Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)

7 11 2008

While this is probably my least favorite of all the Boetticher – Scott westerns, it is still pretty great. At the very least, it is a lot better than Boetticher’s earlier westerns for Universal like The Man From Alamo or The Cimarron Kid. I did say mention in my review of Ride Lonesome that it is probably Boetticher’s most accessible film, but I kind of regret saying that. While that film is a perfect introduction into the man’s work, it’s not as highly likable and charming as this film. The same can be said for Randolph Scott’s performance. He’s much more upbeat here, even with the potential danger.

The first ten minutes of Buchanan Rides Alone are extremely unusual for Boetticher, as well as Scott. In almost all the other ranown westerns, Scott is a reserved and quiet man with a scarred past. While that sense of psychology is also implied here, Scott himself is much more open and even sort of funny. His character rolls into a border town and asks for a steak. To avoid giving anything away, I’ll just say it is one of Scott’s funniest moments, perhaps second only to the scene in The Man Behind the Gun where he pretends to not know how to shoot a gun.

Watching this film does reinforce how little interest Boetticher had in crafting action narratives, and quick dramatic turns. This is by far the most plot-centered film in the whole ranown cannon, but it sorts of explains why the other efforts tend to have extremely similar structures. This is really the only Boetticher film that I can think of that comes pretty darn close to being a conventional “exciting” action movie, which certainly isn’t a problem for me. As usual, the visuals and Scott’s acting are enough to overcome any tiny problems. It’s not as amazing as Boetticher’s best work, but it is a really accomplished piece of arty “genre” cinema.



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