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Author Topic: Saddle the Wind (1958)  (Read 2832 times)
cigar joe
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« on: October 15, 2008, 07:29:40 AM »

Saddle the Wind is a good example film to use to illustrate what would be the actual end evolution of the  formula "B" Western. By 1958 TV was chock full of 1/2 hour and one hour episodes that looked and felt just like this film. The one advantage the film has over TV was the widescreen vistas. Imdb has no location link active but it looks a lot like Colorado, with massive high snow covered peaks with pine & fir foothills and grass valleys, those shots are breathtaking but its not enough to elevate this film to the next tier.  

Robert Parrish directed this and it starred Robert Taylor as Steve Sinclair Double S Owner,  Julie London as Joan Blake, Tony's fiancee,  John Cassavetes as  Tony Sinclair ,  Donald Crisp as Land Barron Dennis Deneen,  Charles McGraw as Larry Venables, Gunfighter,  Royal Dano as Clay Ellison, Owner of Strip
and Richard Erdman as Dallas Hanson, Saddle Tramp.

The screenplay was by Rod Serling. Its not up the standard of his "Requiem For A Heavyweight" .

The story is ex gunfighter Steve Sinclair is a successful ranch owner, Tony Sinclair i(Cassavetes) is his gun happy hot headed brother who shows up from a cattle selling drive with his dance hall girl fiancee Joan (singer Julie London) she sings the title song over the credits and once again in the film.

Tony not only brings home a girl but also a fine tuned Colt SAA Peacemaker.  Cassavetes is seriously miscast in this film, he comes off looking like a maniacal Jerry Lewis doing Red Skelton's  "mean widdle kid"  routine as he target practices with the Colt shooting up the ranchyard. Everytime he's on screen you cringe. His interaction with Joan (Julie London) is completely unbelievable from the get-go. Of course the film progresses to where you know its going.

One highlight near the beginning is the entry of Charles McGraw as Larry Venables, a gunfighter arriving in town out to avenge the killing of his brother by Steve Sinclair. He has a great sequence as the stranger who rides into town and terrorizes the saloon. Royal dano plays a settler who light the fuse of the final confrontation. McGraw is dowright dominating much like Richard Boone in "Hombre."

The director shows no style, pretty much going by the "How To Shoot Your Staple Western" book, and there are a lot of noticebale process shots during the outdoor gunfight.

This was the last of the Warners Great Westerns DVD set the only two really worth owing are "Escape From Fort Bravo' and "The Law And Jake Wade". see if you can buy those seperately. I took the others to FYE and got credit and bought used releases of "North To Alaska" and "High Noon" for my collection.




« Last Edit: November 19, 2009, 05:59:30 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2009, 10:27:29 PM »

This has two main faults: Cassavetes is miscast (he looks like Jerry Lewis and also his voice is similar: but underneath it all he lacks that sparkle of craziness which ignites the performances of even less gifted actors in the roles of the violent kid brother or only spoiled son. He lacks spontaneity, he looks to clever and too reflexive. And maybe he's never been a great actor) and the character of the cattle baron who hates violence is little credible. Still it is very entertaining: Taylor is great, London is very attractive, and as said by the Rod Taylor fan up above Cool McGraw and  Dano deliver GREAT performances. 7\10

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« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2009, 05:54:13 AM »

Robert/Rod I keep screwing that up, lol.  Afro (fixed it)

« Last Edit: November 19, 2009, 06:00:00 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2012, 03:48:40 AM »

I give this one a 6.5/10

It is somewhat frustrating cuz there is enough there to keep you interested; at no time did I think that I was gonna turn it off. Maybe that's just cuz the lanscapes are so beautiful that I can look at it for hours no matter what! But there are too many things the movie doesn't do right.

-- Firstly, this is probably the first movie ever that began with an opening song with lyrics that i actually enjoyed. I instinctively forward these openings whenever they come on, cuz they are always so annoying. But this one is just terrific, sung by Julie London. Later on in the movie, you see her singing the same song. She sings so beautifully, maybe they actually should have had her do a different song in the movie, rather than just having the same track as in the opening titles. Heck, maybe they should have even had her singing more in the movie! Her singing is just beautiful. (I did not know, until I looked at her Wikipedia page just now after seeing the movie, that London was actually more well-known as a singer than an actress). Happily, that song is available on iTunes; I just bought it.

-- London's performance is decent enough. (I never thought she was that hot; she kind of looks like she could be Lee Van Cleef's twin sister. But)  she is ok as an actress.

