Tuesday 2 July 2013

The Tall T [1957]

Boetticher’s The Tall T, like the other two films belonging to his "Ranown Cycle" that I’ve watched, viz. Decision at Sundown and Ride Lonesome, was a taut, muscular and crisply timed B-Western. However, unlike the other two, obsessive quest for revenge didn’t drive the protagonist here – at least not directly. This adaptation of an Elmore Leonard story begins with Pat Brennan (Randolph Scott) agreeing to bring candies for the kid son of a station manager while on his way to the town; he then loses his horse in a stupid wager – these two random incidents end up forcing him into a deathly entanglement as he is held hostage, along with a newlywed couple, by a gang of ruthless outlaws. What follows, more than anything else, is a game of psychological one-upmanship between Brennan on one side, and the deceptively dangerous leader (Richard Boone) and his two henchmen, one of whom is a psychopathic sharp-shoot, on the other. Brennan, despite his hulking appearance and laconic nature which might make him seem like the kind who shoots first and talks later, realizes that brains, rather than brawns, are required for him to escape – and this is what made this briskly paced and tightly plotted Western a darn engaging watch, despite the lack of thematic and psychological overtones that defined the other two Ranown films named above. Scott suited his part, but it was Boone as the weary and seemingly fair, but essentially a brutal criminal, who stole the show. Boetticher managed to build a good amount of tension and moodiness into the proceedings, and that further added to viewing experience.

Director: Budd Boetticher
Genre: Western/Psychological Western
Language: English
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

Excellent capsule essay that sets this one in its own proper context. It's a seminal western for sure, and one of its directors most popular works.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. Yes, in fact lot of Western lovers place this as the best of the Ranown Cycle. I'd say it comes close to Ride Lonesome. The fact that it was mostly bereft of any complex psychological undertones & thematic concerns made it all the more compact & enjoyable.