I do love westerns. They are an American institution, and, by and large, have proven to be perhaps the only genre films that are truly uniquely American.
Having said that, this film is overrated. Yes, it wasn't the first western, but it pretty much defined the genre and set the standard for basically every film to follow for the new few decades until revisionism hit starting in the late 60s. This put both John Ford and John Wayne on the map, making icons and legends out of them, but c'mon, if you strip away all of the historical, culutral, and aesthetic significances, and ignore the film's influence and legacy, it's really not all that special or interesting.
Don't get me wrong, it's good, but it really hasn't held up that well. Perhaps I'd feel a lot differently had this been the first western I ever saw, but since it is so old, and things have changed so much since then, I can't help but kinda take this for granted by default.
The plot follows nine travelers thrust together on the titular vehicle as they make their way across the west through the dangerous Apache Territory, and how they must all band together if they want to survive. Okay, so fine, the plot's not much, but the performances do slightly make up for it, and yeah, it looks decent, and the music is really good, and the stunts and action are okay, but I can't let myself get swept up in everything and give this one a high rating by default. I'll admit that I've done that sort of thing in the past, and maybe I need to be more honest and make some reconsiderations, but for now, with this one, I'm standing my ground and saying that yes, while this is a landmark film, it's not a masterpiece when taken solely on its own terms.
As I watched this film, I found myself wondering the characters were cliches in 1939 because then I might have found something fresh and original about John Ford's film. But in 2011, I found everything predictable with the exception of the doctor's eventual heroism.
Overall, I don't feel qualified to give an educated opinion on this film; I'm trying to like Westerns, but this film feels like a racist (Natives are, of course, depicted as wild, savage, malevolent forces) cliche. I can't be the only one who thinks that, but judging from the critics' and Super Reviewers' raves, I must be.
"A Powerful Story Of 9 Strange People."
Stagecoach is among my three favorite westerns of all-time with Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Stagecoach is the most significant of the three because it was the first. It opened the door for Leone and his Western epics. Stagecoach also made John Wayne an American hero and a household name. The film is fun, insightful and incredibly well made. It holds up really well for being made over seventy years ago. John Ford directed a masterpiece and the first real classic Western.
The story is obviously that of a stagecoach that is going through rough territory. It is rumored that Apache's loom not to far and the characters always keep those savages on the viewers minds by always talking about them. We don't see the Apache's for a long time, but we always feel them. The stagecoach holds some great characters. There's a gambler, a drunk doctor, a pregnant woman, a business man, a liquor man, two drivers and Ringo Kid and his love interest.
Ringo is the most interesting of all these interesting characters. He has just broken out of the prison and is set on having his revenge on some brothers who killed his family. He isn't a bad guy. He is well mannered while in the presence of ladies and is an overall nice guy. He isn't the type of gunslinger we normally see, that kills because he enjoys it.
There are many conflicts in the movie. There's the obvious one, that being the Apache's. There is also a portion of the movie where the passengers are stuck in a location because one of the women has just given birth. They know the Apache's are nearby and have to decide whether to stay and let the woman and her baby rest or whether to high tail it out of there and risk the woman and baby's health. The doctor is always drunk and a few of the other characters are always fighting. The passengers must band together in the end if they want to survive.
There is much more drama then anything else in Stagecoach. It is all drama for the first hour plus, then we finally get the action we have been anticipating the entire film. That isn't to say that the first part of the movie is boring, because it is anything but. The whole movie is a complete masterpiece and a movie that is an absolute must see.
It's good...see it.
Stagecoach is a work of sheer brilliance that everyone should see. Westerns ranked down there with Musicals as my least favorite genres for a very long time, but ever since I saw 3:10 To Yuma, my love for them has not stopped blossoming. I'm not sure, but I think this is my first time watching a John Ford movie. Maybe a John Wayne film as well. From what I learned this is the movie that propelled John Wayne into the star he became. I have to say it was a pleasure watching the birth of a star. He fit his role to perfection, as did pretty much everyone else in the movie. This movie revolves around its characters. And a character is only as good as the actor in the costume portraying them. The entire cast of Stagecoach did their part.
