Lawman

It’s always the same. If you post a man, he has to come into town to prove he’s a man. Or you kill a man, he’s got a friend or kin – he just has to come against you… and for no reason… no reason that makes any sense. And it don’t mean a damn to the man already in the ground. Nobody wins.

Nobody wins – that quote taken from Lawman (1971) is a bit downbeat, but it does sum up the mood surrounding the film and maybe also feeds into the sentiments which would become increasingly common in the western in the 1970s. Last time out I was looking at a western, and at the same time musing about the genre itself, from the late 60s, a restless and hard to define era. The decade of the 70s followed on from that and gradually developed its own character – when we speak of the westerns of the 50s we often find ourselves referring to redemption, by the time we reach the 70s we’re more likely to encounter resignation.

The figure of the lawman is integral to the western, the constant expansion of the frontier and the subsequent attempts to bring and maintain civilization via the rule of law is a constant factor, if not the underlying theme in itself. A bunch of weary cowboys let loose and whooping it up is another common sight, and the result of such celebrations was frequently violence. Such was the case in the town of Bannock, where the hands employed by Vincent Bronson (Lee J Cobb) had a little too much to drink, let their good sense abandon them and left a dead man lying on the street. And so the marshal of Bannock, Jared Maddox (Burt Lancaster), comes to Bronson’s patch with the goal of returning the guilty men to stand trial for the killing. Bronson is one of the old style pioneers, that tough breed who tamed a land and bent it to their will through the force of their personality, backed up by a loaded gun. Men like this are accustomed to getting their own way or, where that’s more difficult, to buying individuals who can smooth things out for them. Bronson has already bought and paid for his own marshal, Cotton Ryan (Robert Ryan), and believes that Maddox or those he represents have their price. In a way, he’s right as Maddox admits that he’s really only going through the motions – acquittals can be purchased in all likelihood. Yet Maddox’s own price isn’t quite the same; he might draw his wages from a corrupt source but he owes personal loyalty to another more idealistic paymaster – justice. So the drama and conflict therefore grow out of two situations: the reluctance of Bronson, or at least that of his men, to comply with Maddox’s wishes, and also the lawman’s own battles with  himself and the code he’s stuck by all his life.

The 60s was a decade when many questions were asked, the 70s kept at it and got some answers, but those answers weren’t always the ones people wanted to hear. Disillusionment was creeping in and many ideals seemed to be tarnished when dragged out into the cold light of day. Lawman dealt with that now familiar theme of changing times – clearly articulated by Lee J Cobb’s character – and the need to adapt, bend or be broken.The message seems to be that when all around you has been corrupted and debased by greed and self-interest, then the only sure or true thing one can hold onto is your personal code of honor. Maddox is the lawman, the one who has lived by that code refused to compromise. It raises him above the other characters, friends and enemies, colleagues and lovers, but isolates him too. Maddox questions the value of this, understands the fact it has sustained him through the years, but ultimately betrays it (and by extension himself) when confronted by the rank and venal behavior of the man who, in some respects, replaced him. It’s as though the knowledge of what he could become, if he were to submit to his desires, is too much for him and so must be banished.

Lawman was directed by Michael Winner, a man not noted for his subtlety either as a filmmaker or in any other area of life. It became fashionable to dismiss his work as crass and lacking in substance, but blanket judgements are rarely worthwhile and best avoided, in my opinion. Winner will never be regarded as a great filmmaker, which is fair enough, but it’s unjust to simply brush him aside as a hack. Some of his early work is very good – for example, West 11 is a neat little movie – and it wasn’t until  mid-70s that a significant decline in quality could be discerned. Lawman does have too many needless zooms and close-ups yet it also has pace and a kind of raw, brutal honesty that’s quite attractive.

Once again, we have a film whose stars hark back to the golden era of the genre – Lancaster, Ryan and Cobb were all involved in some of the finest westerns made and worked with the most talented directors, writers and cameramen. To browse their filmographies is to contemplate the heights cinema was capable of attaining, and their class is readily apparent in even the smallest gestures. There’s real pleasure and delight to be had from seeing these seasoned pros playing off each other and enjoying the nuances they could bring to parts effortlessly. Although that trio of heavy hitters would be enough to hold our interest by themselves there’s a terrific supporting cast to savor too – Albert Salmi, Joseph Wiseman, John McGiver, Richard Jordan, Robert Duvall, Robert Emhardt, J D Cannon, John Beck, Ralph Waite and more. It should be noted that the film is light on female representation; Sheree North is the only woman to play a part of any importance, but it’s a good role and one that impacts on the ultimate resolution.

Lawman is one of those United Artists titles released on DVD by MGM ages ago now. It’s typical of many such releases in that it’s just about passable but should look an awful lot better. On the plus side, the film is presented in the correct widescreen ratio and enhanced for 16:9 screens. On the other hand, there’s a softness about it and the usual artifacts and instances of print damage that need to be tidied up. The UK version I have has no extra features and I think the same can be said for the US edition too. Generally, I find I get on better with many (though not all) 70s westerns than the late 60s variety – it seems the genre settled down somewhat and made up its mind where it wanted to go by that stage – and I feel Lawman is deserving of a bit of attention. While it has suffered a bit due to the lackluster reputation its director earned over the years, it’s a good film and one that’s worth checking out.

