countryside by a gang of men dressed in traditional peasant garb, the magnificent snow-covered peak of Mount Fuji in the background.

They dispatch the crew without hesitation and unload the cargo into a waiting truck. Because the train was carrying small arms and ammunition and because one of the guards killed was a Sergeant in the United States military, the heat is on the local police to doing something.

We move quickly to the aftermath of another robbery. One of the assailants, Webber, lies squirming on a hospital-operating table. Wounded by police, he was left for dead after one of his own crew pumped three bullets into him before they escaped, the same bullets used in the train robbery.… Read more