Monday, May 5, 2014

The Ranown Cycle

The Ranown Cycle movies were seven movies that starred Randolph Scott and were directed by Budd Boetticher. Most of the movies in the series were produced by Randolph Scott and Harry Joe Brown (hence the name Ranown),.

The first film in the series, Seven Men from Now, was produced by John Wayne's production company, Batjac. The story and screenplay were the first ones written by Burt Kennedy, who would go on to help write (screenplay and/or story) five of the movies in the series. Westbound wasn't written by Burt Kennedy and wasn't produced by Harry Brown but it did star Randolph Scott and was directed by Budd Boetticher,

 In each movie, Scott plays a loner who just goes about doing what he feels he has to do, even if he doesn't really want to. There is also usually an adversary who he admires, and who admires him.

Most of the movie have very similar plots and even use some of the same dialogue. It looks like the team was tweaking little things to try to get the story right.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Westbound (1959)

Westbound was the sixth of seven western films starring Randolph Scott and directed by Budd Boetticher. While most consider it a part of the Ranown Cycle, Randolph Scott's partner Harry Joe Brown did not produce this and Burt Kennedy did not write the story.
The story is set in 1864 and involves gold shipments by overland stagecoach from California to Colorado which will then be sent to the East to support the Union war effort. Randolph Scott stars as Captain John Hayes who battles Southern sympathizers who want to stop the gold.
As Captain Hayes makes his away across country in a stagecoach he comes upon another beautiful girl (Karen Steele) hooked to a plow, which Randolph Scott seems to do pretty consistently in this series. And is also often the case the strong woman has a weak husband (in this case because he lost an arm during the war). When Jeanie's Yankee husband Rod Miller, gets called out in town, Jeanie defends him and then John Hayes steps in.
The bad guy, Mace, who works for Confederate agent Putnam, is one of those complex Ranown bad guys. He also steps in to defend the lady.
Rod tries, but has trouble handling a gun and working with horses around the house. Meanwhile, John Hayes is trying to make sure he gets the stage line running to bring the gold in. He is planning to use the Miller's ranch as a station on the stage line.
Putnam's men steal the horses, John and Rod go and get them back. Putnam's men come back and take the horses again. This time they shoot Rod, who was standing in the doorway and Rod dies.
When Putnam's wife, Norma, who is Hayes former lover says she is leaving Putnam, the plot starts to get complicated. It looks like John Hayes now has two women.
In the last scene Hayes goes in to town looking for Mace. Unlike, other Ranown shown downs this one has a group of Mace's men coming for Hayes first. the people of the town then come out and help Hayes. Putnun also comes out to help Hayes. Mace starts to ride out of town and Hayes guns him down. Not your typical heroic show down. Putnam hass also killed in the gunfight.
Which woman will Hayes take? He looks at Norma as she is about to head off on the stage, and then back at the window where Jeanie is. He pats Norma on the arm and leads his horse towards Jeanie. He tells her he will look in on her from time to time and he will make it soon.
The strength of the Ranown Cycle movies was the simplicity in the plot. This movie was flawed a little by the subplot that had Hayes and Duggan's wife as former lovers. It wasn't needed and actually hurt the movie. When you have a bullfight you don't bring a second person into the arena.
But, overall, still a really good movie.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Seven Men From Now (1956)