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86 thoughts on “Lawman

  1. It’s nice to see you give a 70s era western a spin on the blog, Colin! I know several of your readers aren’t too fond of westerns from the 60s and 70s, but even if the 50s is the one to beat, there’s plenty of good stuff in those later decades. When I first saw LAWMAN, I didn’t really notice it was directed by Winner (who doesn’t have nearly the infamous reputation in the U.S. that he does in the U.K., of course; here he’s mostly known for his Chuck Bronson films, several of which are well done thrillers, like DEATH WISH, CHATO’S LAND and THE MECHANIC). I just saw an interesting psychological western. It does have that pessimistic, cynical worldview that characterizes the late 60s/early 70s, but it makes its case persuasively, and it’s hard to argue with that cast. Lancaster, like his pal Kirk Douglas, never seemed to mind playing unsympathetic characters, and his Maddox, while admirable in some ways, is not exactly a figure the audience can warm to. I remember the violence being pretty rough here too, something else heralded by THE WILD BUNCH but becoming more and more sadistic as the 70s rolled on (not thinking of LAWMAN so much here as I am stuff like THE LAST HARD MEN, THE HUNTING PARTY, etc.)

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    • Hi, Jeff. Winner’s movies did drop off in quality quite a lot as time wore on but this was made before that decline. There is an increased level of violence in this film, which was typical of the time – still, it’s not the celebration of killing or casual dismissal either that can make some of the lesser spaghetti westerns unpalatable. In contrast, a film like The Hunting Party, which you mention here, is just unpleasant.

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  2. Colin: You are very kind in your comments regarding Lawman. I have watched it several times, mostly because of Lancaster, but also with enough times between viewings that I need to recheck if it is as bad as I remember. My takeaways are always: 1) Burt Lancaster – too bad the movie is not deserving of how good he is in it. Totally committed, totally believable. A good example of what a great actor he was. 2) This had the makings of a really good movie. It should have been directed by someone who knew how to direct.,3) Great cast, wasted; and 4) The completely unbelievable (IMO) denouement.

    Burt was in two above average westerns at about this time: Vadez is Coming (very good), and Ulzana;s Raid (one of the best westerns ever). You’ve covered Ulzana, but how about posting your views on Valdez (which I think came out right before or after Lawman).

    As always, I really enjoy reading your thoughts on both westerns and noirs.

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    • Hello, Tony. I think a lot of people share your feelings about the movie and I enjoy seeing a variety of takes offered, so I appreciate you mentioning the problems it presented you with. Regarding the ending, and without wanting to stray into spoiler territory here, was it one particular aspect (you know what I mean, I guess) or the entire sequence yo had issues with?

      Valdez is Coming
      is another film I haven’t watched since I don’t know when – I read the Elmore Leonard novel about ten years ago, and it’s was a good while before that I last saw the film.

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      • Another hearty recommendation for you to cover VALDEZ IS COMING at some point, Colin…it really is a terrific film, and Burt does well in the title role, blue eyes and all. Another fine western based off an Elmore Leonard novel…kind of a shame Leonard moved on exclusively to crime after making his bones as a writer of westerns.

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        • Yes, Leonard’s western writing was excellent and I do regret he didn’t leave us more examples. He did return to the genre in the late 70s for Gunsights and Cuba Libre from the 90s is sometimes referred to as a western as well.

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          • There is an interview with Elmore Leonard on the Criterion edition of 3:10 TO YUMA. He said that although he loved writing westerns and would like to write more of them, he had to stop writing them because Hollywood stopped making westerns. He wrote westerns hoping for a movie sale, and usually he got a sale whether the film was made or not, because pragmatically a writer had to think in terms of earning a living. I found that a very intelligent response.

            Leonard had several interesting points to make. He liked the original 3:10 TO YUMA but not the remake for reasons. Valdez Is Coming sold to the movies before the book was actually published. He knew it would while he was writing it. In one of his most quotable quotes he said “All explaining movies can be thrown out, I think.”

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            • Very interesting. I do have that Criterion edition but haven’t listened to that interview – I’ll have to make a point of doing so now I’ve heard that.

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      • Hi Colin, As to the movie’s ending: I’ve got a copy of Lawman that I was hoping to rewatch before replying, but errands have gotten in the way. I can say this for sure: Lee J. Cobb’s character was not true to his character traits as portrayed in the rest of the movie. (phrased as best as I can). Struck me as a lazy writing. I cannot remember clearly, but something about the ending involving Sherry North’s husband (or maybe it’s her character – my memory fails me) also seemed off-tune.

        I’ll find the time in the coming days to rewatch this and see how accurate my memory is.

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        • Great to hear from you again, Tony. Personally, I didn’t see that much inconsistency in Cobb’s character. As regards J D Cannon, who played North’s man, I can see how his fate raised some eyebrows – although I can understand it too.
          Be glad to hear what you make of it if you do get round to viewing it.

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          • Hi Colin,
            So I got the DVD out and rewatched the ending. I can’t see Lee J Cobb’s character doing what he does. The scene with JD Cannon didn’t seem to me to be something that Maddox would do.

            I think I get more worked up about Lawman than I do other badly directed movies because it could have been a really, really good movie if someone with talent had directed it. Has any other director leaned so heavily on a zoom lens? And used it so poorly?

            Lawman, Chato’s Land, and The Mechanic all came out while I was in high school. I quit seeing any movie directed by Winner after that – even at 17, I thought they all had the possibility of being good movies had someone else made them.

