Category Archives: Westerns

MacKenna’s Gold: gold, ghosts and frontier violence

1969 was arguably the year Hollywood fully embraced the revisionist western. In addition to Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, there was True GritTell Them Willy Boy is HereDeath of a Gunfighter, and Midnight Cowboy. As well as playing with notions of ‘the cowboy’ and ‘the West’, they contained more stylised violence, more sex and stories that overtly fed off the cynicism and disillusionment of America’s war in Vietnam and domestic racial strife.

Released in May that year, Mackenna’s Gold straddles the divide between the classic big studio western and its revisionist successors. Headed up by Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif, the film boasts a cast to kill for. It is also a story filled with supernatural elements, in which humans are haunted not only by spirits guarding a lost canyon full of gold but by their own greed and paranoia.

In my debut for a website I have admired for some time, Diabolique Magazine, I wrote about gold, ghosts and frontier violence in MacKenna’s Gold. You can read the entire article on their site via this link. Enjoy.

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10 great Australian westerns

To mark the UK release of The True History of the Kelly Gang (2019), Justin Kurzel’s bold reimagining of the sage one of Australia’s most famous myths, bushranger Ned Kelly, the British Film Institute asked me to write about my ten favourite Australian westerns. Not only is Ned Kelly Australia’s most famous bushranger – the name given to convicts who had escaped and survived Australia’s harsh environment to become outlaws – his legend forms a mini industry in film and television. In addition to Kurzel’s, Kelly has been the subject of eight films. The Kelly filmography forms part of a larger of body of Australian westerns, made by overseas and local concerns. You can read my piece in full at the BFI site here.

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Pulp Friday: Paul Bishop & 52 Weeks: 52 Western Novels

Today I’m happy to host friend of pulp fiction lovers everywhere, Paul Bishop, to talk about a project he has been working on,52 Weeks • 52 Western Novels.

I have always been interested in the contradiction between how critically marginalised as a genre the Western is (and, arguably, always has been), compared with popular they continue to be. This is the case not just in the US but in Australia. The only remaining Australian pulp publisher still in business, Cleveland Publications, publishes Westerns. And go into any second hand bookstore, especially in regional Australia, and you are likely to find large a large number of westerns. That’s if they haven’t been snapped up, as was the case in a regional second hand bookshop I visited recently.

Anyway, Paul and his co-editor Scott Harris have done something too few people who examine pulp fiction and write about it, do – they actually read the novels and not just focus on the covers. The result is a wonderfully eclectic, in-depth look at the genre that is Western pulp fiction. The Western is an area of pulp fiction I have not really examined in any detail on my site, so I’m thrilled to have Paul here.

First up, well done on the book.Read more

Lee Marvin: 10 essential films

Prime CutThe iconic American actor, Lee Marvin was born today, February 19, 1924. To celebrate the occasion, my latest piece for the British Film Institute looks at his 10 essential movies.

You can check out the piece in full here at the British Film Institute site.

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The Homesman

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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