Thursday, February 16, 2017

Warlock



Laki ja väkivalta / Våldet och lagen / L'Homme aux colts d'or. US © 1959 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. P+D: Edward Dmytryk. SC: Robert Alan Aurthur – based on the novel (1958) by Oakley Hall. DP: Joseph MacDonald – colour: DeLuxe – CinemaScope 2,35:1. AD: Herman A. Blumenthal, Lyle R. Wheeler. Set dec: Stuart A. Reiss, Walter M. Scott. Make-up: Ben Nye. Hair: Helen Turpin. M: Leigh Harline. "Beautiful Dreamer" (Stephen Foster). "Rock of Ages" (Thomas Hastings, Augustus Montague Toplady). S: Alfred Bruzlin, Harry M. Leonard – Westrex Recording System. ED: Jack W. Holmes.
    C: Henry Fonda (Clay Blaisedell), Richard Widmark (Johnny Gannon), Anthony Quinn (Tom Morgan), Dorothy Malone (Lily Dollar), Dolores Michaels (Jessie Marlow), Wallace Ford (judge Holloway), Tom Drake (Abe McQuown), Richard Arlen (Bacon), DeForest Kelley (Curley Burne), Regis Toomey (Skinner), Vaughn Taylor (Henry Richardson), Don Beddoe (Dr. Wagner). Whit Bissell (Petrix), Bartlett Robinson (Buck Slavin), Frank Gorshin (Billy Gannon), June Blair (dance hall girl), Noble "Kid" Chissell (townsman), Ann Doran (Mrs. Richardson), L. Q. Jones (Fen Jiggs).
    Loc: Moab, Utah (Dead Horse Point State Park, Professor Valley, Arches National Park, White's Ranch). Studio: 20th Century Fox Studios, Century City.
    Warlock is the name of the fictional mining town.
    Helsinki premiere: 14.8.1959 Metropol, distributor: O.Y. Fox Films A.B. – telecast 7.7.1980 MTV1; 13.11.1987 TV1, 13.5.1995 TV2 (Western of the Month) - VET 51173 – K16 – 3350 m / 122 min
    A vintage print with Swedish subtitles by Gun Östlund viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Westerns selected by Pertti Avola), 16 Feb 2017

I saw for the first time Warlock, one of Edward Dmytryk's best films. It may be his last great film. It is a late classical Western of the second golden age of the genre. Which means that it isn't in any way a meta-Western or a post-Western. Also the story is set in the classical period of the Wild West, in the 1880s. In Warlock one can also admire a Hollywood studio system production still at its best.

The starting-point of the story is familiar from the Wyatt Earp stories, but the treatment is original. There is a town bullied by a bunch of outlaws, the San Pablo gang. The official deputy sheriff is chased out of town by the rampant gang. A barber is shot because a nervous outlaw moved in his chair and got a cut in his chin. The citizen's committee decides to hire the famous gunfighter Clay Blaisedell (Henry Fonda) to fight the outlaws. His terms: he brings with him his partner Tom Gannon (Anthony Quinn), and they will establish a touring saloon ("French Palace") which provides girls and gambling.

The basic myth dramatized here is the birth of justice, law and order. In the beginning we have the right of the might, the rule of brute force and violence. Then comes the gunfighter, an in-between creature, a vigilante, a hired hand. But he must be followed by real law and order.

The premises are familiar but there are several distinctive features in Warlock. One is a genuine epic, dramatic, and novelistic touch. There is a convincing sense of a turbulent evolution of a society. There is also a density of detail and observation.

There is remarkable complexity in the relationships. We follow with interest the development of a surprising relationship between Blaisedell and the nurse Jessie Marlow (Dolores Michaels). No less surprising is the attraction between the new deputy sheriff Johnny Gannon (Richard Widmark) and the former saloon girl Lily Dollar (Dorothy Malone). Underneath there is a feeling of tremendous, suppressed emotion like in Johnny Guitar.

During the film we follow the coming of age story of Johnny Gannon who has belonged to the San Pablo gang but is distancing himself from it, at first by getting drunk and staying drunk. He supports Blaisedell to a certain limit. He surprisingly volunteers to become a deputy sheriff, and after having been brutalized by the leader of his former gang, Abe McQuown, including having his gun hand pierced with a knife, he beats the gang with his partners in a final battle without Blaisedell's help.

In a confession to Lily Johnny tells about his traumatic experience when he as a member of the San Pablo gang had participated in a massacre of 37 Mexicans in the context of a huge cattle rustling job. The outlaws' cover story was that it was the Apaches who killed the Mexicans.