            Robert Altman also liked zooming, but did it so much better. Which got me to thinking – In the year (1971) that Lawman was released, we also got to see:

            McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman) – one of the best movies ever
            The Cowboys (Rydell) – holds up quite well
            The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (Kaufman) – not as good as I remember it being
            The Hired Hand (Fonda) – Great, under known western
            Man In The Wilderness – I’d say Richard Harris is more believable than Leonardo in that role
            Support Your Local Gunfighter – Still a lot of fun to watch
            The Skin Game – Another James Garner movie
            Red Sun – I haven’t seen this recently, so don’t know how it holds up, but the Bronson/Mifune pairing was really cool when I was 17.

            Plus,you had Dirty Harry, Straw Dogs, The French Connection – what a great year for movies.

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            • Just reading through that list, Tony, brings home the range of films produced that year. Everything there won’t be to everyone’s taste but the variety itself is wonderful.

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  3. I have been looking out for your next review after Firecreek for the quite some time. But what a pleasant surprise to find its Lawman, one of the few 70s westerns I have enjoyed. Your review and interpretation of the movie is most apt. I have not seen this for a long time and will view it soon. Best regards.

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  4. I think Winner was probably at his best in the 60s, where his cherry but cynical disregard for authority really chimed with the times. But I agree with you – there is his work up to DEATH WISH and then there is everything that came after it, where that old definition of his work as ‘zoom and thump’ seems pretty darn accurate. Really enjoyed your musings on this one Colin – the cast is amazing, and as you say, having only a single strong female presence is a shame but hardly an isolated occurrence in the genre of the period! You’ve made me want to see it again – well done sir!

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    • I see Winner’s career in much the same way, Sergio, and I agree that pre and post Death Wish is a good way to view it.
      The lack of women is something I’ve noticed with a number of 70s westerns, much more so than films made in the preceding decades – the 40s and 50s featured women much more prominently and in pivotal roles. One could argue it was a reflection of the sparse numbers of females on the frontier but, looked at now, it does seem like a backward step compared to the films that had gone before.

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      • And it’s not just westerns – the 1970s was a great era for films, I do subscribe to that common notion, but you have to work quite hard to think of many that had really substantial roles for women (Diane Keaton’s role in THE GODFATHER being a classic example in my view). Apparently the bedroom scene between Lancaster and North was shot twice to create a version that would be OK for TV, like the two takes of the locker room sequence at the opening of CARRIE (which I mention as an example of a big 1970s hit that unusually had mostly strong female roles)

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  5. Another welcome and interesting review, Colin.
    As said before, the mid-60s onwards did not generally produce a body of westerns of which I am at all fond. There were exceptions though, of course, and to some extent ‘LAWMAN’ is one of them. Admittedly 1971 is now many years past, my memory is that in the UK at least this film generated quite a bit of controversy on its release. For a start, society had become highly politicised by that point and the film seems to have been something of a target of the Left who saw the Lancaster figure as some sort of unacceptable weapon of the Right. I was intrigued therefore to see it for myself and have to confess I saw little of that in it really – just a traditional western really dressed up in more violent and more questioning clothes, as was increasingly the case then. I liked the film more than the reviews had led me to expect, but again I think that had a great deal for me personally to do with the excellent stars, Lancaster and Ryan, and the subtlety and strength of their performances.
    It has though been many years since I viewed the film so it would be interesting to see it again through 2016 eyes, so to speak. By coincidence, I recently picked up that MGM DVD issue from 2004 so it is in my ‘to watch’ pile. Your review has heightened my desire to bring it to the top – and soon!

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    • Jerry, that’s very interesting to hear about the perceived political tone of the film back then – I was still a toddler at that point so have no recall of such things. I must admit I didn’t get that feeling about the movie, Lancaster’s character didn’t strike me as being representative of any political creed and was more concerned with his own professionalism and personality morality.
      I’m pleased to hear you recently acquired a copy of the film and feel like seeing it now – job done as far as I’m concerned!

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  6. I think some people were looking for political slants on EVERYTHING at that time, Colin!

    I find it hard to agree with Sergio’s view that “the 70s were a great era for films” though and not just westerns either. I found a lot of them shoddy and very dated-looking now.

    A title to drop in though where a woman has a terrific role in that era – Jane Fonda in “KLUTE”.

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    • Klute is an excellent movie, Jerry.
      By and large, I’m OK with the 70s as far as filmmaking in general goes – I think the 80s saw a huge dip in quality, although I’m not sure how much we should try to judge on the basis of decades alone.
      There is a certain look that one finds in 70s cinema of course, which might be part of what you’re referring to. I’m not sure if it was because of the film stock used at the time, but I know it when I see it.

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      • It all comes down to personal preference really, of course. I completely respect Sergio’s opinion and certainly my intention was not to suggest otherwise of course.
        I guess it sometimes depends on the era we grew up on partly. After so many classic films in the 50s, westerns in particular, I found much of what was coming out by the 70s included an awful lot of dross (just a personal opinion BTW). There were always exceptions in all genres – of course there were – and “THE SHOOTIST” is a major exception.

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        • It’s good to get a range of views on these things on here, Jerry. If we’re all saying the same thing, then the chat and fun can dry up pretty fast – all shades of opinion are more than welcome here, as always.

