Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Tall T

: Randolph Scott plays a stand up ex ranch hand come land owner. He lives in some desolate country where he's friends with the local stagecoach station master and son. On his way back from town (with candy for the son) he gets a lift with a chartered stage carrying Maureen O'Sullivan and her new rubbish husband. They stop at the station and get hijacked by baddie Richard Boone and his two nasty sidekicks. The baddies have killed the station master and son and then kill the stage driver, kidnap the other three and off they go to the baddies' lair in the hills. Cue Randolph working out a way to save himself and Maureen. All ends well for them both but not so well fo the baddies.

I finally got to see this ace western on a day off when it was on TV. It's not currently available on DVD in the UK and I have no recording facilities. This was my third Budd Boetticher western and was recommended to me as one of his best. I've really taken to his westerns - they are taut, lean, sparsely dialogued, rarely any superfluous characters and usually have a pretty short running time (average 80 mins). The three that I've seen (Ride Lonesome, Seven Men From Now and Tall T) seem to follow similar stories. Randolph Scott as a goody either taking revenge for a murdered wife or saving another woman whilst killing baddies. Simple stories but always executed brilliantly.

Things of note from Tall T - this is probably the film in which Randolph Scott has been the 'straightest', no revenge to speak of, no chips on his shoulder really, just a decent guy caught up in a difficult situation. I also liked his relationship with the baddie. Richard Boone's character admires Scott as he sees what he has (his own land) and wants this for himself. There are a couple of interesting exchanges between the two as Boone thinks out loud about getting out of baddie-dom and setting up his own farm whilst Scott slowly realises that he can use this to his advantage when plotting the sidekicks against Boone.

The female lead, O'Sullivan, was in some ways the weakest female character in the Boetticher westerns that I've seen. She doesn't get much to do and cries plenty (well, her husband does get murdered in front of her) but just isn't quite as ballsy as other Boetticher females. There are no punches pulled though as Scott uses his new lady friend's feminine charms to lure the baddies into a comprimising situation.

I would definitely recommend Seven Men From Now for the best female character (hence the name of this blog). Gail Russell's character is far more complex, gutsy and involved in the action than poor old Maureen.

The baddies were pretty good in this one (shoving people down a well - pretty grim stuff) but again not on a par with Lee Marvin in Seven Men From Now for real stubbly bad ass-ness. The two sidekicks are really nasty, especially Chink, a psychotic killer who seems to murder just for kicks. It's also an interesting touch that the ringleader gets his two henchmen to do the dirty work, never killing anyone himself.

A few killer lines in this one. At the climax, Scott is explaining to O'Sullivan why he can't just walk away and says that "Some things a man can't ride around". Ace. And the final line as they walk off together, O'Sullivan is still tearful and Scott says "Come on now, it's gonna be a nice day". You said it Randy.

More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051047/