    This was the  first movie in what has come to be called the Ranown Cycle.
    The movie starts on a dark night, with lightning flashing in the background. Ben Stride approaches two men around a camp fire on the rainy night. They talk about a killing in Silver Springs. Gun shots off screen tell us there will only be five men left as we see Ben Stride rides off.
    Ben runs into John and Annie Greer, a couple whose wagon it stuck in the mud. In a sub plot that is repeated throughout the series, John is a weak man with a woman who is too good for him, but she seems to make a good match with our hero, Ben.
Like in all the Ranown movies Ben is a man of few words. He often agrees with the speaker by saying things like "It seems that way", but doesn't really tell you what he is thinking. He is an independent man and doesn't seems to fell that he should be giving other people advice - they should be able to make up their minds for themselves.
    When a cavalry office tells the Greers they should probably head back because of roving bands of Chiricahuas, Ben gives them directions on which way they should go, but John Greer says that they are not heading back. You can tell Ben is not happy with Greer's decision to put his wife at risk but he doesn't say anything to him. As Annie looks back at him he just says to his horse: "Come on boy, can't let them go on alone." Ben puts himself at risk, because of the decision of the weak man and because of the woman that he is with.
    Ben and the Greers then meet up with Bill Masters (Lee Marvin), a man he had put into jail when he was a sheriff, and his partner Clete. In another often repeated sub-plot in the series, the outlaw Masters admires our hero, and our hero seems to like the outlaw figure too. Within two minutes of meeting Ben says : "I'd hate to have to kill you" and Masters responds : "I'd hate to have you try."
    We find out from Masters that Stride was sheriff of Silver Springs and his wife was killed in a hold up involving seven men. When Annie tries to talk to Stride about it he says: "You're right Mrs. Greer. It's none of your business and it won't make it any easier." Stride does tell Mrs. Greer that his wife was working that night because his pride wouldn't let him take a job as a deputy after he lost the election for sheriff.
Masters tells Stride that he is following along because he is interested in the $20,000 from the hold up. And if Stride takes care of the rest of the men, like he did the first two, then the only thing that stands between Masters and the money is Stride. When Apaches attack it is Stride and Masters who ride out to face them and drive them off.
    Masters then saves Stride's life when a stranger, who he has just saved from the Apaches, was set to shoot him in the back. Masters is falling for Annie and he just about tells her so in front of her husband and Stride. The husband doesn't have much to say, so Stride has to take up for him. he ends up punching Masters and telling him to move on.
    Stride then tracks down the other guilty men to a little town. As Stride is about to ride off, he and Annie come very close to kissing but pull back at the last second.

  As you can see in the picture above, Stride is right where most of the protagonists of Ranown end up -
 in the middle between the weak man and his stronger wife.

    Stride shoots is out with the four remaining men he is after. He is wounded and John Greer and Annie nurse him back to health. John Greer wants to bring him in to town, but Anne says he will be shot down. Greer tells Annie that he is carrying the money for the robbers in to town and must bring it in. A recovered Stride takes the money and waits for outlaws to come because he now has the money.
    John Greer tries to redeem himself at the end by going in to town to try to get a sheriff to help Stride but dies for his trouble, shot in the back. Masters says:  "I was wrong Clete, he wasn't half a man."
    The outlaws come out for Stride and the money. After Stride finishes off the four remaining men he was after and finishes off Master's partner Clete too. There is the final showdown has the two "friends", Masters and Stride up against each other. Masters wants the money, and Stride is going to do what is right. "Sure is a shame you and me have to face it out this way", Masters says. In the gunfight Masters goes down.
    After inviting Annie to visit, Stride returns to Silver City to take the deputy job.

The Tall T (1957)

    The first movie directed by Budd Boetticher, produced by Harry Brown and starring Randolph Scott,   The screenplay was also wriiten by Burt Kennedy, based on a story by Elmore Leonard.
    The movie opens with Pat Brennan (Scott) riding among the rocks and the mountains. He is riding to the outfit he used to work at, to try to buy a bull for his new ranch. He lostes his horse in a bet and he hitches a ride with a stagecoach carrying newlyweds, Willard and Doretta Mims (Maureen O'Sullivan). Doretta was "scheduled to be an old maid until Willard came along. She;s as plain as adobe wall", said Ed Rintoon (Arthur Hunnicutt).
     At the next station the coach and its passengers fall into the hands of a trio of outlaws headed by a man named Usher (Richard Boone). Chink, played by Henry Silva is a deadly shot and is ruthless. The outlaws have already thrown Brennan's friend and his son down the well and it looks like Brennan and the Mims are next.
    Doretta is a good person, but her husband is a bum who just married her for her money. When Usher learns from the husband that Doretta is the daughter of a rich copper-mine owner, he decides to hold her for ransom. Willard is only too happy to leave to get the ransom.
    Like in the other Ranown films we again run in to a woman who is too good for the man she is with. Our hero seems like a much better match for her and they both know it.
    Also, as in the other Ranown movies, the villain and the hero form a sort of respectful friendship. There is a code that they both seem to understand. They are men. They are the bull and the bullfighter. They are not like the men around them, who are either weak or misfits. Usher asks Brennan if he has a woman on his place and Brennan tells him he doesn't. Usher says: "It ain't right for a man to be alone." Brennan, in classic Ranown, says: 'They say that."

