Cow Town Reviews
December 14, 2007
For the curious--yes, I did finally get around to dividing my entries into categories. You will note, however, that I don't have a Western category, despite the fact that I've done probably about as many Westerns as documentaries, more or less. However, Rotten Tomatoes limits you to ten categories, and I haven't the faintest idea what category I could remove in order to put in a Western category. Moses has suggested Foreign Language, but I do think that's an important distinction, even though every film in it is also in another category. Doom.
Anyway, [i]Cow Town[/i]. This is the first Gene Autry film I've ever actually seen. My mother has a membership to the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, across the street from the Los Angeles Zoo, and I went to that maybe half a dozen times in high school. (They had a great exhibit once on Disney westerns, a few of which we've covered here, not to mention a recreation of the Gunfight at the OK Corral.) I've known of him for lo, these many years, but for some reason, I spent my childhood having John Wayne movies inflicted on me instead. To be fair, I suspect good John Wayne movies are better than the best Gene Autry movie.
This movie is about the Coming of the Barbed Wire. This is a famous time in Western history, and this film actually goes into a little detail about the real conflicts involved. We see cattlemen debating the relative merits of the stuff; we see cowboys worried about losing their jobs. There's also some discussion of the conflict between cattle and sheep.
And, of course, there's Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy. He doesn't really sing much here, and none of the songs have anything to do with the plot. Still, you can't have a Gene Autry movie without having him sing at least a little, so here we are. In fact, he's singing when we first see him, just in case we're confused as to which one he is, despite the approximately five minutes of buildup before he appears onscreen for the first time. Also, his character is named "Gene Autry," because Gods forbid any of us have to remember two names for him.
Clearly, this is not great cinema. It's not [i]bad[/i], but it's also not very good. There's really no character development--even the people we think are bad who turn out to be good were [i]always[/i] good. Ginger Kirby didn't know her men were rustling Gene Autry's cattle, so she was well within her rights to be pissed off at him. The cowboys are all being manipulated into being jerks by the Evil Sheep Rancher. (Though, for once, it's not his very nature as a sheep rancher that makes him evil.) And barbed wire and Gene Autry save them all.
I think there are some things any true film buff should experience at least once, and a Gene Autry movie is certainly one of them. It's even possible we'll see more of them; it's not like Mae West, where I'm sick to death of her [i]and[/i] never really liked her very much in the first place. (Though we may get to [i]Myra Breckinridge[/i] anyway.) This was a cute movie, if not particularly good, and Gene Autry doesn't have a bad voice. In general, though, look to see more "I've never seen anything with so-and-so in it" appearances in the future. Heck, we've got Bergman films coming up pretty soon here, too.