-- Perhaps the biggest mistake in the movie is the absolutely awful casting of John Cassavetes. He is just plain awful. I was praying that Charkles McGraw would kill him their duel just so I wouldn't have to watch him anymore. He doesn't look in any way like he belongs in the Wild West; he looks like he belongs on Jersey Shore. Certainly doesn't look anything close to the WASPs of the Wild West (or at least the Westerns). And his acting is just plain terrible. I guess he is supposed to be somewhat annoying, but the trick is being able to portray that kinda person without grating on the viewer. Cassavetes singlehandedly limits the potential of this movie.

-- I agree with CJ about Charles McGraw; he is just terrific. What a great face, jaw, and voice! Whether in wsterns or noirs, it is always ajoy to watch him. And Robert Taylor is terrific in the lead. Donald Crisp delivers his usual very good performance, though the writing for his character isn't always very believable. (I don't think a Western cattle baron at the time would have been so accommodating to a squatter/Yankee/farmer; at least if you believe most Westerns  Wink)
One thing I have to disagree with CJ on is  Royal Dano; I did not like him at all here.

-- The best thing this film has going for it are the spectacular landscapes. So beautiful, I never tired of watching this movie, even when Cassavetes went on another annoying rant. I thought of muting him and just looking at the scenery  Wink) Simply amazing. The entire production design was really good: the saloon was great, the whole town was nice. It looks like they built a whole town in the mud. The saloon interior was nice

-- And as CJ mentioned,  some of the shots look processed. Several times you have a beautiful long shot in a wonderful landscape, and then they shoot a closeup and you can just tell that the background is not real, but a rear projection or sumthin. I wonder if perhaps that was necessary cuz they couldn't use the sound in such long shots, so for the dialogue parts they did it in closeup in studio? Who knows. But you definitely have to try to ignore several bad processed shots.

-- And finally, the editing of the first duel is really bad: You see McGraw ready to draw, Taylor scream, McGraw turn to look at Taylor, then they cut back to the earlier shot of McGraw ready to draw, then back to the one of him turning.... It is a really bad editing job. It's the sort of thing that they figure you will see in theaters once, and weren't counting on people having dvd players and Step buttons to slow down the action when the shot looks so weird, and see that indeed, it is a terrible editing job at that moment.

-- The "CinemaScope and MetroScope" widescreen looks nice, but there are a few interior shots where it looks like part of the picture is a slightly different color, like the left side of the screen is darker than the right. I am not sure if the film was damaged, or maybe it was just the lighting.

« Last Edit: June 28, 2012, 12:11:39 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2017, 11:23:47 AM »

JC miscast? Nah, only to non fans.

Loose cannon gets the method treatment.

Steve Sinclair is an ex gunfighter now contented with his lot as a peaceful farmer. Peace that is disrupted when his young brother Tony turns up with his intended new bride in tow. Tony has a thirst for gun play, and when he guns down a fellow gunman in the bar, things start to rapidly spiral out of control for the Sinclair family.

Saddle The Wind has some top credentials coming with it. Written by one Rod Serling, and starring Robert Taylor and John Cassavetes as the Sinclair brothers, it's a film not short on quality. Into the mix is the splendid outdoor location work at Rosita, Colorado (courtesy of the prolific George J. Folsey) and the genre compliant score from Elmer Bernstein. But what of the film itself? Well the story is an over familiar one, gunfighter trying to leave his bad past behind, loose cannon youngster out to make a name for himself, and yes we get a female love interest causing conflict and confusion (Julie London in a stock and undemanding role). Yet familiarity definitely does not breed contempt in this instance.

If new comers to this film are aware of John Cassavetes and his style of acting, then, in spite of the oddity of seeing him in Western surroundings, one can reasonably know what to expect. Cassavetes brings the method to young Tony Sinclair, instilling intensity, even borderline mania in the upstart hot shot, so much so that Robert Taylor's fine world weary turn as Steve gets lost until the finale. To non Cassavetes fans it may be just too much to handle, but speaking personally I found it a terrific performance that lifted the picture way above average. Support comes in the solid form of Donald Crisp and Royal Dano and the running time of under 90 minutes is just about right. Finally, it's with the ending that Saddle The Wind breaks away from its standard story and plotting. Played out on a lush blue flowered hillside, the makers deviate from the expected and give us something memorable and totally fitting to this method driven Western. 7.5/10


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« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2017, 02:46:34 AM »

It is quite interesting how blandly this film is directed, compared to the far superior The Wonderful Country of the same director. In this comparison the lack of atmosphere is also noticeable. It is said that John Sturges co-directed parts of the film, but that isn't noticeable too.

Cassavetes ... ok, I love his films, I enjoy him often acting, but sometimes he overdid this method acting thing, and here his over acting feels completely out of place, especially in the context of Taylor's routine standard performance, which as a result looks dull. It's a film which wants to be something, but has no substance to get it. Still watchable. 5/10

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