Winchester '73 Reviews
The depth and complexity of James Stewart's performance is the star here, but for me, film noir auteur Anthony Mann's textured, high contrast black and white photography is a runner up, especially in the night scenes, which have the haunting and three dimensional glowing quality of the best film noir classics. Thirdly, the perfectly cast cracker jack supporting players, all hold the screen with the masterful Stewart in his prime, full of veterans like Grandpa Walton (Will Geer), and newcomers circa 1950 like Shelly Winters, Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson.
The script is subtle using natural, conversational dialogue. The acting style matches the script to a t, with almost Stanislavski-esque performance 'method' . Don't expect the wacky buddy comedy or over the top cackling villainy of some of the other later day (post WWII) Westerns. It's a well told story that wraps up perfectly and takes its time to make its big shocking revelation, adding resonance to the tragic wrenching conclusion. The 93 minutes fly by with the wall to wall excellence on display here.
James Stewart gives one of his best performance as a cowboy. Surprise to see the actor Tony Curtis pop in this film, but does not have a too big of a role.
One of the finest western films ever made.
I feel that this is a notable Stewart performance because of his intensity in certain scenes. Great finale with a rifle shootout in the hillside.
This is the first advertising movie that I've reviewed on Flixster (I think. I've seen quite a few movies since joining the website over a year ago.) Okay, maybe it's not completely an advertising movie simply because there's certain facts about the West. The Winchester changed the face of the frontier. But I just wish this movie would shut up about it already. Seriously, it wasn't referred to as "this fine gun". It was always "well, we got two Winchesters," or "this gun is no Winchester, but it'll do." SHUT UP! I can't stand that shamelessness. The sad thing is that the movie has a really good concept going to it.
Pretty much, this is the Lord of the Rings or "The Monkey's Paw" (or, for you Supernatural viewers out there in the Flixster verse, the rabbit's foot) for the Western scene. Pretty much who unjustly carries this weapon, be it wittingly or unwittingly, will meet their demise. Too bad everyone and their mother "knows that's a perfect Winchester" (*grrrr...I'm sorry, I really can't stand that stuff in movies. Really, this is an excellent film that just threw around the word "Winchester" too much. It was like Castaway with the FedEx packages coming in face up or You've Got Mail. I was actually floored that this movie didn't start sellout Tom Hanks!) I'd have to believe that someone in the West probably saw that Winchester and said "Boy, that's a pretty looking gun," and left it at that. But everyone knew it as the 1 in a thousand, which seemed silly to me. Admittedly, guns aren't the way of the land in Royal Oak, MI, but I don't think everyone in the West knew what made the perfect gun.
The other issue I have with this movie, which isn't necessarily the biggest problem in the world, is the sphere of coincidence. The West was always known for being wide and spread out. There would be almost no way that you'd constantly run into people you knew by coinicidence. Well, not only did the main characters run into one another, but everyone who was anyone in this movie constantly seemed to know each other through close ties. Mind as well have all introduced them in one room at one point and got the big issues out of the way.
I have to finally yell at my 501 book. Those plot summaries are spoilery as hell. They told me why James Stewart is chasing Duke the entire time and how they know each other. Considering that this is the big end revelation and that they are throwing clues at you, I didn't want to know two sentences into the description of the movie that they know each other that way. What a gyp. I feel like I kind of got something screwed out of this movie. But that said, all of the performances were great. I love James Stewart and seeing him in this very different role was a great experience. I've seen him in movies like The Naked Spur and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, so I am used to his Western work, but he's always such a noble character. While he is still by far the protagonist of this piece, he's here hunting for revenge and not caring who he hurts in the process. It's very different seeing him as a violent man, but I do like the portrayal he gives as this deeply troubled character. It's not like he's brooding, but his choices come as surprises, like I imagine violence happens in real life. People aren't sneering all the time. They're crafty and break into spontaneous emotion.
Two interesting bits about this movie that really stood out was the cameo of Wyatt Earp as a character. Those brushes with history always play a little bit of fun with the viewers and I think that the character's appearance was well used. I'm glad it didn't pull a Star Wars or a Young Indiana Jones and have the characters meet everyone from the Old West, but that one brush was pretty fun. The other thing that I really dug was a really young Tony Curtis in somewhat of a minor role. He's one of the featured Cavalry Officers and just sticks out like a sore thumb. But I like Tony Curtis so I got a thrill out of it.
This really is a good Western with a great overall theme. I just get upset when products go from natural to shameless very quickly. I mean, I can imagine the fine people at Winchester thinking that their gun gets their owners killed would probably be bad on business, but there's other ways to handle it without just be over-the-top and without dignity.