My Favorite Films
gobirds2 | New England | 03/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE ALAMO is one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time. THE ALAMO is one of our nation's greatest cinematic icons of "Film Americana" ever made. Through word, song and picture the legend of the Alamo was handed down and stills lives today. Men and women of different religious, ethnic and social backgrounds came together and died or lost loved ones at the Alamo in a noble effort to overcome tyranny and preserve basic human freedoms. John Wayne preserved that legend on film. John Wayne produced, directed and starred in this epic mixing nobility with bawdiness resulting in a reverence for the ideals of the defenders seen through their personal lives and conduct. The cast, script, production design and score added to the richly textured look and feel to the film. John Wayne is effective in his portrayal of Col. David Crockett. However, John Wayne takes a back seat to the brilliant performances of Laurence Harvey as Col. William Travis and Richard Widmark as Col. James Bowie as they feud and bicker over the virtues of military protocol vs. military expedience. Wayne in turn approaches the role of Crockett as the levelheaded onlooker who interjects this legend with passages of homespun witticism to keep the defenders from losing focus of their reason for being there. Cinematographer William Clothier's images are proud and majestic depicting the honor of the defenders. James Edward Grant's script is intelligent, energetic and moving. Equally energetic and moving is the eloquent and multi-textured score by Dimitri Tiomkin. Tiomkin's scoring of the final battle scene is brilliant and highly overlooked. Tiomkin integrates the nobility of the combatants with the fervor of the conflict and with simple queues he emotionally captures the falling of each defender in a brief moment of reflection as the battle rages on. His song "The Green Leaves of Summer" is beautiful, reflective and haunting and is effectively integrated into the context of why the defenders gave their lives. THE ALAMO thanks to John Wayne's determination and insight to what drives the American spirit.
I believe it is the nature of the THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN gunfighters, their motives for that one chance at gallantry and redemption. That combined with the way the story is visually told makes for its greatness. It teaches us something about nobility, dignity and devotion. The hearse-ride taken up to Boot Hill with Yul Brynner driving and Steve McQueen riding shotgun sets the stage and tone for the entire film. Images such as when Charles Bronson, is bent over with a bullet inside and the three little Mexican boys clutch him crying out his name while in his death throes bring a tear to the eye. In another the viewer reflects along with Yul Brynner as he takes the lifeless James Coburn's knife out of the adobe wall and folds it gently in his hand. These are heart rendering and indelible images. Even Eli Wallach as the bandit Calvera gets his moment of pathos. After being mortally wounded by Yul Brynner's bullet, Calvera can not believe that the seven came back to save the village even after the villagers told them that they did not want their help anymore. "You came back. A man like you. Why?" asks Calvera as he dies. Yul Brynner has no answer for him. It was as if Brynner had committed some sacrilege.
Director John Sturges captured the ambiguities of the human spirit in this film.
For me Yul Brynner was the epitome of `cool' and aplomb. From his dark gray and black outfit down to the tip of his thin cheroot he was the kind of man others look up to but keep their distance. Yul Brynner as Chris, was a man of few words and often communicated by the mere gesture of the hand. Of the seven, he was the cohesive element that drew them together simply by his demeanor. The aura of his worldliness beckoned them all to the place he was heading. He was just the first to recognize it. Brynner too was the cohesive element that kept them all together. Brynner was the one who followed some unwritten code of honor that is only alluded to in a few passages. McQueen was perfect as the gunfighter who was "just drifting" and signed on with Brynner. The levelheaded McQueen represents the other characters' realizations one by one as they join. James Coburn was perfect, as the stoic knife throwing Britt, who lived only for the thrill of the moment. Charles Bronson as O'Reilly played his stoically rugged but sympathetic role better than any actor could have. Bronson had a unique visual presence whose kind facial expressions counterbalanced his pockmark face and strong physique. Bronson was a conundrum unto himself and perfect for the role. Brad Dexter's performance as the unlucky fortune hunter has gone unrecognized. He was the least noble of the seven and died the mercenary to the end. Still, he gains our sympathy after returning in the clutch and saves his friend Chris and in turn is killed. Dying in the arms of his friend, Chris lets him go to the grave with a lie. Robert Vaughn's character was probably the most interesting of the seven. His enigmatic portrayal of Lee the tormented soul and not really the coward he labeled himself somehow never stood out. Only his act of redemption, his gun play and death during the finale lingers. Vaughn's portrayal is a success because as he said he was "the coward hiding out in the middle of a battlefield" and at that he succeeded. Horst Buchholz gave an energetic and bravura performance the only one of the seven that had not yet been corrupted by the world. At the end he symbolically hangs his guns up and roles up his sleeves. Brynner and McQueen say that "only the farmers have won" and they lost. As they ride off into screen immortality I think we all won.
Great Double Feature
kametamorphic | East Haven | 08/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and THE ALAMO. What a great double feature. They don't make them like this any more. Remember the good old days."