Sergio Leone Web Board

Films of Sergio Leone => Other Films => Topic started by: boardwalk_angel on May 04, 2005, 06:45:29 AM

Title: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: boardwalk_angel on May 04, 2005, 06:45:29 AM
Will Penny (1968)
  Directed by
Tom Gries

with: Charlton Heston
Joan Hackett
Donald Pleasence
Lee Majors 
Bruce Dern
Ben Johnson
Slim Pickens
Clifton James
Anthony Zerbe

This is a good, good movie..underrated & under appreciated....and somewhat largely unseen.
Never a Heston fan....I was very pleasantly surprised & taken by his "Will"....he gives a fine, understated  performance as the aging loner just looking for his next get through the winter till he can hook up with a cattle drive in the spring. Heston is excellent, free of the melodramatics & overacting  found in some of his other work.
Will is an aging cowboy, a loner, an illiterate, faced with the prospects of a dim future. He is someone who realizes that he can't do anything else but what he has been doing all his life..he punches cattle because it's the only thing he's ever done, and the only thing he knows how to do......even as railroad tracks laid on the prairie indicate that time may be running out for the cowboy way of life.
Nearing fifty, he has never learned to read or write, and existed moving from one job to the next...

 Along the way..there's a chance encounter w/  Quint ....the psycho preacher and his degenerate sons, Rafe  , Rufus , & Romulus..featuring  Donald Pleasance in a maniacal..over the top performance.., & Bruce Dern as one of his loony sons.
These guys could give the Hammond Brothers ("Ride the High Country") a run for their money.

There's also Joan Hackett, in a lovely, subtle, yet solid performance as  Catherine Allen , a woman travelling across country w/ her young son, in search of her husband, who had gone on ahead  ...through whom Will sees a life he never had..& never thought possible.
The film is notable in that it presents not at all a romantic image of the West..Cowpunching not being a glamorous profession....not a lot of 'Yeehas' here...  it's a life of solitude and hard work.. The work is brutal..., hired one day and out of work the next.......
Yes..there is action..fistfights..gunplay & violence...but the first fistfight..shows us the kind of territory we're in...get it on..get it over with..   
Here we see the kind of people who must really have inhabited the West..cowpunchers,.families looking for a better life... (sure, there were bounty hunters, bank robbers, marshalls...shootouts at High Noon..the OK Corral etc.) .....but this is more of a character study of people very much like us. In one of the gunfights...a cowboy sustains a bullet wound in a way  that's atypical of western movies..but probably pretty typical of the real West.
 Another nice touch is the "town"  Will, Blue, & Dutchy ride into...many "towns"  really did consist of nothing more than a couple of buildings ..a few shacks and a tent.
The direction was superb; Lucien Ballard's cinematography added to the splendor of the story. ..filmed in the glorious Inyo Mountains of California.
  The music in the movie is mostly uninspired , although by no means terrible or distracting..
Some fine, familiar character actors are here.. the can't be anything but great Ben Johnson appears as the top hand at the ranch where Will  takes a job riding line... William Schallert, Clifton James, and Anthony Zerbe all deliver good performances. Lee Majors is passable.

In short.."Will Penny" is a film that deserves to be seen & enjoyed.. & savored.

Title: Re: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: Belkin on May 04, 2005, 09:50:18 AM
Nice write up, boardwalk, this is one of my all time favorite movies!
Title: Re: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: Sackett on May 06, 2005, 08:11:00 PM
Real good western.  Its got a realistic tone to it and its even depressing in many instances because it makes you actually feel as if this were the way it was.
Title: Re: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: titoli on August 06, 2007, 04:25:50 AM
I remembered it as good, but I rewatched it last week and it didn't click this time. Everything goes downhill for me when the scenes of familiar life starts. This is Hollywood molass. Pleasance is very good, even better than that. When is on the scene the movie's got life. 
Title: Re: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: cigar joe on August 06, 2007, 04:55:05 AM
Pleasance is very good, even better than that. When is on the scene the movie's got life. 

Yea, that was one of his beat Western perfomances agreed
Title: Re: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: dave jenkins on August 06, 2007, 06:16:16 AM
Something about Joan Hackett creeps me out. Would have been better to follow Leone Rule #1 and left the woman out of the picture.
Title: Re: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: titoli on August 06, 2007, 05:12:56 PM
What does my post let you assume?
And you got the boy-looking-for-a-fatherly-figure to boot...