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  7. I too found the 80s were a huge dip in filmmaking. The 50s and 60s were the heydays of westerns, swashbucklers, peplum, Elvis Presley musicals and James Bond/espionage movies. Best regards.

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    • Hi Chris,

      Nice to see you use the “P” word…i.e. Peplum.
      I saw tons of those in the Sixties,they were normally doubled billed with on old Universal
      Western in those great days of double features.
      What dismays me is the lack of these films on DVD or better still Blu Ray.
      I often wish there was a “Eurotrash” label that concentrated solely on Peplum,Sword
      & Sandal,Spaghetti Westerns,Euro Crime Thrillers and Giallo.
      I’d love to see some of these Steve Reeves,Reg Park, Richard Harrison Lex Barker type
      films get the high def treatment.
      I have very fond memories of films like WARLORD OF CRETE (aka The Minotaur)
      and THE GIANT OF MARATHON and HERCULES IN THE CENTER OF THE EARTH.

      Chris, You may be interested in the recent MGM MOD release of REVOLT OF THE SLAVES
      it’s a stunning widescreen transfer-better than lots of Blu Ray’s that I have seen.
      It’s more a Sword & Sandal than Peplum I might add.
      OK it’s not exactly BEN HUR but it’s not HERCULES UNCHAINED either!!

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      • I recall seeing a number of Peplum films on TV when I was little and liking them quite a bit – I see there are a number available in Germany in what look like English friendly editions. If anyone has any comments on the quality of the releases, feel free to comment.

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    • I know this is purely anecdotal but I found I went to the cinema far less in the 80s than in the 70s (when my parents took me of course) or in the 90s and following decades.

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  8. I pretty much agree with Jeff,on his excellent opener here-I too find much to enjoy in 70’s
    Westerns and in 70’s cinema in general.This begs the question- when are we getting a new
    thread on Jeff’s very fine blog. Furthermore Jeff,welcome to the wonderful World of region free
    Blu Ray…as commented over at The Hannibal 8.
    I don’t want to delve too deep into post 1965 Westerns this has been covered in great detail
    on the previous RTHC post and the recent marathon over at Toby’s.
    I will state that 1976 alone produced two all time classics:THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES and
    THE SHOOTIST.I might add that THE SHOOTIST is due on Blu Ray next month from Germany.

    I have not seen LAWMAN since it’s original release-I’d like to give it another look and will certainly
    buy a Blu Ray should it surface sometime in the future.All I remember is that the film looked good
    but I found Lancaster’s cold character hard to take at the time.
    When later Lancaster Westerns are mentioned the title that always gets overlooked is CATTLE
    ANNIE & LITTLE BRITCHES.That’s a shame because it’s the best of Burt’s later Westerns and
    that includes ULZANA’S RAID. Cattle Annie is often dismissed as a “comedy” Western which it
    certainly is not.The are light hearted moments,to be sure but it’s also gritty and authentic.
    Lancaster is sensational and is well supported by a non hammy Rod Steiger.
    ULZANA’S RAID is another film I have not seen since it’s initial release-I remember liking it a lot
    and am very much looking forward to the forthcoming Blu Ray from Elephant Films in France-more
    about them later.

    As you may have gathered I prefer to re-visit these late 60’s and 70’s films on Blu Ray;this is
    partly because of the great wealth of 50’s films now available on DVD. I recently got the Blu of
    DOC and found the film far better than I remembered it.John Wayne still made some good
    Westerns in the 70’s…one of his best CHISUM is due on Blu Ray from Germany in June.
    Knowing Warner Bros release patterns,I guess CHISUM should also surface in The States and
    the UK at the same time.
    I live in hope that films like NEVADA SMITH,TOM HORN and WILL PENNY will eventually get
    released on Blu Ray.

    Now regarding the aforementioned Elephant Films,a French imprint with very user friendly
    menus and easy to disable subtitles.Everything I’ve had from them so far has been top notch.
    I’m also heartened to see DVD Beaver finally review Elephant releases. DVD Beaver is the
    Bible for serious film collectors-Gary provides a supreme service for potential buyers with
    his wonderful reviews.I’m glad to see Gary give “thumbs up” for Elephant’s terrific series of
    high def versions of those great classic Universal Horrors. The gig is,if Universal can supply
    a high-def master then it’s a Blu Ray release,otherwise a DVD.
    Some very tasty releases in the pipeline including NIGHT PASSAGE on Blu Ray.
    Sadly Elephant’s forthcoming Blu Ray of SIGN OF THE PAGAN would appear to be 4×3.
    This is further evidence of the feared loss of Universal masters for several CinemaScope films.
    At the time I believe SIGN OF THE PAGAN was available to cinemas in widescreen and 4×3
    versions purely because many cinemas at the time refused to adapt to the new widescreen process.As Elephant have an exclusive deal with Universal,and they cannot source a widescreen
    master this sadly leaves little hope for the much sought after “missing” CinemaScope Westerns
    DAY OF THE BAD MAN,SAGA OF HEMP BROWN and WILD AND THE INNOCENT.

    Finally a word regarding Mr Winner.
    I think his lack of respect in the UK at least,is due to his over inflated view of his own self
    importance. This may have been somewhat tongue in cheek but at the same time he did
    turn many people off with his bragging.
    I agree with Colin WEST 11 is a very fine film as is THE SYSTEM. I’d certainly love to see
    THE JOKERS and I’LL NEVER FORGET WOT’IS NAME again…I liked them both a lot at the time.

