First two days and two of the Mann-Stewart collaborations down!
Winchester '73 was great, great, great. It might be one of my new favorite Westerns. I loved the symbolism of the titular weapon passing through the different hands that won the west, from the Native Americans to the bandits to the homesteaders to the con artists. The movie runs rich with the mythology of the West, with character cameos by Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, to the specter of Little Big Horn hanging over the days in which the film is set, to the 'dead man's hand' of Bill Hickcok. Mann's lighting in this makes the whole thing feel very modern, and the film is sort-of-episodic, but it rarely strays from Jimmy Stewart's pursuit of justice. I like how even though he wins and gets his gun back and his vengance, we end on a shot of his face/the rifle and it's ambiguous as to whether or not he can truly go back to a normal life. I really dug his relationship with Millard MItchell, too. There's a lot going on underneat the surface of this film, and I want to watch it again soon. That, and Dan Dureya is a lot of fun as a villian in the last act of the picture, plus, Stephen McNally sounds like Ian McShane.
I wasn't quite as nuts about The Naked Spur as I was about Winchester, but it looked absolutely gorgeous, even in a less-than-restored print. One of the things that I loved about it was how much of it seemed to be shot on location, including the climax. Mann's landscapes and vistas are knocking me out. I thought the middle of the movie dragged a little bit, but I really dug the cast for this one. Ralph Meeker in particular, I knew him only from Kiss Me Deadly -- he's kind of a pimp in this. I also liked Robert Ryan, who I know we have a thread about. Millard Mitchell was fun, but I didn't like him as much as I did in W73. Besides the dragging, I was kind of put off by the ending -- Stewart plays this driven, obsessed guy for the entire movie, and then he just gives up his pursuit because Janet Leigh falls in love with him? It makes sense, as Stewart's seen everyone on his crew die except Leigh, and maybe he realizes that if he continues his pursuit of greed, he'll die too. Still, it was a lot of fun. This is a movie I'm surprised they haven't remade or set in space or some shit yet.
I'll write more about the two noirs I saw, Raw Deal (which is easily in my top 10 noirs now. Fucking gorgeous movie.) and T-Men, possibly tomorrow, but here's my ranking so far:
1. WInchester '73
2 (tie) Raw Deal/The Naked Spur
Tomorrow: Dr. Broadway, Mann's debut, for sure and maybe The Bamboo Blonde