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Overall Rating

Awesome: 27.27%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 18.18%
Pretty Bad54.55%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 5 user ratings

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Tall T, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Not up to today's standards."
2 stars

I've been writing about Westerns all week, and there have been a few times when I stopped myself from writing "one of the reasons it's so good is that it's not just a western, it's a thriller/drama/adventure that can work in any time period"; I figured that sells the western short as a genre, like that setting is something to be overcome. But I have to admit - "The Tall T" IS just a western, and that's part of the reason I'm not so fond of it.

It's got what appears to be a fine pedigree - it's based upon a story by Elmore Leonard. Its supporting cast includes Maureen O'Sullivan and Richard Boone (who would soon take the role of Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel). It combines screenwriter Burt Kennedy, director Budd Boetticher, producer Harry Joe Brown, and producer/star Randolph Scott, who collaborated on several successful Westerns. Or, as nearly every description of Brown & Scott's production company put it, "medium-budget Westerns". And perhaps that's what the problem is - its ambitions are far too modest.

The movie is only 78 minutes long, and a fair amount of the early running is spent on Pet Brennan (Scott) losing a bet that he can break a horse. That leads to him having to walk home, and hitching a ride on a stage carrying newlyweds Willard and Doretta Mims (John Hubbard and Maureen O'Sullivan). It's hijacked by Frank Usher (Richard Boone). Ah, but as Willard points out, Doretta's father is loaded, and if he could just go talk to him...

This is the kind of western with black hats and white hats, and any violence Brennan commits is perfectly justified by the vile actions of Usher and his men. Willard is a sniveling little weasel of a man who married Doretta for her money, and Brennan has had a conversation with the ill-fated station agent about how it's not right to be all alone out in the middle of nowhere, so with Maureen O'Sullivan pretty much the only woman in the cast, you can guess where that's going to go. Not that it means there will be much of that sissy kissing stuff; Brennan isn't going to put up with crying or simpering from any female. He's too macho a man and this is too macho a movie for that.

The weakness of the movie shouldn't be laid at the feet of the cast; they are all pretty good with what they're given. Scott is all upright masculinity, O'Sullivan is all brittle femininity. Hubbard is suitably oily as a self-serving creep, and the various bandits are all individual and scummy. The best is Richard Boone as Frank Usher. He's the one who seems like an Elmore Leonard character - chatty, self-aware, happy to go off on tangents that seem kind of random. It's almost like two movie worlds colliding when Boone and Scott are on screen together, with Boone's character describing how he plans to have a little spread of his own, and Scott's snorting something along the lines of "and this is how you think you'll get it?"

The film is competently shot by Budd Boetticher. The film falls victim to that "medium budget" syndrome mentioned earlier; though well-shot on location, it still feels constricted. We spend a lot of our time at the cave where Usher and company keep their captives, and I found myself rather tiring of that location. We also never really get into Brennan's head, but the script really doesn't suggest there's much to see there. That's not to say that the character is stupid; just that he's got a very straightforward view of the world (there's right, there's wrong, and if you do wrong, you pay the price) and the events of the movie aren't going to change that.

Of course, this is a fifty year-old movie that was made for an audience that liked Westerns for the environment and the action, rather like fantasies are made now. To expect more is perhaps unfair. Still, it IS fifty years later and the audience IS more sophisticated now, and this movie doesn't have as much going for it as many of its contemporaries.

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originally posted: 06/13/05 01:37:15
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User Comments

12/11/16 Darlene De Garlais This is an excellent movie. Scott and Boone are great. 5 stars
1/17/13 MatthewThompsonDalldorf Not up to today's standards at all; with it's reasonable runtime and coherent action. Boo! 5 stars
1/16/12 John Typical strong Elmore Leonard western. Scott is very good. 3 stars
1/27/10 smattson Excellent! 5 stars
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