Ride the High County
Screenplay: N.B. Stone Jr
Release: Warner Archive
Sometimes movies can become a caricature explanation of a genre, Ride the High Country is one of them and when that happens it is rarely a good thing.
In this brilliant, moving film directed by Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch), cowboy icons Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea find roles to match their leathery Western personas, playing aging lawmen hired to guard a gold shipment. They don’t have much: a horse each, a couple of dollars. And they have everything: their independence. But the frontier is disappearing – and so is space wide open enough for independent men.
With luck, the two will find space enough for this ride and one last payday. They will also find adventure, including the dramatic rescue of a mistreated bride (Mariette Hartley), gun-blazing shoot-outs and a life-changing betrayal. Both an exciting Western and a heart-lifting homage to the genre, Ride the High Country is a journey into film greatness.
Before I reject the film, outright, it is worth noting that the film was very well shot and the restoration, for this release, is quite good. Stars Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea performed admirably and newcomer Mariette Hartley made the best of a bad situation.
There are hardcore Peckinpah fans would with wholeheartedly disagree with me and will call it one of the directors best films and that is certainly their prerogative just as the following is mine.
The secondary story of the film is that of Mariette Hartley’s desire to leave an oppressive, religious, father to marry her love, and maybe be a floosy, I could not tell. In one of her first scenes she appears to be flirting with while trying to keep Ron Starr’s Heck Longtree at bay. Suggesting that she both want to make love but is also solely interested in her fiancée.
In her following scene Starr attempts to force himself on her only to be stopped by Scott and McCrea. This is the first instance of saving-the-princess and my last instance of interest. I left the film to play out for a while until after they deliver Hartley to her fiancée at which point she is sexualized to a grossly comical level.
I cannot see a time when I would watch this again. Nor do I see a time when I would recommend it to others. If you want you can buy it here, again, it looks fine, if you mute it and skip between the landscape photography.
There are dozens of good westerns available for streaming at WarnerArchive.com.
Director: 5 – Cinematography: 6 – Edit: 4 – Parity: 0 – Main performance: 6 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 5 – Sound: 4 – Story: 2 – Script: 1 – Effects: 5 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 6 – Keeps interest: 0 – Lasting: 0