    After Willard comes back with news of the ransom, he is quickly disposed of, to the regret of no one. Usher, with the strange sense of honor that the Ranown villains had, couldn't stand that Mims was selling his wife. Even Doretta comes to know she is better off without him. Brennan and Doretta start planning to save themselves from being shot the next day. In the meantime, Doretta and Brennan form an attachment for each other.

Usher:  Suppose you be wonderin why we be keep you around.
Brennan:  Am I?
Usher:  Plain face truth is that I like you Brennan. Not many men I can say that about.
Brennan:  Can you say it about you?
Usher:  There was them when they did. Yeah. Time was  I was looked on with a fair amount of respect where I come from.

Pat Brennan: Did you love him?
Doretta Mims: I married him.
Pat Brennan: That's not what I asked.
Doretta Mims: Yes! Yes, I did.
Pat Brennan: Mrs. Mims, you're a liar. You didn't love him, and never for one minute thought he loved you. That's true, isn't it?

    When Usher goes off to collect the ransom, Brennan outsmarts and then kills off Billy Jack.

Doretta Mims: Well, what about you?
Pat Brennan: I'm going to finish this. If they come, I'm going to finish this once and for all.
Doretta Mims: Oh, but why?
Pat Brennan: Some things a man can't ride around.

 Chink hears the gunshot and comes back and Brennan kills him. It is now just Brennan and Usher. When Usher returns Brennan gets the drop on him. Usher could have escaped, Brennan won't shoot him in the back. But Usher can't run away, he must turn back and charge. The matador must kill the bull, even if he doesn't want to.

    Brennan, to the weeping Doretta, after he has killed the three murderous kidnappers, "Come on now. It's gonna be a nice day" and  Brennan and Doretta ride back to Contention together with their arms around each other.

Decision at Sundown (1957)

Bart Allison meets his friend Sam and travels to Sundown just in time for Tate Kimbrough's wedding. Everyone in town seems to have a pretty high regard for Tate but Bart holds him responsible for the death of his wife, three years earlier.
At the wedding, Tate's dance hall girlfriend sits in the front row and Bart stands in the back. When asked if there were any objections to the wedding Bart speaks up. He says to the bride: "If you marry this man you'll be a widow by sun down."
Bart and Sam then get pinned down by the sheriff's men. Lucy, the would be bride, leaves the church and the wedding is temporarily off while she tries to figure out what is going on.
This movie is a different from the two previous ones in the series. In this one it doesn't seem Randolph Scott's character has any respect for the villain. In the previous two movies he had regrets about cutting them down.
When Sam finds out that Bart is going to kill Tate because of something that happened to Bart's wife Mary, Sam is disturbed. Later Sam tells Bart that Mary wasn't the woman Bart thought she was and Tate wasn't the first man she was with.
It seems the villain isn't as much of a villain as he first looked. Again Boetticher humanizes the villain. Things aren't as cut and dried as it originally looked. Maybe it is Bart who is in the wrong. When Sam gets shot down by the Sheriff's men, he asks the Doctor to tell Bart that Mary was no good.
The Doctor gives a speech in the bar telling the people they need to get their town back from Kimbrough. The people in the town, including Lucy and her father, begin to wake up.
The flawed hero, Bart Allison, has a shoot out with the Sheriff and guns him down but he cuts his gun hand but he still wants to get Tate Kimbrough. Kimbrough straps on a gun and comes out to meet him. Before they get to meet, Tate's girlfriend Ruby shoots Tate to save him, so he won't get killed. Ruby and the Doc tell Bart that his wife was no good, she wasn't worth it. Kimbrough rides out of town with Ruby while Bart drinks at the bar.
Bart then rides off into the sunset with Sam's horse trailing behind.