Henry Fonda is at his toughest as Blaisedell. He is a master gunfighter but even more impressively he can discipline crooks with his mere authority, without having to use guns. He is a real lawman also in the way he protects the crooks from a lynch mob that is gathering around the prison. Also without having to use guns. "Lynch mob is the lowest thing". Blaisedell also realizes that his time is coming to an end. "Maybe we've run out of towns".

The most original feature of Warlock is the relationship between Blaisedell and Morgan. Morgan is also a gunfighter, apparently the better of the two, although he is lame, and he has saved Blaisedell's life countless times. Morgan also protects Blaisedell in many other ways which complicates the story considerably. Why? Blaisedell is "the only one who did not look down on me and didn't see a cripple". Morgan is profoundly shattered when he learns that Blaisedell wants to quit from his gunfighter career and settle down with Jessie. He goes into a mad rampage, forcing Blaisedell to shoot him.

The most deeply emotional passage of Warlock is that of Blaisedell's mourning over Morgan's death. Blaisedell carries Morgan's corpse to the saloon table and burns the saloon down. The Blaisedell-Morgan bond has echoes of Achilles and Patroclus, and the mythic resonance of the ritual funeral feels genuine and powerful. Warlock has been called, among other things, the strongest expression of homosexual love in the Western genre. "Maybe I'm nothing without him", is a remark of Blaisedell to Jessie.

A powerful screening experience of a vintage DeLuxe print with the expected occasional fading but also with passages of good and properly unrealistic colour.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: OUR PROGRAM NOTE BY JARI SEDERGREN:
BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: OUR PROGRAM NOTE BY JARI SEDERGREN:

Warlock on pahainen kaivoskylä, ei edes oikea kaupunki, mutta se on saanut riesakseen terrori-soivan cowboy-joukon läheiseltä San Pablon ranchilta. Kaikki kyläläiset ovat peloissaan jatkuvista iskuista, joissa ihmishenki on halpaa. Seriffin (ei-viralliseen) asemaan suostuneet on yksi toisensa jälkeen ajettu pakosalle. Kuten rohkeimmat naiset toteavat, kylän miehiltä on mennyt sisu kaulaan.

Yksi jos toinen miettii muuttoa pois, mutta ne joilla on vielä vähän vastarintaa jäljellä, ehdottavat oman seriffin palkkaamista. Tehtävään värvätään legendaarinen asemies Clay Blaisedell (Henry Fonda), jolla on vyötäisillään kultaiset coltit ja kakkosmiehenään toinen samanmoinen, vaikkakin luonteeltaan tummempi peluri Tom Morgan (Anthony Quinn). Tilannetta mutkistaa cowboy-joukkojen meininkiin kyllästynyt Johnny Gannon (Richard Widmark), jonka verinen tausta meksiko-laismurhineen on alkanut syödä hänen sieluaan. Kolmikko muodostaa kolme vaihtoehtoista miehen mallia: yksi on sellainen lähtökohtaisesti, toinen kasvaa mieheksi, mutta kolmannelle tulevaisuus ei lupaa hyvää. Yhtä kaikki, myös kaupunkiin saapuva Lily Dollar (Dorothy Malone), jolla on menneisyys, on vähintäänkin verenhimoinen.

Edward Dmytryk oli ukrainalaissukuinen, siirtolaisperheeseen Kanadassa syntynyt, 1930-luvun puolivälissä leikkaajasta ohjaajaksi siirtynyt mies. Dmytrykin tausta on ristiriitainen. Mainetta on varjostanut taipuminen kommunistivainojen aikana tutkivan komission ilmiantajaksi. Taustalla oli kuitenkin vankeustuomio oikeuden halventamisesta, kun hän kieltäytyi kertomasta kuulusteluissa kommunistiyhteyksistään. Vankilan jälkeen hän valitsi vapaaehtoisen maanpaon Englantiin kol-meksi vuodeksi. Palattuaan Hollywoodiin hän sai ohjattavakseen 1950-luvulla paitsi kuuluisan Cai-nen kapinan (1954), myös pari sotaelokuvaa ja westerniä.

Warlock on selkeästi muunnelma lännen historiasta ja sen esityksistä tutulle tarinoille Wyatt Earpista ja Doc Hollidaysta. Vaikka sen näyttelijöistä varsinkin Fonda, Widmark ja Quinn olivat tunnustettuja miestähtiä, ei kassa kilissyt odotetulla tavalla. Syyksi on arveltu sen käsikirjoituksen syvällisiä ja monimutkaisia piirteitä, joita ei vailla älyllisiä kykyjä oteta haltuun.

