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Boetticher, Budd


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#1 Izo

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 03:05 PM

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"If you love westerns, or wonder why others do, [Boetticher's] films speak loud and clear." —Los Angeles Times

"It might be said of Boetticher that he made not Westerns but the Western." —The Boston Phoenix

In 1967 Andrew Sarris declared Budd Boetticher one of Hollywood’s “most fascinating unrecognized talents.” Now, Boetticher is widely acknowledged for directing some of the greatest Westerns of the post-war era. Decision at Sundown (1957), The Tall T (1957), Buchanan Rides Alone (1958), Ride Lonesome (1959) and Comanche Station (1960) together came to be known as the Ranown cycle, after the production company formed by star Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown. When the trend was toward portentous super Westerns such as High Noon (1952), Boetticher’s low-budget Ranown films were minimalist excursions into pure form. Brutal and ironic, their stark beauty verges on abstraction.

But Boetticher’s career didn’t begin or end with the Ranown films. Like most of his protagonists, Boetticher was a fierce individualist. In 1939, the Indiana-raised athlete took up professional bullfighting in Mexico, an idiosyncratic move that led to his being hired as technical adviser on Blood and Sand (1941). From there, Boetticher honed his expressive, economical craft directing "B" pictures for Columbia (under the name Oscar Boetticher, Jr) until John Wayne backed his story for Bullfighter and the Lady (1951), a stirring depiction of his days in Mexico.
Boetticher made two more films centered on toreros, The Magnificent Matador (1955) and Arruza (1972), a documentary on the legendary bullfighter Carlos Arruza that itself became a legendarily cursed production that derailed Boetticher’s career for a decade, landing him in debt, in jail and, at one point, in an asylum.
He also made two undeservedly overlooked crime thrillers, The Killer is Loose (1956) and The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960).
One of the last of the classic Hollywood tough guy directors until his death in 2001, Boetticher lived passionately on his own terms. As Jim Kitses wrote, "Boetticher stands alone...working in the shadows, trying to create his art wholly out of himself."

- From "Ride Lonesome: The Films of Budd Boetticher"

#2 Izo

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Posted 12 August 2012 - 10:13 PM

The absolutely essential Budd Boetticher Collection is apparently going out of print. These films took forever to get to DVD in the first place, so if you have even the slightest interest in classic westerns, you really need to grab it while you can.

#3 Duke Togo

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 09:20 AM

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#4 Izo

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 10:33 AM

Probably a good call Dukesikins. Those films took so long to reach DVD that there really is no telling how long they'll be unavailable.

I consider them essential, and the films in that set (plus Seven Men from Now and Westbound, available separately) work as a whole in a really unique way.

#5 Duke Togo

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 10:53 AM

I feel I've been hard on the classic American western style in the past, so I'm trying to break in. I still haven't watched The Cimarron Kid or The Man from the Alamo from the other set, so I have no idea what to expect here.

#6 Izo

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 11:04 AM

While of the era of the classic western, I feel like its hard to truly classify Boetticher as classical. His existential westerns are closer to Leone than Ford, and there's a sameness to his westerns that makes me want to comare him to Ozu in an odd sort of way. The five films in that set are what made me fall in love with Budd Boetticher, and I have a feeling you'll like them. I feel like the way I watched them was ideal as well: over the course of a work week, I watched a film each night (they are all very short). I feel that this gave me a great sense of the key simularities and differences in them.


I feel like this deserves a thread. Its not the first time I've wanted to talk about Boetticher.

#7 Duke Togo

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 11:12 AM

^
That sounds kind of great actually. Ozu huh? Does he use a lot of low/fixed angles, or does he just have a very specific style he sticks to? Good idea about a Boetticher thread.

I'm still interested in the classic Ford style right now, and I have plenty of unwatched sitting around so I should be good.

#8 Izo

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 09:32 PM

^
That sounds kind of great actually. Ozu huh? Does he use a lot of low/fixed angles, or does he just have a very specific style he sticks to? Good idea about a Boetticher thread.


In a lot of ways, Boetticher's Ranown westerns are the same movie made over and over. Situations and snatches of dialogue are repeated. Randolph Scott plays variations on the same character with a mysterious past. There's the "villain" of the film who battles more frequently through dialogue and situations than with guns. In a lot of ways, it's the American western version of what Ozu did with many of his domestic dramas.

#9 Izo

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 09:49 PM

I've found this great mammoth of a Senses of Cinema article: Ride Lonesome: The Career of Budd Boetticher.

