An IMDB review by me! Finally! I’ve been slacking…
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
IMDB Rank: 208 out of 250 (as of 01/01/2013)
Directed by John Ford
Lee Van Cleef
Running time: 123 minutes
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend and tells the truth about his deed.
It’s me! Reviewing a Top 250 film on my own blog! I’ve really neglected this Top 250 project while I’ve let all of you review them for me instead. I’ve reviewed all of the Studio Ghibli films in the Top 250 but, besides those, it looks like my last review was of Unforgiven last September. And here I am now with another damn Western (which I watched last September. I’m so behind!). I have to say that of the two things I was dreading in the Top 250, Westerns & war movies, I’m far preferring the war movies so far. (Once Upon A Time In The West was pretty awesome, though).
So… John Wayne! This is the first & only John Wayne movie I’ve watched in my life. His movies were of such a different era that I really can’t relate to in any sort of way & I’ve never had any interest in exploring any of his films. I remember flipping through channels once as a teen & there was some John Wayne movie on where he was spanking a woman. Spanking?! Not in some weird, kinky, S&M way but I got the impression that she was maybe his wife & had disobeyed him or something so that was her punishment. (Okay – I can’t believe I just Googled “John Wayne Spanking” but I did & the movie was a year after this one & called McLintock!). Anyway, that sort of sexism just wouldn’t fly today so I can see why John Wayne films aren’t exactly popular amongst a new generation whereas the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns still are. They’re beautiful, sweeping epics (I assume – I’m basing this only on Once Upon A Time In The West) while John Wayne’s “spanking movie” feels like it’s from 50 years before West instead of just five. Having said that, though, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is pretty good & nothing like the very limited knowledge I have of other John Wayne films which had a very old look & feel. I think the fact that it was in black & white helped to keep it feeling less “dated” in an odd sort of way plus I think “serious drama” works much better in the Western genre than “silly spank comedy”. Also, what helped a lot for me was the fact that James Stewart was in this. I love Jimmy! That’s what convinced me to watch this one instead of putting it off (unfortunately, it’s no longer in the Top 250 like it was when I started this project).
I think this movie has a really good story & I liked the way it’s revealed in flashback as a small group of old friends gather for a funeral. James Stewart plays an educated lawyer & politician while John Wayne plays the rugged silent hero type but, hey – these are the exact kind of roles these two are known for & they’re perfect in this film. I’ll admit I got a little bored in the middle when the political stuff was going on (James Stewart running for some political something or other) but the scenes between Stewart & Wayne as well as the scenes involving the big baddie terrorizing the small community (Liberty Valance, played just right by Lee Marvin) were great. I also enjoyed the little bit of a love triangle between Stewart, Wayne & Vera Miles. So there are a lot of big stars in this one (including Lee Van Cleef although I can’t say I really remember him in it now – I don’t think it was a huge role). But my favorite actor in this (after Stewart) would be Woody Strode. He has a pretty big role as Wayne’s ranch hand & close friend. He was also in the incredible opening scene of Once Upon A Time In The West and has such a great look. I’d totally want to cast him in a movie if I ever made one (but he’s kind of not alive anymore). I looked him up & see that his last role was in that Sharon Stone/Leonardo DiCaprio Western The Quick And The Dead at the age of 80. Makes me want to watch that silly looking movie now – would be fun to see a young Leo again as well. Here’s Strode in this & West:
I know I don’t have much experience with Westerns but I can say that, as someone who isn’t a fan of the genre, I thought The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was pretty good. I really enjoyed the story plus the characters were very well-developed and you cared what was going to happen to them & to their close friendships. You love the goodies & hate the baddies in this one, which is really the point of all Westerns, isn’t it? It’s a shame this isn’t in the Top 250 anymore as young people keep voting in current shit like Interstellar, meaning all the older films are being overlooked and will now probably be totally ignored. This one is worth a watch if you like a decent good guy vs bad guy movie filled with revenge, love, loyalty and loss.
My Rating: 7/10