"This is one time that I have to take exception to the house reviewer. Yes, it's an essential piece of American cinema. Yes, it's one of Peckinpah's best films. But the review overlooks so much.
This was the cinematic swan song for two more-than-noteworthy stars of quintessentially American movies. Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott both turn in magnificent performances, as do the extras-- notably Peckinpah regular (and perhaps the most under-appreciated American actor ever to grace the screen) Warren Oates. And you don't have to look fast for him, folks. He's a big part of the film.
In a way, Ride the High Country was deconstructionist before Unforgiven ever hit the big screen-- by thirty years or so. Like Eastwood's hit, the film manages to express reverence for and contempt of the mythology of the American West at the same time. All the stock players are here, but never presented as stereotypes. Bankers, prostitutes, prospectors, missionaries, young bucks, lawmen, hucksters and outlaws. Anyone familiar with westerns knows the drill. Only this time it's different.
Though recognized as a genius, Peckinpah is just as often derided as a misogynistic Hemingway-wannabe these days. What a shame. This film is no macho fantasy. Instead, it's a look at the seemingly inevitable (and lamentable) decay of principles that results when high-minded people find themselves in a situation and a setting that doesn't conform to their preconceptions of how things ought to be (Straw Dogs, anyone?)-- and what happens when they 'return to normalcy' in the wake of atrocity. When everything's on the line, one might just be faced with the sort of challenge to faith (in anything held dear) that we all dread confronting. Stand true and lose it all, or sell out and win? Or is there an easy out? This would be a theme throughout the director's work, but here it is ingeniously presented in an ostensibly straightforward horse opera that cleverly plays on viewer expectations. What appears to be another entry in a breezy, escapist genre ultimately reveals itself to be a meditation on just how difficult it is to ever escape the travails of life. And how much it can cost to achieve that same goal.
As much as the film points an accusing finger at the western, there are many ways in which the director expresses his own sense of hope that such fairy-tale wishes could come true. Guess I'll have to settle for the Police Academy box set while I wait for this one to turn up on DVD....."
One of the Finest Westerns Ever Made
Matthew J. Gallagher | Wilton, Connecticut United States | 01/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is what they mean when they say, "they don't make them like that anymore." With all the praise inexplicably heaped on a piece of crap called "A History of Violence", a ridiculous, mindless film, based on a barely literate cartoon strip, you often wonder exactly what has happened to American films - which used to be the envy of the world for their craftsmanship and acting. "Ride the High Country" was apparently considered a very good little "B" movie in its first release - but time and care now reveals it to be an American classic. Two terrific actors, in their glorious twilight, working with an upcoming director, team up for a beautifully crafted, gorgeously filmed and scored, Western about character and justice. TCM has been showing the widescreen version of this gem for a couple of years - and now here it is where it belongs - on DVD for every true film fan to see. Forget Tarantino's mindless violence. Forget the quick cuts and lack of storytelling talent of practically every film director in the business right now: this is how it is done, and the director of this film never did as well (he too lapsed into cheap "slow motion" violence and other inhuman traits as his own film career lurched on). Here we have a story told with depth and clarity - and HUMANITY. Scott and McCrea are two great stars who know something about manhood, decency, wit, grace, and strength. Where are these kinds of films now? Where are the male actors who can inhabit these roles with some degree of class, grace, and strength? Why can't ANYONE do a simple, clear, human Western, as it was once done, which often had so much to say about contemporary times ("High Noon," as one example)? At least we have this and you can't argue with it: a spare, stunning Western, with one of the great climaxes in film history. A MUST!"
About darn time!
William W. Miller | Sparks, NV United States | 11/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the best westerns made. It was released on laser disc a long time ago. Now they're finally getting around to DVD. Two venerable stars go out with a blaze of glory in this tale about the end of an era. Both in terms of time and setting of the film and also the end of Hollywood turning out westerns as standard movie fare. And as to the latter, I am sincerely regretfull. You have adequate folks laying out the story line here, suffice it to say it's about two old friends who have a falling out over a gold shipment they're transporting and their commitment to get it to the rightful owner, complicated by the marriage gone wrong of a young lady that joins them along the way. Just know that's it's done with class and a bit of reverence for the genre. As it should be."
Please release this masterpiece on DVD!!!!!!
Adam W. Kelley | Winter Park, FL | 04/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Ride The High Country" has got to be the best overlooked Western. Period. I am an enourmous fan of Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" and this is his "other" true masterpiece. The performances by McCrea and Scott are perfect - nothing feels forced. The scenery is a pleasant change to the beautiful landscape of Califonia. But what really holds the film together are its themes and values. "All I ever want to do is enter my house justified" - wow. Almost poetic at times. It breaks my heart when Elsa says, "My father says there's only right and wrong - good and evil. Nothing in between. It isn't that simple, is it?" and Judd responds simply "No, it isn't. It should be, but it isn't." I am grateful for Turner Classic Movies and the fact that they show this wonderful forgotten gem in letterbox. The print is looking weary, though, so it's high time we preserve this classic. It is one of the top ten best Westerns ever. PLEASE RELEASE THIS MASTERPIECE ON DVD!!!!!!!!! "
15 stars...5 each for McCrea, Scott and Peckinpah!
Richardson | Sunny California USA | 01/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This may be the best of all Peckinpah westerns and one of the all time great westerns...heck...films of all time IMHO.
The story is not only a classic one but features the acting of two of the genres most well known stars (McCrea and Scott) playing parts that fit perfectly with their age at the time and ....well.. picture Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven era) and Duke Wayne (Rooster Cogburn era) in a Western together about aging cowpokes...on one last job....fighting their conscience and age and ...well...you unsterstand how impossible that is to film..that was a once in a lifetime opportunity and Peckinpah didn't squander a bit of it...from georgously backlit scenes in the old west to perfect dialog and believable story turns....this is a film to cherish and share with friends and loved ones....
anyone that discounts Peckinpah as a director because they think he is all slow motion bullets and blood...needs to see this and RE-think!"