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    • Great detailed comment, John – thanks for that.
      I saw those reviews of the Elephant versions of the Uni horrors that Gary put up and they look very nice indeed – sadly though, I think you may be right about the loss of prints in the fire.

      And yes, Winner came across poorly in the media and that probably played a part in how his work was perceived – the early material is good and was/is undervalued by a lot of people.

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      • A friend of mine knew screenwriter Gerry Wilson pretty well.
        He said that he liked working with Winner because Winner did
        not tamper with/re-write his scripts.
        They had a minor falling out over SCORPIO but that was resolved.
        Mr Wilson stated that he was very pleased with the way LAWMAN
        turned out.

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    • Hello, John, and thanks for the kind words re: my blog. Been on an extended break, but hope to return to the world of blogging again sometime soon(ish), when the mood strikes.

      I haven’t seen CATTLE ANNIE & LITTLE BRITCHES, the title not really selling it to me in the past, but will try and take a look at it based on your strong recommendation above. Am quite fond of CHISUM and will certainly add that Blu-Ray to my collection when it becomes available.

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  9. I’ve gotta ask…..and I’ll probably wish I hadn’t…..but what is Peplum please? Something akin to sword and sandal epics, I presume, but different??

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  10. Colin your reply above brought back fond memories of the Sixties. If I may add Death in the arena starring Mark Forest, Slaves of Rome starring Guy Madison, Alone against Rome starring Lang Jeffries and Romulus and Remus starring Reeves and Scott were among the better ones. BEST REGARDS.

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  11. Further to my earlier post, Death in the arena was also called Colossus of the arena and likewise Romulus and remus was released as Duel of the titans. Best regards.

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  12. I watched a number of Peplum films because of Mario Bava. I wanted to study his lighting and optical effects. Before Bava became a director of horror films, he was a photographer and cameraman known for his extreme use of colored gels in lighting, and for painting glass mattes that he would turn into part of the set or in some cases the entire set. Some of the films Bava was a photographer on were included in box-sets of other sword and sandal films. I can’t say I enjoyed them much. Watching muscle flexes failed to interest me especially when the men were in such contrast to the beautiful women cast in secondary roles. It seemed to me that men wore too little and the women wore too much. I enjoyed the visual style and atmosphere of the one sword and sandal film that Bava directed, Hercules In the Haunted World (1961), which was different from the others, more like one of Bava’s horror films. After several years of making sword and sandal films Italy gave up on them and segued into the spaghetti western.

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  13. Bava’s HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD was titled HERCULES IN THE CENTRE OF THE
    EARTH in the UK…I loved it at the time and cast also included Christopher Lee.
    Hercules was played by Brit Reg Park…..Arnies mentor.
    I saw it on a double bill at the Broadway cinema Hammersmith-the support feature was
    SEVENTH CAVALRY…a very good show indeed.
    The Broadway was an off circuit cinema that always picked up unusual films-loads of great
    Horror double bills.

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  14. For some reason the folks who distributed these “Peplums” in the Sixties were able to pick
    up Fifties Westerns really cheap to fill the double bill-it was a great way to catch up with
    films that you had missed the first time around.
    One of the most prolific of US stars who churned out dozens of Peplums and also Spaghetti
    Westerns was Richard Harrison. Richard had a minor role in MASTER OF THE WORLD.
    Vincent Price remarked to William Witney that he ought to let Richard take his shirt off-and he’ll
    become a movie star. Witney agreed.Richard married producer James Nicholson’s daughter and
    they headed off to Italy where he found great success.
    I remember really enjoying an early Harrison effort PERSEUS AGAINST THE MONSTERS.
    Another inspired double bill was Harrison in a pre Indiana Jones romp called JUNGLE ADVENTURER (in the UK at least) I saw it at the Odeon Brick Lane paired with the Sterling Hayden
    Western TOP GUN. Remember this was years before multiplexes-these films played often on
    huge single screens.
    To add to Jerry’s question…”Peplum”was more attached to the “Muscleman” type pictures,
    as opposed to the Sword & Sandal” type romps.All good fun and I wish more of them would get
    released.

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    • Just the idea of double-bills as eclectic as those you’re recalling is fun in itself. Those movies used to run from time to time on TV when I was growing up but I haven’t even heard of one being scheduled for ages.

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  15. Thanks for the added info, John – knew I shouldn’t have asked though!!

    I used to travel all over London in those years seeking little independent cinemas that did great double-bills of the type you mention. I spent a great deal of time and trouble getting to one in Wembley one weekday evening around 1971 only to find the show cancelled because of the infamous “3-day week” (remember that?) when the power was shut down at short notice. Grrrrrr

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  16. LAWMAN has some great moments even if it it isn’t necessarily a great movie. My favourite is the scene where the town’s elders warily approach Lancaster’s overly zealous marshal in a quiet saloon to timidly enquire whether too much Law n’ Order is good for business. During a pregnant pause whilst one of bunch musters up the courage to speak, the marshal with an almost ineffable sense of world weariness confronts his employers with the question … “Who’s got the words?”….thus transforming a cliched scene that’s been done a trillion times before into an almost Zen-like dialogue. The problem with LAWMAN and so many other Seventies Westerns is that they are as tired as Lancaster’s Marshal Maddox, and by that time, we, like him had seen it all before and no amount of exaggerated violence, casual nudity or nihilistic vendetta could revive the genre to the lyrical heights of the mid-Fifties. The ending of LAWMAN in particular is grotesque and squalid and wastes some fine actors and some interesting ideas in the earlier part of the movie.

