Monday, 3 June 2013
The Ox-Bow Incident 
The Ox-Bow Incident, adapted from Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s novel and arguably William Wellman’s most renowned work, was a devastating indictment against rule of the mob and street justice. This morality play and anti-Western remains relevant to this day given the preponderance of trial by media and quick-fix conclusions that we so regularly witness. When one of the citizens of a drab little frontier town is learned to have been killed and his herd stolen, a posse – in essence a lynch mob – is formed to catch those responsible for the despicable act and enforce rule of the majority. The group becomes particularly blood-thirsty when circumstantial evidences emerge against the three men caught – a mild-mannered farmer (Dana Andrews), a senile old man, and a brash Mexican (Anthony Quinn). All the appeals and persuasions of Davies (Harry Davenport), one of the few people vocally opposed to the act, fall on deaf ears as Major Tetley (Frank Conroy), a pompous former soldier and a closet coward who wishes to turn his soft-natured son into a man through the incident, leads the motion against the three presumed rustlers. Henry Fonda and Harry Morgan play two drifters who end up becoming part of the posse against their wills. The gothic doom-laden atmosphere, created through superb expressionistic photography, brilliantly emphasized the film’s bleak mood, fatalism and commentary on man’s infinite capacity for folly and callousness. Wellman marvelously etched all the characters and extracted excellent performances from the ensemble cast, which perfectly masked the few moments when the message became tad too overbearing. Fonda would return to a similar themed film with Lumet’s 12 Angry Men.
Director: William A. Wellman
Genre: Western/Psychological Western
Posted by Shubhajit at 22:21
Labels: 1940s, 5 Star Movies, American Cinema, Essential Viewing, Western
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"The gothic doom-laden atmosphere, created through superb expressionistic photography, brilliantly emphasized the film’s bleak mood, fatalism and commentary on man’s infinite capacity for folly and callousness."
Brilliant sentence there Shubhajit, and in the service of one of the most powerful and wrenching of all American films. Great point to make that comparison with 12 ANGRY MEN! Injustice has rarely presented in such a way as to boil your blood in this, arguably Wellman's masterpiece.
Thanks a lot Sam. Yes, despite it being a morality play (something that I tend to be tad wary of), it managed to be so profoundly disquieting & affecting - and that surely goes to the credit of Wellman. And it must also be noted for the way it demystified the Western myths about chivalry, valour, etc. way ahead of the era of revisionism.
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