ride lonesome review

Ride Lonesome (1959)

Ride Lonesome (1959) Directed by Budd Boetticher

Budd Boetticher’s lean and mean CinemaScope western about the unpredictable bounty hunter Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott) leading the bumbling outlaw Billy John (James Best) to the gallows is the most psychological of the Ranown cycle westerns. Add to the formula the braggadocio of Pernell Roberts and the old-fashioned conspicuous femininity of Karen Steele and voila! You have the most heatedly psychological western of all time. The story, elemental as all Burt Kennedy’s western scripts, concocts an antithesis of Fordian values, rejecting formality and romantic mores for informality and down-to-earth melancholy. Boetticher transfers the economy of the pictorial American landscapes in anamorphic style to the internal psychology, to the intimate conflict – Roberts and Scott play red-blooded characters, the latter more taciturn and rational than the former, but the two friction in the same battle of egos – the masculine rivalry is exhibited in their subtle insecurities and volatile behaviors. The deconstructive handling of the macho psyche in this rhetorical oater is a thrilling affair in its own right; and on top of this, Kennedy’s layered plot of revenge and forgiveness is another moving picture of the old American West and its grandiloquent myths. By the time it reaches its satisfying finale – when the formidable Lee Van Cleef pops up as the elusive villain – Boetticher’s B-movie minimalism achieves pure cinema status, richly convincing in its fluctuating energy of emotion. And the reconciliation of Brigade, the stoic anti-hero, with the antagonism of Pernell Roberts’ sympathetic character – unequivocally Roberts’ best performance – is simple but redolent of empathy, deference and solidarity. It is a western that reshapes the ethos of the American genre in the most plausible fashion.


Matteo Bedon

Written by

Editor and Official Film Critic at CelluloidDimension.com

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