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  17. I actually found the scene in LAWMAN that I mentioned above on YouTube. It plays out slightly differently from how I remembered, but it’s powerful nonetheless. Here’s the link….

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    • Yes, it’s a variation on a scene that played in many movies over they ears – but quite effectively done all the same.
      There is something in what you say about the tiredness of the genre when we get to this stage.

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  18. I like this film because I like the lead actors. Winner is somewhat maligned because of his later work but I agree that his early output with Ollie and Bronson are watchable and overall enjoyable. Love the one sheet for this title and yup, it’s in my collection.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I was in two minds to post the following over at Toby’s-there is a very interesting thread developing
    but as I’ve hi-jacked Toby’s quiet a bit of late;I’m rather enjoying taking a back seat and enjoying
    the comments of others.
    So what I’m basically saying Colin is that you’re lumbered mate! 🙂
    Firstly as no doubt you have noticed Kino lorber have now tapped into the parent company
    Fox for some future releases. Kino Lorber for some considerable time have been releasing
    titles from the MGM/UA library. Fox of course are the parent company.
    Before I get into all this just to put the record straight MGM/UA’s library consists of mainly
    United Artists and American International titles.
    The vintage MGM library is now owned by Warner Brothers. Warners also own the RKO catalog,
    and many Allied Artists/Monogram titles.
    Universal own all the pre 1949 Paramount titles.
    Paramount own all their post 1949 product plus the entire Republic catalog. The Republic library
    also includes a huge chunk of Monogram and Allied Artrists titles which were sold to them years
    ago.Paramount also own quiet a few of the RegalScope pictures which were sold to Republic
    many years back.
    Having said all that Kino Lorber have announced several Fox titles including YELLOW SKY and
    THE OX BOW INCIDENT.-making their USA Blu Ray debut. I understand these titles are already
    available on Blu Ray in Europe.
    Yours truly has made several comments on Kino Lorber’s Facebook page that it would be great
    to see them release some “unreleased” Fox product i.e. titles that have never even had a DVD
    release or a DVD release in the correct ratio.
    There are some very interesting Westerns there:THE DEERSLAYER,SIERRA BARON,
    THE FIERCEST HEART (South African Wagon Train Western) THE CANADIANS.
    Also many CinemaScope productions like SEVEN CITIES OF GOLD,ON THE THRESHOLD OF
    SPACE,WAY TO THE GOLD,FIVE GATES TO HELL,SEVEN WOMEN FROM HELL and many
    others.
    My comments seem to have been backed up by other Facebook users.
    I for one look forward to,hopefully Blu Ray editions of THE GUNFIGHTER,RAWHIDE,
    THE PROUD ONES,THE BRAVADOS and FROM HELL TO TEXAS.
    There has been quiet a bit of discussion over at Toby’s of late from those who endorse Blu Ray’s
    and those who prefer to stay with DVD versions. Both sides of the arguement make valid points.
    That is why I find the aforementioned DVD Beaver so essential…their concise reviews really
    are the decider as to go for the upgrade.
    Interestingly,they thought that the mega expensive USA Blu Ray of BROKEN LANCE was inferior
    to the UK DVD.
    A friend loaned me the recent Blu Ray of KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL…I much prefer the
    DVD….more tonal range and better grain…which I like. I’m of course referring to the 2007
    USA Region 1 MGM.UA DVD not the horrid p.d. hell versions of this film.
    What I’m really looking forward to,and I’m sure it will happen are the wonderful Fox Noirs
    appearing on Blu Ray. I’d get a Blu Ray of THE STREET WITH NO NAME in a heartbeat.
    My Euro DVD of CRY OF THE CITY is sensational…certainly no need for an upgrade there.
    I would find a Blu Ray of KISS OF DEATH very hard to resist, although my DVD as I recall is fine.
    What the folks say over at Toby’s who have embraced the Blu Ray format generally say is that
    “if I love a film..I want to love it in the finest quality available”…I go along with that.
    Like Gary at DVD Beaver I just cannot resist these Blu Rays of Universal Horrors Elephant in
    France are releasing. I know eventually Universal USA will release all these films in a wonderful
    Blu Ray box set…it’s just I cannot wait. Furthermore I’m sure the films that Universal do not have
    high-def masters for at the moment will eventually surface on Blu Ray as “stand alone” releases.
    In June Elephant are releasing all the Mummy follow-ups including the A&C version.
    At this point in time I do not know which ones will be Blu Ray editions…some great stuff there.

    Like

    • I take a pragmatic approach to the whole DVD vs Blu-ray business. Essentially, I’m happy to upgrade to BD if a film becomes available whose transfer I felt was deficient in some way before. But this doesn’t apply a=to all titles and I’ll still buy the DVD if the price is right and the presentation is solid.
      Actually, I like the way Arrow and Eureka in the UK do a lot of Dual format releases, satisfying everyone. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming Arrow releases of the FNF restorations of Too Late for Tears & Woman on the Run.