BTW, I vaguely remember (but I could be imagining things, too much time has passed) that Pleasance's daughter (i assume she plays that part, though she's never introduced as such) had a yen for Heston. But on my dvd (which is the same version, I presume, as the one available in USA) that is only hinted. May the good Charlton have had some second thoughts about that and asked a cut? (I'll try to catch the movie on TV and check. They have the old masters. Still if somebody here remembers better than me is welcome).
Title: Re: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: Tucumcari Bound on August 07, 2007, 11:37:45 PM
Good movie. Charlton Heston is amazing in anything he does.
Title: Re: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: Groggy on November 06, 2011, 09:31:01 AM
Something about Joan Hackett creeps me out. Would have been better to follow Leone Rule #1 and left the woman out of the picture.

I don't think the Leone rule is applicable here since Hackett's character is pretty central to the story.
Title: Re: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: Groggy on November 06, 2011, 01:52:22 PM
Will Penny (1968, Tom Gries)

Tom Gries stumbled with his action-packed 100 Rifles but he's on much-firmer ground with this character-rich Western. With a career-best Charlton Heston heading an excellent cast, Will Penny (1968) is a winner.

Will Penny (Charlton Heston) is an aging cowhand getting too old for his job. Along with his younger partners (Lee Majors and Anthony Zerbe) he survives an encounter with psychotic Preacher Quint (Donald Sutherland) and his squirrely sons and winds at the ranch of hard-luck settler Catherine (Joan Hackett) and her son (Jon Gries). Ranch boss Alex (Ben Johnson) gives Will a job, but he's ambushed by Quint's gang and left for dead. Will holds up up with Catherine and son and begins to develop feelings for them, but Will's self-doubt (and those pesky Quints) complicate matters.

Will Penny is a marvelously down-to-earth Western. Gries's sparse script and spirited direction (beautifully shot in Inyo County, California) provide a realism without overdoing the revisionism: we actually believe we're in the Old West. The obvious comparison is The Culpepper Cattle Co., but Will Penny scores points over that grungy flick because you actually care what's going on. Instead of pervasive filth, Will Penny focuses on its story and characters.

Will Penny's plot is episodic in a good way, allowing Will to encounter an interesting array of situations. Gries handles the relationships with admirable maturity: Catherine and Will have some sweet scenes, especially a bath scene and her teaching Will a Christmas carol, that make its resolution poignant. The Quints are feral rednecks reminiscent of the Hammonds from Ride the High Country and we can't wait to see them wasted; Will's partners are nicely sketched individuals rather than mere foils. The final shootout is a bit contrived (though certainly exciting), but the melancholy finale (a muted replay of Shane) works perfectly.

Charlton Heston isn't thought of as a Western star but he did some of his best work in the genre (The Big Country, Major Dundee). Heston cited this film as a personal favorite, and certainly his performance is among his best. Illiterate, rough-hewn, his physique giving way to middle-aged paunch, Penny is a decent fellow trying to make sense of his life: he's known nothing but cow-punching and doesn't know how to deal with his advancing age or affection for Catherine. Heston tones down his usual exuberence, giving a thoughtful, considered turn.

Joan Hackett makes an excellent love interest, charming and reserved. Donald Pleasance (Halloween) turns in his usual hammy performance, a perfect counterpoint to Heston's stoicism. Lee Majors and Anthony Zerbe (Cool Hand Luke) have nice chemistry with Heston while creating memorable characters of their own. Director's son Jon Gries plays a very likeable kid; he'd go on to a respectable acting career of his own.

Western fans will love the supporting cast. Ben Johnson and Slim Pickens were real-life cowboys before starting in movies and they take to their roles like fish to water. Bruce Dern, Luke Askew and Matt Clark were ubiquitous fixtures of this era's Westerns and are right at home. Further down the cast list are G.D. Spralin (The Godfather Part II) and Roy Jenson (The Wind and the Lion).

Will Penny is an enjoyable Western. In an era often obsessed with grim revisionism, Tom Gries' oater nicely mixes a down-to-earth tone with stylish entertainment. 8/10 (
Title: Re: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: stanton on November 06, 2011, 02:02:50 PM
Good western, but the final shoot-out is pretty conventional, and does not fit in tone with the film's attitude towards more realism. Acting is indeed very good. 7/10
Title: Re: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: emmo26 on December 12, 2012, 04:19:40 AM
What was the Americans impression on Pleasence´s Southern accent....

I wasn´t too impressed.  It was like our version of Dick van Dyke from Mary Poppins
Title: Re: Will Penny (1968)
Post by: uncknown on November 09, 2013, 02:40:22 PM
Liked this alot.
Heston gave an all-time best perforrmance>
theill-conceived outlaw gang led by Donald Pleasance (dreadful in the role) keeps this from being the classic it could have been
check it out!