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Author Topic: Firecreek (1968)  (Read 6010 times)
cigar joe
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« on: October 09, 2006, 04:57:24 AM »

Saw this on AMC this weekend, Pan & Scanned, dir. Vincent McEveety, Henry Fonda, James Stuart, Jack Elam, Ed Begley, Inger Stevens.

What a bore, it had all the touchstones the opening scenic credits, good actors,  etc., etc., and even a good sequence where Jack Elam and one of the gang were about to rape Lea a hot Brooke Bundy in the wild west equivalent of a wet "T"shirt, but it went seriously off the tracks from there going into the "psychological" Western sub genre.

Stewart was miscast in the role seeming way too old for the part, maybe 10 of 15 years off the mark, Fonda was good and believable as a conflicted leader of the bad guys but it all bogged down. Elam was more the leering grandfatherly reprobate than the menacing psycho. The film did have some good camera angle shots (thinking of the final shootout where the cameras POV is under a windwhipped stable door) and maybe this would look even better in widescreen but the story doesn't seem to lift it above the made for television feel that it has.

Inger Stevens (what the hell was her big draw back then, is there something I'm not seeing? she always comes off as a cold Nordic bitch), is the supposed love interest of Fonda.

Now the film does mention a town called "Sweetwater", which I suppose could be a Leone reference, but more likely a coincidence since this is a 1968 film.

Take a look to see how not to use Fonda a s a villian, lol.

« Last Edit: April 17, 2010, 05:39:16 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2006, 09:24:47 AM »

  It's by no means a great western, but I enjoyed it.  Your statement about Stewart being too old and miscast is dead on, joe.

  The two things that stick with me are the hanging of Stewart's younger deputy?, Arthur is it, partially because of the shock value, and also the final showdown.  I love the use of wind, and there are some semi-interesting death scenes, Elam and Lockwood come to mind.

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« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2006, 02:07:01 PM »

I'll agree with you about Inger Stevens, I've seen her in a few films and I always wonder "what's the big deal?"  She's neither particularly attractive nor likeable.

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« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2006, 05:22:50 PM »

I agree, but I think she's better in Firecreek than anywhere else. She has that moment when talking to Fonda that's right on, and of course she gets to do her thing at the end. In other films she just does a lot of whinging, but here I thought she seemed to have a bit more spirit.

I like Firecreek, although it's not a masterpiece. To me, it's a better take on the High Noon material. Instead of teflon-coated marshal (yawn) not getting the support he needs from feckless townspeople (double yawn), you have a sub-par town (Sweetwater and Firecreek, antonyms, are frequently contrasted) and the sub-par, part-time lawman Stewart plays. Matters worsen because both the town and Stewart won't address the challenge Fonda's gang represents. Finally, however, when things go too far, Stewart finds the will to meet the threat, and as a result, some of the townspeople do as well. That final shoot out is very satisfying. And, yeah, it all works better in widescreen.

BTW, CJ mentions Brooke Bundy, who certainly has her charm, but what about dark-haired Barbara Luna?

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« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2010, 02:10:33 PM »

Barbara Luna looks better from afar than in close-ups, I'll go with Bundy. This could have been much better for the reasons listed above. Which is a pity because the confrontation scenes and the action scenes (the murder of the raper and the final showdown) are good. 6\10

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« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2011, 07:05:15 PM »

Quote
By the late '60s the Western genre became polarized between the gritty, violent revisionist Westerns of the Leone-Peckinpah school and the cornball reactionary Westerns of Andrew McLaglen and Company (a few outliers like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid notwithstanding). Firecreek (1968) falls somewhere in between, mixing some nasty violence with an old-fashioned plot and legendary stars James Stewart and Henry Fonda. The result is an interesting if unremarkable oater.

Outlaw Bob Larkin (Henry Fonda) leads his scruffy gang into the small town of Firecreek. He finds a near-deserted village of wimps and losers, well-represented by Sheriff Cobb (James Stewart), underpaid, concerned with his pregnant wife (Jacqueline Scott) and eager to avoid conflict. Larkin recuperates in a hotel with a pretty widow (Inger Stevens), while his subordinates - especially Earl (Gary Lockwood) and Drew (James Best) - run roughshod over the wimpy townspeople. When crack-brained stablehand Arthur (J. Robert Parker) stands up to the gang, the crooks finally push Cobb too far.

Critics usually write off Firecreek as a minor work, but it's a perfectly serviceable Western whose biggest sin is unoriginality. Most wags compare the film to High Noon but Stewart fans will recognize elements of The Far Country as well. Cobb doesn't want to get involved in the town's problems, though family obligations and an indifferent, wimpy populace qualify his aloofness: he's more isolated than amoral. Larkin is fashioned as a likeable villain who tries to restrain his men, but his shifts to cold-blooded nastiness are poorly handled. It's pretty obvious where the story's headed, even if specific stops aren't telegraphed, and the story holds few surprises.