Buchanan Rides Alone (1959)

On his way home to West Texas, Tom Buchanan rides into the Californian border town of Agry. The Agry family includes the mayor, the sheriff and hotel manager. Each is out to see how much they can make. When a young Mexican comes in and shoots down a member of the family, Buchanan helps save him from getting beaten.
Buchanan and the young Mexican, Juan de la Vega, are almost hung but saved when one of the Agrys thinks of a way to make money off them. A jury lets Buchanan off but Juan is convicted. The Sheriff lets Buchanan go but keeps his $2000. The Agry brothers fight over who is going to ransom Juan back to his family. Greed is the name of the game. Buchanan leaves town but goes back for his money and Juan.
This movie is a little different from others in the series, There is another "respectable" outlaw, Carbo, but the movie has a comic tone wandering around the fringes. The Agry brothers are more buffoons then desperadoes. Buchanan is a little like Pat Brennan, in The Tall T in that he was just going along, minding his own business when trouble found him and he then thought he had to do the right thing and get involved.
It might be possible that Akira Kurosawa, who liked American Westerns, may have seen this movie before he wrote a similarly themed Yojimbo two years later. Clint Eastwood's Western A Fistful of Dollars was later based on Yojimbo. The comic elements and buffonery were also evident in those two movies.
Not my favorite in the series, but still a pretty good movie.

Ride Lonesome (1959)

Ben Brigade rides down wanted murderer Billy John and plans to take him back to Vera Cruz. On the way he runs into an old acquaintance, Sam Boone and his friend Whit, who are both wanted by the law. At a stage relay station they pick up Carrie Lane, whose husband is missing. Another love interest with a weak husband for the hero which is a common occurence in the Ranown cycle movies.
Indians wanted to trade a horse for Carrie but Ben said no. Now they are trailing the group along with Billy's brother Frank. To complicate matters, Sam and Whit want to bring Billy in because then they can get amnesty for any crimes they may have committed.
When Bill gets a hold of a gun, Sam takes it away from him. Sam is another of those bad guys who has good qualities that we see in the Ranown cycle movies who usually save the hero's life at some point.
Ben brings the group to a "hanging tree." Frank who is still following knew that was where he was going. It seems that he had done Ben a wrong long ago, which is why Ben took Billy.
During the show down at the tree, Ben guns down the charging Frank (bull fighting scene once again) with the help of Sam and Whit. He then turns Billy over to Sam and Whit. The film ends with Ben burning down the tree where Frank had hung his wife.
Great casts of villains, led by Pernell Roberts, Lee van Cleef and James Coburn (in his first role), makes this one of the best in this great series of movies.

Comanche Station (1960)

Jefferson Cody rescues a woman who is being held captive by the Comanches. There is a big reward for Nancy Lowe, but that is not what Cody is interested in. He has been searching for over ten years for his wife, who has been abducted.
Cody meets up with the villain, Ben Lane. He knew Lane from their time together in the army where Cody testified at Lane's court marshall.
Lane wants to get the reward for bringing Nancy in. He and his partners, Skip and Dobie, travel along with Cody and Nancy, and wait for their opening.
The Indians take care of Skip, so now the bad guys are down to two. As Cody talks to Dobie, Dobie starts to come over to his way of thinking. He is tired of the outlaw way of life. When Lane looks to ambush Cody, Dobie wants no part of it and it gunned down for his trouble.
In the final confrontation Cody guns down Lane and takes Nancy home to her waiting (and blind) husband.
Probably my favorite movie in the cycle.