The dynamics of the characters was beyond fantastic. They were all very different personalities, yet they seemed to complement each other very well. The drunken doctor was my second favorite character, second only to the driver of the stagecoach. He was a big bumbling doofus, and he made me laugh at just about everything he said. He proved that humor can be very simple, yet clean, and still get all the laughs it aims to get. Very funny movie, but it has a heart as well. The whore (I guess she was a whore) who was as sweet as anyone brought heart to the story. Her relationship with Ringo developed a bit quickly for my taste, but that was a minor issue.
I can go on all day about the characters, but I won't. I'm pretty sure many have already seen it and everyone else has heard of Stagecoach at some point or another. There is a tiny bit of action in this movie as well. And I won't say too much about it because it is very reserved, and nothing exciting by today's standards, but I enjoyed watching the characters work together to survive the much anticipated Apache attack. Stagecoach considered by many to be the greatest Western of all time. While I would not go that far, it was certainly one of the best I have seen. That does not mean much because I haven't seen many. But I look forward to.
This is something of a fluffy affair, with a light heart and humor that has, since 1939, grown dated and cheesy, with even the conflicts and plot being histrionic, maybe even out-and-out thin. If the narrative isn't superficial with its subtlety, it's simply superficial, with depth limitations that were all too common in fluffy flicks such as this one at the time, yet could be compensated for if it wasn't for developmental shortcomings. I reckon exposition is adequate, but there's little real attention to characterization which is already lacking in range altogether, partly because there is a little too much to flesh out in merely 96 minutes. This runtime isn't aggressively brief, but it's still a little too short for John Ford to have time to establish a firm sense of adventure, which is a crying shame, seeing as how the film doesn't have much going for it outside of the adventure. With all of my rambling about how thin storytelling is, superficiality is all but fitting, as the story concept, no matter how lively, is lacking in true meta and tension, of which there is still enough for the other shortcomings to kind of aggravate. With all my talk about how there's only so much to talk about in regards to this film, maybe storytelling could have been inspired enough to mold a rewarding western, as there are highlights in inspiration which reflect full potential, but in the end, whether it be because of the shortcomings of the time or simple missteps, the final product slips as an underwhelming, maybe even kind of forgettable classic. With that said, the effort holds enough of your attention to entertain plenty, perhaps even immerse with its visuals.
This is the first of John Ford's westerns to be shot in Monument Valley, which sees quite the breakout as a hot spot for western film art direction, being sweeping enough by its own right, and decorated well enough with timely production designs, to adventurously draw you into the time portrayed in and scope of this film. No matter how superficial the storytelling gets, production value at least succeeds in reinforcing a sense of adventure that this narrative ought to thrive on, seeing as how the plot concept is dynamic and subtly layered enough to potentially compensate for a lack of dramatic meat. That compensation is lost, but not entirely, for even Dudley Nichols's and Ben Hecht's script's tastes in colorful humor and set pieces have endured through all of the cheesy dating to entertain, even on paper. As for the execution, there is also something a little lacking about John Ford's direction, and yet, there is also enough color to the storytelling to hold your attention just fine, with style that is sometimes focused enough to hold some tension. Mind you, the tension only comes into play when the conflict stands, and make no mistake, conflict is limited, but it is there, and until it shows up, the film still proves to be an entertainingly well-told adventure, with its share of memorable plot points and characters. Of course, the characters might only be so relatively memorable because of their portrayals, which don't have much material to work with, and may even be a little dated, yet have stood the test of time well enough for just about everyone to charm with his or her own distinct charisma and, for that matter, chemistry, which drives comradery. Comradery is important in a film this adventurous, yet still so intimate, and no matter how thin characterization is, the performers draw you into the heart of this flick, but not alone, as there is also enough heart to dated storytelling to thoroughly entertain in a classic, if thin fashion.
In conclusion, there is some cheesily fluffy humor and plotting, which join developmental shortcomings in reinforcing a certain superficiality to the telling of an already borderline inconsequential story, thus, the final product falls as underwhelming, but through grand production value, reasonably colorful scripting and direction, and charismatic performances, a sense of adventure is done enough justice to make John Ford's "Stagecoach" a pretty fun western classic, despite its many shortcomings.
2.5/5 - Fair
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