Ride the High Country (1962)
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Unlike some others, this is exactly the kind of Western I prefer - very little bloodshed and killing, lots of unspoken loyalty between friends, great scenery and veteran actors showing just why they are the best in their field. I don't usually like Westerns because of the usual gratuitous fights, killings, unending horse rides and vicious gunfights. But this movie had just enough of the right mix to keep me not only interested but cheering for the good guys.
This was one of Sam Peckinpah's first features and it's clear he was still finding his feet in terms of tone and content, as this is a surprisingly straightforward and old-school western for the most part, with traces of his later trademark bloody violence and violence toward women - in fact the best scenes are exactly the ones that raise the temperature of the film out of its comfort zone - the near gang-rape of naive new wife Elsa, the night time confrontation of the two old friends, and the grim five-man shoot out at the end. What makes it a better than average western is the surprisingly witty script and the two really excellent central performances by Hollywood veterans Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott - the latter in his final screen performance before retirement. What lets it down is a clumsy overblown score and, for my taste, an unlikely and unsatisfying conclusion.
For an early Peckinpah this is too tame for what we know and expect from the man. Of course, there’s nothing he can do with the studio-film that was aimed at a universal audience. It’s quite forgettable and without many memorable performances. The conventional shoot-out at the end is exemplary and stands out from the remainder of the film but it’s all too brief to make the film more than it is. With all the remakes taking place nowadays, this one would actually work well with a revamp; the story of men transport gold across the country sounds too exciting yet the writers never take advantage of that. Not quite sure why it’s in so many lists
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In 7 official lists
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This movie ranks #73 in BFI's 100 Westerns
This movie ranks #95 in Library of Congress's National Film Registry
This movie ranks #432 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
This movie ranks #477 in Emma Beare's 501 Must-See Movies
This movie ranks #717 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #744 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #912 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films