Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ride the High Country (1962)

RATING: 9/10 John Wayne went out with a bang in The Shootist.

Randolph Scott rode off into the sunset with Ride the High Country.

The American actor made plenty of westerns in his career including The Desperadoes and Frontier Marshal.


ride the high country 1962, director Sam Peckinpah's second big-screen effort, is his final credit. This fine effort, filmed in glorious colour at Inyo National Forest, is a fitting farewell.

Peckinpah has great fun turning the traditional conventions of the western genre upside down.


Time has passed Gil Westrum (McCrea) by. He has earned his living trying to do the right thing by enforcing the law. For his troubles, Gil has dodged bullets and lost the woman he loved to a rancher. His feet ache after a day's ride and his memory isn't as good as it once was.

Spectators line the street when Westrum rides into town at the film's start. He modestly waves to them, but he's not why they're there. Heck, a man on a camel is racing against horse riders. "You're in the way," a police officer (police officer!) tells him. Westrum wears glasses to read. His shirt is fraying.

His days of top-of-the-line work are pretty much gone. He perks up when he's offered a job bringing gold out of a mining camp. Westrum needs help. He bumps into his old partner, Steve Judd (Randolph Scott), at a travelling circus. Judd bills himself as The Oregon Kid, a wee bit of a fabrication to put food on the table.


He's not the man Westrum remembers. Judd wants the gold. If he can't convince Westrum to change his law-abiding ways, he'll gladly embrace a more sinister Plan B. Heck Longtree (Ron Starr) is a young hotshot who comes along for the ride. He's in cahoots with Judd, but doubts all the talk in the world won't change Westrum's mind.

The trio meet Elsa Knudsen after a day's ride. Her father, Joshua (R.G. Armstrong), is more than happy to keep her in isolation. Elsa wants her freedom and the chance to marry her bethroed. He just happens to be working in the mining camp. She slips away to ride with Westrum and company.

That's Ride the High Country's simple set-up. Westrum stays true to his ways. His hired help plan to double-cross him. Knudsen gets caught up a man she really shouldn't marry.

Ride the High Country offers some great humour, solid action and a loving farewell to a genre that entertained so many movie-goers for decades. Stagecoach, Red River, The Searchers and The Ox-Bow Incident are some of the finest westerns ever made.


It's a genre seldom seen in theatres now. There was a spurt in the mid-1980s with releases such as Silverado and Pale Rider. Unforgiven won four Oscars, including best picture and director (Clint Eastwood) in 1993. Val Kilmer's Wyatt Earp's Revenge, went to video in 2012. Sigh.

FUN FACTS: Peckinpah's last credit was helming the music video for Julian Lennon's Too Late for Goodbyes.

Mariette Hartley made her movie debut in Ride the High Country.

Ron Starr has just 13 credits to his name including G.I. Blues with Elvis Presley in 1960.

R.G. Armstrong turns 95 in 2012. He appeared in Metallica's Enter Sandman video. Armstrong was Pruneface in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy.

Joel McCrea was another veteran of the western genre. His final film was Mustang Country, with The Duke's son, Patrick, in 1976.

Ride the High Country boasts a solid score from George Bassman. He handled orchestral and vocal arrangements for The Wizard of Oz.

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