#10 Lohengrin

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 10:12 PM

Boetticher was a great man. I just grabbed the set, thanks for the warning. I’ve seen all the films in it already, and all are very good to great. Ranking:

Buchanan Rides Alone
Seven Men from Now
Decision at Sundown
Ride Lonesome
Comanche Station
The Tall T

I think it’s interesting/funny that so many classic and influential Western directors were from areas so removed from the West itself. Boetticher from Illinois, Hawks and Robert Wise from Indiana, Ford from Maine, etc.

Kiss my ass


#11 Izo

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 10:39 PM

You forgot Decision at Sundown, which I'm in the minority of considering among the best of the Ranown cycle. Seven Men from Now is actually available as an (extremely inexpensive) standalone release. The only other Ranown film that's not in the set is Westbound, which is available from Warner Archive.

If you want to get technical, the "Ranown" cycle only consists of The Tall T, Ride Lonesome, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone, and Comanche Station. Those films were all produced by Harry Joe Brown and Randolph Scott's company Ranown (Randolph/Brown...get it?), whereas Westbound was produced by WB and Seven Men from Now came from John Wayne's Batjac Productions. I and many others tend to lump all seven films together under the "Ranown" banner for the sake of convenience and for the fact that there's so much cast and crew carryover. Still, the two non-Ranown-produced films clearly stand apart from the others and can enhance the cycle as a whole through their similarities and differences to them.

#12 Izo

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 10:44 PM

Incidentally, Westbound is the film that Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg see together in Breathless.

#13 Lohengrin

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 09:28 AM

You forgot Decision at Sundown, which I'm in the minority of considering among the best of the Ranown cycle.


I knew I was forgetting one of them, thanks. And yes, if not my favorite, it’s at least among the most mature and unique of the cycle.

Kiss my ass


#14 Izo

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 02:43 PM

Here's what I said in The Western Thread about the two films in that Classic Western Round-Up Volume 2 set: The Man from the Alamo and The Cimarron Kid.



I recently watched the Budd Boetticher double feature on the "Classic Western Round-Up Volume 2" Universal box set. It features two pre-Ranown cycle films, The Cimarron Kid, starring Audie Murphy (who I've always found extremely likable) and The Man from the Alamo, starring Glenn Ford. The Cimarron Kid plays like a displaced film noir, right down to the doomed hero. The Man from the Alamo is more traditional, but also deeply cynical. Both films are actually way, way better than I was expecting. They also seem to feature slightly higher budgets than Boetticher's more famous features.

Interestingly, both films fit surprisingly well within the narrative and stylistic confines of what Boetticher did with Randolph Scott. They both feature circular narratives, in the noirish The Cimarron Kid
Spoiler
, and in The Man from the Alamo
Spoiler
, this very clearly mirrors the inevitable, existential repetitiveness of the Ranown films. Additionally, both films feature cynically-portrayed towns not unlike you would find later in Decision at Sundown and Buchanan Rides Alone.

Two very good, very interesting, and completely unpretentious westerns that I recommend for fans of the director.

#15 Izo

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 09:19 AM

The Sony Boetticher box was taken out of print, but the films are still available if you have no other options. All of the Ranown films have been released as MOD titles by Sony.

Just find a copy of the set.

#16 Duke Togo

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 10:39 AM

So I watched The Tall T (1957), and found it clicked with me more than The Man from the Alamo or Cimarron Kid, and I think it may be my breakthrough film for Budd Boetticher. This was my first outing with Randolph Scott, and while he absolutely is what I would consider the quintessential cowboy, his character in The Tall T seem little more than a symbol for honest living and a reliable point of comparison for Richard Boone's character. Boone is the ultimate redeemable villain, and he seems to be the meat of the film. As he and Scott talk through the choices he has made, there is no sense that he hasn't considered the totality of his situation, and all the wisdom in the conversation seems to come from him. His observations about his two traveling companions are spot on, and have a mature matter-of-fact bite to them that almost makes Scott's character as well as the audience look naive. His contempt for John Hubbard's character and men like him is admirable, but you don't get the sense that he can be labeled a hypocrite for being a villain. His choices seem sound, because the world he sees is controlled by men like John Hubbard's character, and not even Randolph Scott can change that.

 

There were several places were things did seem to fall apart a bit. Maureen O'Sullivan winning her freedom by tempting Arthur Hunnicutt with sex was a train-wreck from start to finish, I wish they had come up with something a little less cliche there. I also found the final shootout between Scott and Boone a little abrupt. One more takeaway, Henry Silva has to be one of the best out there at playing the slimy scoundrel. Everything about his appearance is unsettling and creepy.



