Wednesday 19 June 2013

Yellow Sky [1948]

Wellman’s Yellow Sky was a near-masterpiece in terms of mood, tone, style and economy, with a terrific dose of dark revisionism imbued into its edgy and tense content. It also provided a peek into the fragility of a group that is bound solely by the primal lust for riches. The film opens with a band of rugged outlaws, led by Stretch (Gregory Peck), galloping into a town, coolly robbing a bank, and running off with the loot. In order to escape the lawmen they take the most dangerous route available, viz. California’s Death Valley. After a physically brutal and psychologically debilitating trek through the harsh salt flats they stumble upon the titular ghost town whose only inhabitants are an old prospector (James Barton) and his attractive tomboyish granddaughter (Anne Baxter). On one hand they all get attracted to, including often uncontrollably, to the fierce and saucy girl, while on the other their insatiable greed is sparked when they realize that large amounts of gold is on the offing. Consequently, as was bound to happen, strains and complications start developing between them, leading to a violent showdown among one other. The limelight of the show, in terms of acting, was stolen by Richard Widmark for his bristling and slimy portrayal of a sly and coldly calculating member of the gang. The sparse, moody and expressionistic B/W cinematography brilliantly evoked an atmosphere of hostility, grunge and fatalism, where things are destined to go from bad to worse sooner or later. Interestingly, Wellman probably had a darkly funny fascination with incongruous paintings loaded with sexual symbolism as was evident both here and in The Ox-Bow Incident.

Director: William A. Wellman
Genre: Western/Revisionist Western
Language: English
Country: US


University of Nigeria - Iduehe said...

great works speak for themselves

Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

I remember this. Solid sterling work.

Shubhajit said...

@Ideuhe & Andrea:

Completely agree with both of you. This was possibly one of Wellman's best works along with The Ox-Bow Incident.