      Like

  20. Just as an add on to all of the above I’d just like to add a couple of points.
    Firstly those second string Universal Horrors look so good in high definition.
    Watched HOUSE OF DRACULA recently…pure nonsense of course but such a beautiful looking
    film. George Robinson what a genius he was..his stunning photography and lighting add
    so much to those films. Those Universal Horrors had such wonderful production values.
    Don’t know Colin if you have come across an outfit called Hollywood Scrapheap.
    Their site is certainly worth a look. They seem to be releasing DVD’s one would presume
    downloaded from streamed versions. Their site is full of unreleased films mainly from Paramount-
    top heave with Pine Thomas and Republic productions. Their packaging and graphics are impressive.
    I recently got their version of CAPTAIN CHINA a film I have been after for ages.
    The previous “off air” versions I had were like watching a film through a haze of medieval murk.
    The Hollywood Scrapheap version is very acceptable.
    Mr Entract mentioned recently that he had never been able to track down a decent copy of
    RED MOUNTAIN.Well,Hollywood Scrapheap have a very nice looking version on their site…….
    screencaps and all. I presume this is the same source from which the recent Italian bootleg was
    transferred from. As I recall Colin,you found the Italian version quiet acceptable.
    I’ve got that too and the picture quality is way above what has previously been available.
    At any rate Jerry,you can pick up the Italian DVD on Amazon UK for £13 if interested.
    Also of interest is that the Spanish have recently bootlegged the Italian version.
    Well my attitude is if Paramount refuse to release these films…serve them right.
    Also of interest is that the Spanish have recently announced Andre De Toth’s very fine
    LAST OF THE COMANCHES. I have no idea what the source or indeed the quality is like.
    One thing’s for sure it cannot be a bootleg of the Sidonis version because that has not been
    released yet.

    Like

    • Cheers, will check that out. On the subject of Italian releases, there are a number of titles on the way that caught my eye and should be of interest: Gunsmoke in Tucson, Great Day in the Morning, Naked Alibi, Cry of the Hunted.

      Like

      • Hi Colin,
        Could not find any of those titles on Amazon Italy.
        The one that interests me most is NAKED ALIBI.
        I have GUNSMOKE IN TUSCON and CRY OF THE HUNTED.
        The latter is medium range Joseph H Lewis-lots of underdeveloped
        subplots;but you’ll want it anyway.
        Refreshing to see a Fifties crime film where the cop (Barry Sullivan)
        has a very anti-gun attitude,he does not even carry one.
        He is,however pretty handy with his fists!
        I will wait for the Warner Archive restored version of the Tourneur film,
        though I’d love to know the source of the italian version.

        BTW regarding your recent comment over at Toby’s….I too would
        consider 1957 as a sort of “banner year”

        Like

        • John, I know why I had previously discounted the Spanish DVD of “RED MOUNTAIN”. Amazon website says it is dubbed into Spanish (or do they mean that option is AVAILABLE)???

          Like

          • Hi Jerry,

            The Italian version of RED MOUNTAIN has an English language
            option. Most,if not all Spanish DVD’s of American films do have
            an English soundtrack.
            Check out Hollywood Scrapheap’s website…that will give you
            some idea of the picture quality.

            Like

              • I must admit I haven’t really explored European DVD issues of American westerns much, so knowledge not great on them. I did recently send for the Llamentol Spanish issue of “RED SUNDOWN” though and it is a BEAUT!!

                Like

                • It’s a beaut, alright! I bought the Spanish blu-ray of RED SUNDOWN, too, after learning about the film from Colin’s review here. I’d never heard of it before. Turned out to be one superb town-tamer western. Loved Jack Arnold’s direction and everything about it. Tougher than most 1950s westerns. Shot almost entirely on the Universal backlot; both on the grass slopes and in the street set.

                  Like

          • Thanks Colin,
            Though these do look like “bootlegs”…from streamed films perhaps?
            It seems to be from the same outfit that gave us RED MOUNTAIN and up till now
            that’s the best version available.
            I would advise you to avoid GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING as it’s noted as 4×3.
            I would also advise waiting for the restored widescreen Warner Archive version,
            whenever that may be.
            If you do get any of these I would be interested to hear your comments.
            I suspect CRY OF THE HUNTED and GUNSMOKE IN TUCSON are straight rips
            (rip off’s) of the Warner Archive versions. The Lewis film in particular was a very
            nice transfer.

            Taking the moral high ground I have no problem with the Spanish and Italians
            releasing “unofficial” versions of Paramount/Republic/Pine Thomas titles
            as Paramount have no intention of releasing them on DVD’s or Blu’s.
            I Do object to them ripping off Warner Archive releases as Warners are the only
            major studio committed to releasing obscure/little known films.
            I feel these “Euro rip off could compromise future releases.
            Having said that they probably won’t and they are probably rips from Warner’s
            streaming site.

            Like

            • I couldn’t say what the original source of a lot of these titles is, John. Some that I’ve seen are excellent, others less so. Again, I can’t comment on the legitimacy or otherwise but, if they are unofficial, the studios don’t seem to be especially bothered.

              Like

              • Colin,If these releases don’t carry the official logo i.e. Paramount,Universal
                then they are bootlegs.
                The copyright laws in Spain and I guess Italy are such that these companies
                can get away with it.
                The “Big Boys” can fend for themselves but what gets my goat is when they
                start ripping off small companies like Eureka and Explosive.
                I note that The Spanish have already bootlegged Eureka’s fine version of
                DAY OF THE OUTLAW.
                I look forward to feedback on the titles that you do decide to go for.