#17 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 28 February 2014 - 01:43 PM

So I watched The Tall T (1957), and found it clicked with me more than The Man from the Alamo or Cimarron Kid, and I think it may be my breakthrough film for Budd Boetticher. This was my first outing with Randolph Scott, and while he absolutely is what I would consider the quintessential cowboy, his character in The Tall T seem little more than a symbol for honest living and a reliable point of comparison for Richard Boone's character. Boone is the ultimate redeemable villain, and he seems to be the meat of the film. As he and Scott talk through the choices he has made, there is no sense that he hasn't considered the totality of his situation, and all the wisdom in the conversation seems to come from him. His observations about his two traveling companions are spot on, and have a mature matter-of-fact bite to them that almost makes Scott's character as well as the audience look naive. His contempt for John Hubbard's character and men like him is admirable, but you don't get the sense that he can be labeled a hypocrite for being a villain. His choices seem sound, because the world he sees is controlled by men like John Hubbard's character, and not even Randolph Scott can change that.

 

There were several places were things did seem to fall apart a bit. Maureen O'Sullivan winning her freedom by tempting Arthur Hunnicutt with sex was a train-wreck from start to finish, I wish they had come up with something a little less cliche there. I also found the final shootout between Scott and Boone a little abrupt. One more takeaway, Henry Silva has to be one of the best out there at playing the slimy scoundrel. Everything about his appearance is unsettling and creepy.

 

Oh this is a great film.  I rewatched this last night (seem to be rewatching a bit more lately.)  This is my second viewing.

 

There is so many layers to this film.  I like the fact that the only reason Pat Brennan (Scott) and the bunch was kept alive was for two reasons: Usher's unlikely liking of his character and Williad Mims slimy yet effective selling the idea of ransoming his wife.

 

I'll agree that the O'Sullivan attempting to be luring seemed awkward.  It was supposed to, but you do wonder how desperate the kid had to be to go as far as he did.  I would have preferred to be no shootout between Scott and Boone (or a better one) but I don't see how the Code would have allowed it.  I think a newer film would consider letting him go on his way.  The come back for the money seemed out-of-character and very Code like.

 

Just like in Seven Men from Now, the "weaker" character gets killed off so Randolph can have a love interest (though a weasel in this picture, stronger than we though in the former.)

 

Henry Silva was awesome (except for the part when he was dead he moved his feet to be allowed to be tied together, that is a hilariously noticable mistake.)  Creepy and one of the more just plain evil characters out there.  Interesting comment made by Pat Brennan where he alludes to hope in changing that type, against Frank Usher's comments against that.  I was expecting a higher count of people killed from him when he mentioned his body count, but ruthless regardless.


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#18 Izo

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 10:17 PM

Duke, I'm not entirely sure the sexual aspects of the scene with Maureen O'Sullivan's character you mentioned was quite the cliche in the mid-50s that it is today.  Certainly not in a western, at least, where women had a tendency to be either schoolmarms or whores.  Of the Ranown cycle, The Tall T is possibly my least favorite - though admittedly I'm definitely in the minority there.  The pretty drastic tone shift from the lighthearted early scenes to the introduction of Silva and Boone's outlaws never quite worked for me.  My favorite of the cycle - and my favorite Budd Boetticher film - is Ride Lonesome.



#19 Duke Togo

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 03:42 AM

Duke, I'm not entirely sure the sexual aspects of the scene with Maureen O'Sullivan's character you mentioned was quite the cliche in the mid-50s that it is today.  Certainly not in a western, at least, where women had a tendency to be either schoolmarms or whores.  Of the Ranown cycle, The Tall T is possibly my least favorite - though admittedly I'm definitely in the minority there.  The pretty drastic tone shift from the lighthearted early scenes to the introduction of Silva and Boone's outlaws never quite worked for me.  My favorite of the cycle - and my favorite Budd Boetticher film - is Ride Lonesome.

 
I don't think I was calling out the sexual aspects specifically as what I found cliche about the scene. It was more the obviousness of it all, their intentions were so painfully transparent, giving the scene the distinct feel of television writing that is just going through the motions. They lean on the weakest henchman plot device way too hard here, and it felt jarring after the impressive lead-up.
 
They could've baited him with anything really, the results would be just as hammy.

#20 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 11:25 AM

... Of the Ranown cycle, The Tall T is possibly my least favorite - though admittedly I'm definitely in the minority there.  The pretty drastic tone shift from the lighthearted early scenes to the introduction of Silva and Boone's outlaws never quite worked for me.  My favorite of the cycle - and my favorite Budd Boetticher film - is Ride Lonesome.

 

How many times have you seen The Tall T?  I appreciated it more the second time I watched it though I liked it the first time I saw it.  My favorite is still after several viewings Seven Men from Now.  I have only watched Ride Lonesome once so it is do for a rewatch (I've been doing more rewatching this year; plus I'm going through the Ranown cycle again.)


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