Monday, 20 March 2017

Bend of the River
Dir: Anthony Mann
Bend of the River represents the second collaboration between director Anthony Mann and actor James Stewart, it would be the second of eight films, five of which were westerns (Winchester '73, The Naked Spur, The Far Country and The Man From Laramie). After Winchester '73 Stewart had adopted an altogether different persona than audiences had seen before, he was still likable but he was violent, edgier and often more disillusioned (or at least disillusioned in a different way than he had been before - he wasn't seeing seven foot tall rabbits like he was in 1950's Harvey anyway). It was a new direction, an exciting one and both Mann and Stewart breathed new life into the classic genre. The plot is largely unpredictable, with the audience not really knowing who James Stewart or Arthur Kennedy's characters are or what their intentions may be. The film's finale is punchy, violent and full of twists and turns which make up for what I've always thought of as lazy tricks as far as character development goes. The supporting cast is great and it features early performances from favourite actors of mine Rock Hudson and Royal Dano. I always felt that Julie Adam's character was a little redundant and has no real significance, other than the fact it was seen as some sort of rule that every film had to have some kind of romance and romantic interest for the lead character. Rock Hudson is strong in his supporting role as professional gambler Trey Wilson, another character whose intentions are unclear. It's an adequately directed film based on a brilliant Borden Chase script. Chase is one of the greatest but most overlooked screen writers of the genre in my opinion, too often his films are remembered for the director of leading man, rather than the story and how original they were in the world of westerns. It has been said that the Borden Chase western story is presented in a physical progression across a larger-than-life landscape, an epic journey west which allows forces of good and evil to interact. The issue of the Chase western script is not whether man will settle the west and live in it, it is assumed he will or that he already has. The question is more universal and appropriate to modern life: Will the uncivilized forces within man create a wild west in perpetuity by winning out over his better instincts? Imitated, often by the best but seldom matched. I've always felt his stories deserved better but there is plenty of Bend in The River to enjoy.

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