                Like

                  • Thanks Colin,
                    Very interesting. Regarding DANGEROUS MISSION always a
                    firm favorite of mine I have a decent French version from several
                    years back. The film is one of several RKO titles that need
                    serious restoration work MONTANA BELLE being another.
                    Warners I believe do have these as works in progress.
                    Be very interested to get your feedback on THE LAST COMMAND.
                    It would seem the only way we are getting the Paramount?Republic
                    stuff is through Euro imprints like this or Hollywood Scrapheap.
                    Like I said before I was very pleased with the quality of CAPTAIN CHINA
                    and the film is excellent and should be more well known.

                    BTW great news that you are back in “buying mode”
                    Both films you mention would make great future RTHC essays.

                    Like

                    • Never heard of Captain China myself till you mentioned it, John – sounds like an interesting one though.
                      I know those two titles I mentioned have been available elsewhere before – I have an off-air of The Last Command myself – but I was curious to see how they look. And yes, they’re the kind of thing ought to fit in very nicely here.

                      Like

  21. I commend Colin for drawing attention to this fine film. There were many good westerns that year, 1971, including A GUNFIGHT, THE HIRED HAND, THE WILD ROVERS, BIG JAKE, SKIN GAME, the revisionist DOC, the masterpiece McCABE & MRS. MILLER, the comedy SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GUNFIGHTER, and the British-American westerns filmed in Spain CATLOW and HANNIE CAULDER. I look upon LAWMAN as a progressive and significant western. It is about weariness and futility, about trying to hold onto dreams even as it slips through one’s fingers, about pride and honor, and integrity and courage. These are all hardened men who are stuck in their ways in the face of crushing disappointment. Sheree North has the best line when she appeals to her former lover and lawman Maddox to spare her husband, an appeal he cannot grant. “You never gave much away” she tells him. The point being that he never conceded a point, never bent the rules, never showed any mercy. He doesn’t want to shoot anybody and says so persistently, adding that he will do his job. In a society where life was cheap and judges can be bought, Maddox upholds the letter of the law no matter who it hurts. Joseph Wiseman has the other great retort “You can’t see from where you stand.” No one is willing to give an inch — not the cattle baron, who is willing to put things right on his own terms, which are unacceptable to the law as in Maddox, nor his partner, cowhands and son who’d rather kill Maddox than be arrested or buy the judge. In the last moments only Maddox, the seemingly unfeeling and unyielding lawman, is willing to change. He is finally ready to ride out without his prisoners, but they won’t let him. Burt Lancaster’s lawman is holding onto the one thing that makes life bearable, being strong for the law, for everybody. It is a flinty performance, deeply felt and genuine. Script writer Gerald Wilson takes familiar story threads to places the western had not gone before. It is also a sad story, full of tragedy and probing dialog. It has something the best westerns always achieved dating back to the silent days, namely an unflinching honesty. There are several classic scenes, not the least of which is the bloody ending. It communicates the emotional impact and senselessness of the violence by cutting to close-ups of people’s reactions. Regardless of who directed it, I think LAWMAN is a sensational western, even if it is British.

    Like

    • Yes, one of the things that you bring away from the film is the idea of people being locked into positions, doggedly following courses which they know cannot end well, yet unable to break free. In a sense, the western was working itself into a similarly inflexible place at this point in time – focusing its gaze inward and seeking meaning from within when the heyday of the genre saw it doing the opposite, looking at the wider world and commenting on that through the medium of the western.

      Like

  22. Thanks for another insightful review Colin.
    I remember seeing Lawman on release and have seen it again since. The mood has something of the hopelessness and eerie alienation of’Johnny Guitar’ about it; and although each film is compelling in its own way, i am not a great fan of either. Yet the same eminence gris can be found in another Burt Lancaster movie, ‘The Swimmer’, and in this particular case the mood hits an elegiac note rather than the nihilist sentiment of Lawman. I’d love to read a review of yours about that film Colin! DO IT! 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks for that, Chris. Johnny Guitar is a film I wrote about in the past (almost 4 years ago now!) here.
      I haven’t seen The Swimmer for many years now but it’s a powerful movie and one I really must revisit – thanks for the reminder.

      Like

  23. Colin, if I may change the topic for a moment, I’m looking for the longer cut of MARCH OR DIE (1977) on DVD. The USA theatrical version, running 107 minutes, was finally issued widescreen and intact by Hens Tooth Video in 2015, but not the European version, a different edit with alternative and additional footage which I understand aired once on television some thirty-odd years ago. Does anyone know if the European version has been released on DVD on your side of the pond?

    Like

    • I’m only aware of the standard theatrical cut myself – a quick search suggests the UK, Spanish, Italian & Dutch releases are that version. I had a low quality old Greek disc years ago that also was the standard cut – others may know of more options though.

      Like

  24. Pingback: Spring Fling: Year of Bests – 2016 | It Rains... You Get Wet

  25. Wow. I actually recall seeing this at a drive-in triple bill in the mid 70’s with 100 RIFLES and one of MAG 7 sequels. Time to add it to the re-watch list. Gad, but do i miss drive-ins.

    Like

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