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Monday, 24 September 2012

The western and I

I love movies. During my formative years going to the cinema was the highlight of the week. I grew up in the seventies and was twelve when Star Wars came out so I suppose I'm of that generation - the sci-fi kids, the blockbuster bunch. And yet my favourite movies have always been westerns, a genre that was in the final stages of its golden age by the time I was born.
I have an extensive DVD collection and most of my films are stored by genre - pictured left is part of my western collection. Click on image for a bigger view.There are some classic westerns in my collection - from the acknowledged classics to curious B-westerns that are often far better than they have the right to be.

Look at the top shelf and there is a box set called 50 great westerns and there really are 50 films there - from early Roy Rogers to Italian Westerns. I got this off Ebay a few years back and I've watched every film even if the transfer is not of the finest quality with none of the films remastered. But it contains the unusual White Comanche which features a very young Captain Kirk as a half breed Comanche. This is actually a very strong B WESTERN.

There are several Wyatt Earp movies in my collection - Tombstone, My Darling Clementine, Gunfight at the Ok Corral, Hour of the Gun and Wyatt Earp - I'll have to be contrary on this but Wyatt Earp is my favourite simply because it covers so much of Earp's life when most others concentrate on the infamous gunfight . Probably Tombstone features the best filmed version of the gunfight, though but the best film for a cinematic experience is John Ford's Clementine which features a brilliant performance by Henry Fonda even if it does play loose and fast with historical fact.

I've actually got an original wanted poster for Wyatt Earp framed above my desk - this is one of my proudest possessions. Well when I say original - it is actually a reproduction but it's from the 1920's so it's original enough for me and I paid a small fortune for it.


There are both 3:10's to Yuma - and the original is my favourite. And there's a large selection of John Wayne westerns - I've even got his debut as Singing Sandy - yep, the Duke was the first singing cowboy. My favourite Wayne would be The Searchers, Red River or the elegiac The Shootist. I'm not one of those who thinks Wayne couldn't act and every time someone says he always played himself I point them to Red River, The Searchers, True Grit,The Shootist- all very different performances, all technically brilliant. Wayne was an excellent actor. A recent addition was the Coen's version of True Grit which whilst excellent will never eclipse the Wayne original.


It goes without saying that all of the Eastwood westerns are there -from Leone to The Unforgiven. In fact I recently bought a great Eastwood box set that contains thirty five  movies, that's all his Warner Brothers films up to his recent Edgar Hoover biopic I've got all of Eastwood's movies though, including the ones he did with Universal,Paramount and MGM.

I've got the full three seasons of Deadwood - I'm still furious this was canceled and left so open ended. This really was a brilliant series. And on a more lighthearted but nonetheless entertaining note there's also a box set of Alias Smith and Jones and the complete run of McCloud. The latter of course was the modern day, fish out of water western series that starred Dennis Weaver.

On a lower shelf - not visible in the pic - is Ken Burn's eleven and a half hour documentary masterpiece , The West. This covers the West from 1500 - 1914 and was hailed by The New York Times upon its first release. This may be the definitive documentary on The West and I plan to cover each part in separate postings on this blog. I paid £80 for this set which is the most I've ever spent on a DVD but it's well worth it. I've watched it several times and as someone who writes, Western novels, I tend to dip into it from time to time.

The days where I step into a store and find a western movie I don't already own are rare, which is something of a pain because I'm always on the lookout for a new western fix. Ahh well at least I've got Tarantino's take on the genre to look forward to when Django hits UK cinema screens early next year.

1 comment:

Randy Johnson said...

Impressive. I have many you mention, but not even close in numbers. I do watch a lot of old westerns on Turner Classics also.