The movie was masterfully directed by one of my all time favourite directors, Anthony Mann. He's famous for directing a string of westerns with James Stewart. Those are the films I know him for. Furthermore I'm a fan of the genre; however this film took me by surprise. It's safe to say it's become a favourite.
This film is both a brilliant melodrama and a sensational western.
The Story is very complex, and the characters are very real and have a psychological complexity. Nobody is the hero and nobody is the totally bad. Barbara Stanwyck as Vance steals the show. Her chemistry with Walter Huston, who is equally fantastic and gives a brilliant performance, is quite wonderful to witness. They became very good friends while making the film; sadly he died shortly after finishing the film. The always interesting Wendell Corey is again fantastically cast opposite Stanwyck. And it's always wonderful to see Gilbert Roland, who I've seen in a lot of Film Noir's.
Anthony Mann was brilliant at creating great shots and he's wonderful at supporting with the camera the actors' performance, so the audience can feel for the complex characters. The cinematographer Victor Milner did a beautiful job, I usually hate Westerns in black and white, but here I couldn't have lived without it - it was so atmospheric and haunting and very symbolic.
Mann loved strong woman portrayed in movies, and every female in this movie has a chance to be as tough and intelligent as the male. It took me by storm - wonderful to witness.
One of the most astounding, atmospheric and realistically versatile films I've seen in a long time. Highly recommended - A must see if you like westerns.
The Criterion DVD is most definitely worth buying. It has some interesting extras and the book the movie is based on is included. I recommend reading Leonard Maltin's review of the movie, HERE.
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