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9 Jan 2014

GONE WITH THE WEST

By David Lee Andrews   Posted at  08:30   WAR + WESTERNS

Gone with the West Cover It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. And it was about bloody time for this western to be unleashed upon the silver screen. Yeah. You know. This one. This 92 minute one set free in 1975, Directed by: Bernard Girard; and Starring: James Caan, Stefanie Powers, Aldo Ray, with Sammy Davis Jr.


Gone with the West


THE STORY:
God damn it! Ever since I was released from prison, all I ever seem to do is fight-fight-fight!

First I have a skirmish with the two guards who set me free, POW! Then I get into a scrap with a gang of crooks who are trying to rob a farmhand, CRACK! Before finally, I have a strange run in with a cute Spanish girl called Little Moon (Stefanie Powers), DOINK!

I mean, for crying out loud, who do the people in this dastardly town think I am? That crook, Kid Dandy (Sammy Davis Jr.)? Cause I'm not you know. My name is Jud McGraw (James Caan). And over time I team up with Little Moon so we can both get our revenge upon the animals living in this burg.

Yeah. Straight up! You name it. We do it. We attack them from the shadows, from the hills, and from wherever else that may take our fancy. Furthermore, we seem to be doing a pretty decent job of it too, mainly because they're too savage or too drunk to care less about what's happening to them.

Still. That's most probably why what next transpires all blows up in smoke when a sermon is eventually eulogized. As a town goes crazy - battles are not lazy - a contest is held in the back room - and at the end of the day, nigh on everything goes, BOOM-BOOM-BOOM!




THE REVIEW:
If I had to sum up 'Gone with the West' in one single word, that word would have to be 'Eclectic'.

Aldo Ray in Gone with the West
Yeah. I'm not kidding you, folks. All the way through this movie I just couldn't understand what the makers of this piece were trying to accomplish with it on a stylistic level. Sometimes the musical score was electric. Whilst at other times the musical score was more traditional. Sometimes the pace of the film was slow and labored. Whilst at other times the pace of the film was fast and frantic. Sometimes the dialogue drove the plot. Whilst at other times the plot was driven in a surreal manner. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. And on. And on. And on.

OK. So maybe the makers of this movie wanted it to be an 'avantgarde' Western of sorts. Combing more modern productions techniques and established production techniques, both together. Yet personally speaking, I didn't think this really worked at all. Resulting in one of the most mumbled and jumbled Westerns I've ever seen in my entire life.

Gone with the West film poster
Hey! Don't get me wrong. This flick isn't total rubbish. There were parts of it that I actually quite liked. Like the acting for example. As I did get a kick out of seeing Sammy, James, and Stefanie, all in the same film. Plus there were a couple of scenes that made me sit up and take notice where the conceptual plot was concerned.

However, in the same breath, there were quite a few scenes I wasn't too keen on either. Like that long and drawn out fight between the two women for instance. That was pointless, and didn't drive the story along at all. Then there were those obtuse camera angles which came across a mite baroque in tone. Or those scenes where the actors looked directly at the camera and made funny faces. Plus let's not forget that whole sequence where the town was bombed by a flying kite.

Ah-ha! So now do you see what I'm getting at by saying 'Gone with the West' was eclectic, folks? It's really 'our there' you know. Going for broke with it's somewhat overt flavor, style, story, and tone.


Stefanie Powers in Gone with the West


Sammy Davis Jr in Gone with the West
Anyway, before I become too analytical about this piece, here, let's have some filmic facts. (1) 'Cougar Productions' and 'Laurel Associates' first released this Western on the same day that the 'Carry On' star, James Robertson Justice, passed away -- the 2nd of July, 1975. (2) Although this movie was made in 1967, it took its producers nine whole years before they were able to find a distributor to release it into the cinemas. (3) For previously explained reasons, this project was given numerous titles throughout its existence. Such as: 'Ghost Rider' in Germany; 'Little Moon & Jud McGraw' in Australia; plus 'Man without Mercy' and 'Bronco Busters' in America. (4) This was the last feature-film Bernard Girard ever directed in his twenty-four year career. He quit the profession not so long afterwards, yet to name but a few, some of the other things he's also directed in his time, were the populist television shows: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', 'Rawhide', and 'The Twilight Zone'. (5) Most of this movie was shot on location at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, 10700 West Escondido Canyon Road, Agua Dulce, situated within the American state of California. (6) This was the only flick 'Laurel Associates' ever produced in its singular year in the business. (7) Douglas Day Stewart, who was one of three screenwriters assigned to this flick, also wrote such notable works as 'The Scarlet Letter', 'An Officer and a Gentleman', 'The Blue Lagoon', and 'The Boy in the Plastic Bubble'. (8) Once this flick eventually trotted out of its stable, James Caan starred in 'The Killer Elite'; Stefanie Powers starred in 'It Seemed like a Good Idea at the Time'; and Sammy Davis Junior starred in 'Sammy Stops the World'.

James Caan in Gone with the WestOverall 'Gone with the West' was a rather messy film. The acting was fine. The style was all over the place. The tone matched the style. And at the end of the day I wished that the whole thing was a lot better than it actually was.

Nuff said.

THE RATING: C

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