The Man From the Alamo (1953)

2 10 2008

Definitely a step-up from The Cimarron Kid but once again, this is a very minor entry in Boetticher’s career. I suppose I would feel a bit better about these two films if it hadn’t been for the fact that Anthony Mann was already making some of the most masterful westerns of all-time in the same time period. Everyone has to start somewhere, but it seems that unlike Mann, Boetticher had a lot of maturing to do as a filmmaker.

Maybe Boetticher just needed a bit more experience before he made these two pictures, not only as a filmmaker but as a human being. There is an extremely naive worldview presented here, that is not at all present in Boetticher’s latter films with Randolph Scott. The story concerns John Stroud, the only man to run away from the Alamo. He is relentlessly prosecuted by the townsfolk as being a coward, but of course, he actually isn’t. In fact, he may be more brave than those that stayed. As it turns out, Stroud only left to help his family. In other words, one of the most eye roll-inducing and predictable narratives I’ve come across in a long time. It would have been so much more interesting have Stroud actually been portrayed as a wimp. I don’t know how he was in real life, but its not as Boetticher is aiming for historical accuracy here.

So while this shows more promise than The Cimarron Kid with a much more refined aesthetic, and a few more glimpses at Boetticher’s future grittiness, it also suffers from having a flawless martyr of a hero. It seems that Stroud never does anything wrong, but every character thinks otherwise. As a result, this is 80 minutes of phony sympathy crafted by a filmmaker who went on to do much better things.

The Cimarron Kid (1952)

2 10 2008

I wasn’t really expecting this to be on the same level as Budd Boetticher’s films with the great Randolph Scott, but I still can’t help but be a little bit disappointed by this. Certainly the lack of a leading man that demands as much attention as Scott does is a huge loss, but it seems to be aesthetically tame as well. It doesn’t look all that different from Tourneur’s Canyon Passage but I’d say that two completely different tones are being attempted, not to mention that Canyon Passage came about five years earlier. This is still a nice little western with a few nice ideas, but it only hints at the genius of Boetticher’s latter films.

There is one note-worthy aspect of this film and it is the unfortunately underdeveloped relationship between the title character and Carrie Roberts, a woman who tries to save “The Kid” from his inevitable doom. It’s almost a complete 180 from the cold tension in the male-female relationships of Boetticher’s work with Scott. Of course, that sensibility may just be inherited from Scott’s passive acting style, which Audie Murphy is leagues away from. Still, I think the attention Boetticher lends to this relationship is a bit uncharacteristic for a western. I still prefer the aformentioned cold tension, but the tone that seems to be intended in this film is sort of interesting. Overall, neither character is fleshed out enough to make their turmoil particularly interesting, but it still seems like a half-way decent attempt on Boetticher’s part.