Firecreek at least fashions these cliches into something interesting. Calvin Clement Sr.'s script plays as a time-release drama, allowing the tension to slowly boil over. The townspeople are an interesting cross-section of malcontents, from the haunted store owner (Dean Jagger) to the Indian hotelier with a half-breed son (Barbara Luna), and their passivity is more credible than the holier-than-thou hypocrites of High Noon. The outlaws initially temper their rowdiness, but they've soon got the measure of the wimpy townspeople, making a confrontation inevitable. What Firecreek lacks in originality it makes up for in craftsmanship.

Director Vincent McEveety mixed television work with innocuous Disney fluff like The Million Dollar Duck, but does a fine job here. There's some unexpectedly grisly violence, including a rape scene and pitchfork stabbing, and the final shootout is exciting and creatively staged, Cobb blasting his opponents from underneath a boardwalk. Veteran cinematographer William Clothier provides beautiful photography and Alfred Newman contributes a fine score. Even when the story clunks, McEveety's assured direction keeps things on an even keel.

Firecreek's main attraction is its legendary co-stars, though neither is at the top of his game. James Stewart does well with his character's difficult arc: his early scenes as an amiable (if resentful) wimp, his authority represented by a tin star made by his son, aren't very interesting, but his characterization comes to life in the second half. Stewart's descent into anguish and righteous fury is perfectly executed, and we're definitely cheering for him in the final reels as he comes to his senses.

Henry Fonda's career was in the dumps, mixing epic cameos (How the West Was Won) with light comedies (Yours, Mine, and Ours), and one imagines him relishing the chance to play against type here. Unfortunately, Larkin is sidelined for much of the film and Fonda doesn't make his shifts in attitude convincing. His unremittingly evil Frank in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West is far more effective.

Gary Lockwood (2001: A Space Odyssey), James Best (Winchester '73) and the ubiquitous Jack Elam make perfectly loathsome villains. Dean Jagger (Elmer Gantry) gets some nice scenes, and J. Robert Porter's lamebrained stableboy makes a strong impression before his tragic exit. Among the female cast, Inger Stevens's icey hotelier and Brooke Bundy's trollop are disposable, but the ravishing Barbara Luna, grouchy Louise Latham and Jacqueline Scott steal their scenes. Morgan Woodward (Cool Hand Luke), John Qualen (The Searchers) and Bill McKinney (The Outlaw Josey Wales) pop up in bit parts.

Firecreek won't appear on too many lists of all-time great Westerns, but it's an enjoyable film all the same. Good direction and a fine cast make up for most of its shortcomings. 7/10

http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2011/10/firecreek.html

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« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2012, 03:43:07 AM »

Just saw this movie for the first time.

Fonda's shift is completely unexplained. We see him heading toward the "good side," then the scene shifts back to Stewart's cottage for a while, and by the time we are back in town, Fonda has gone back to the dark side. Feels as if a scene is missing explaining it.

Fonda is always great but I think he is underutilized. He basically spends the whole movie in bed, save for the final scene. (Almost like Clint Eastwood falling over in pig slop for the first 90% of Unforgiven before rising and kicking ass  Wink )

6.5/10

« Last Edit: June 12, 2012, 05:55:14 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2012, 06:08:04 AM »

Lousy western in which everybody explains himself and what he is doing in painful dialogues. The director is a hack too.

Stewart is like in most of his later films too sentimental and Fonda is not bad, but is left high and dry by the screenplay.

Only good point is that it looks dirty enough.

One of those westerns which want to be arty but are done by a bunch of untalented guys. 3/10 for the dirt

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« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2012, 03:24:46 PM »

When the stable boy walks in one of the baddies raping the Indian woman, the only light in the room is from the lantern that is waving back and forth. Certainly reminiscent of a similar shot in OUATITW. Firecreek was released early in 1968. So guess it's possible that Leone saw it before filming OUATITW and added that reference (though it probably wouldn't have been in the original script).

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« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2012, 03:29:58 PM »

I very seriously doubt it.

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« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2012, 02:38:58 AM »

Ohh, and Inger Stevens has as so very often a terrible role with terrible lines.

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« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2012, 04:30:52 AM »

Inger Stevens is never good, and certainly not here.

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« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2012, 04:08:06 PM »

Lousy western in which everybody explains himself and what he is doing in painful dialogues. The director is a hack too.

Stewart is like in most of his later films too sentimental and Fonda is not bad, but is left high and dry by the screenplay.

Only good point is that it looks dirty enough.

One of those westerns which want to be arty but are done by a bunch of untalented guys. 3/10 for the dirt

That about sums it up. A Disney director and Hollywood trying to be cruel and dirty. FIVE CARD STUD was another one of those. I saw
all these films around the time I discovered Peckinpah, Leone, Corbucci and various others, so it really did stink in comparison.
Gary Lockwood was better suited with 2001 and Inger Stevens - well, she was a poor soul. In a way she was lucky to co-star
with Eastwood, Fonda, Widmark etc. She was not so lucky fighting her depressions, she was only 35 when she committed suicide
as far as I can remember. I'd love to see THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL though ...

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« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2012, 06:02:59 AM »

I'd love to see THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL though ...
You mean . . . you've never seen it? Ho. Lee. Shit. What are you waiting for?

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« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2012, 04:11:05 AM »

Could you send me a copy ? I don't have TCM.
I'm sure I have something for you to.

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