Mutta välittämättä menneen ajan kassakoneiden raksutuksesta tosiasiaksi jää, että psykologisena westerninä Warlock on huippuhieno esimerkki onnistumisesta. Se laajentaa käsitystä 1950-luvun kliseisistä tulkinnoista, jotka tyytyivät kerta toisensa jälkeen paitsi toistamaan tarinoissaan yksilön integriteettiä (ja sankaruutta), myös painottamaan näiden periaatteessa varsin kunniallisten lännen kaupunkien tekopyhyyttä ja itsekkyyttä, jotka pulpahtavat esiin heti, kun pintaa raaputetaan jollakin konfliktilla.

Tuotannollisilta arvoiltaan korkeatasoinen Warlock on klassinen ja tyylikäs – sekä varsin äänekäs, kuten aikalaiskritiikki muisti huomauttaa.

– Jari Sedergren 9.2.2017

SYNOPSIS FROM THE AFI CATALOG:

In the frontier town of Warlock, the San Pablo gang, a sadistic band of cowboys led by Abe McQuown, wages a campaign of wanton killing and anarchy while the citizens stand idly by. Rather than face certain death at the hands of McQuown, Deputy Roy Thomson hightails it out of town and is brutally humiliated by the gang. Sickened by the senseless violence, gang member Johnny Gannon starts to question McQuown's authority. Now devoid of all law, the Warlock Citizen's Committee votes to hire infamous gunman Clay Blaisdell to act as marshal and protect the town. After making a deal with the committee for $400 a month plus the management of the Palace Saloon, the local gambling parlor, Blaisdell arrives in town with his storied gold-handled pistols and his partner and close friend, Tom Morgan, a crippled gunslinger. Blaisdell immediately warns his employers that they will soon come to hate and resent him. That night, McQuown's gang rides into town to challenge Blaisdell, and the taunts of Curley, one of the cowboys, prompts Blaisdell to draw his gold-handled Colts. After getting the drop on Curley, Blaisdell holds his fire and then warns that he will kill anyone who draws on him and that troublemakers will not be allowed in town. Defeated, McQuown and his boys leave and Johnny decides to quit the gang. Impressed by the marshal's nonviolent approach, Jessie Marlowe, the pretty daughter of one of the town's founders, apologizes for misjudging him. Later, Morgan learns that the stage is carrying Lily Dollar, his former lover, and her companion, Bob Nicholson, and gallops out to overtake it before it can reach town. From a ridge, Morgan watches as McQuown's men stop the stage to rob it. Training his rifle on Nicholson, Morgan shoots and kills him and then disappears into the hills. Upon reaching town, the stage driver identifies one of the robbers as Billy Gannon, Johnny's brother, but Lily insists that a third man killed Nicholson. As Blaisdell leads a posse to San Pablo, Lily goes to the Palace and contemptuously accuses Morgan of murdering Nicholson. Years earlier, Lily fell in love with Nicholson's brother Ben, compelling the obsessively jealous Morgan to manipulate Blaisdell into killing Ben in a gunfight. When Blaisdell returns with his prisoners, the blood-thirsty crowd calls for a lynching and breaks into the jail. After Blaisdell disperses the crowd, the county sheriff arrives to take the prisoners into custody. Castigating the town for hiring a high-priced gunman, the sheriff challenges one of them to accept the job of deputy sheriff, and Johnny eagerly volunteers. After the San Pablo boys are acquitted by a crooked judge, Blaisdell warns that he will kill them if they step foot in Warlock. Touched by Johnny's earnestness, Lily invites him to dinner and asks why he left McQuown. Johnny, troubled, traces his decision to the day that McQuown and his men massacred 37 helpless Mexicans. One day, Jessie seeks out Blaisdell to warn him that Billy and the others are headed for Warlock. When Blaisdell calls her an angel, Jessie discloses that she is restless and unhappy and they kiss. The next morning, Morgan, anxious to finish their business in Warlock and move onto the next town, tells Blaisdell that the McQuown gang has reached Warlock, and Blaisdell informs him that he has decided to settle down and marry Jessie. As Blaisdell and Morgan march out to meet the outlaws, Johnny asks to speak to Billy. Johnny's attempts to reason with his brother fail, however, and Billy calls out Blaisdell. After Billy fires at Blaisdell, the marshal guns him down and Billy dies in his brother's arms. In retaliation, Skinner, one of McQuown's men, institutes a council of "regulators" to deal with Blaisdell. Forecasting that an army of cowboys will soon come to wreak havoc on the town, Morgan urges Blaisdell to move on but Johnny asserts that it is his job to keep the peace. After Blaisdell delegates his authority to Johnny, Johnny rides to San Pablo to warn McQuown to stay out of Warlock. Although McQuown vindictively slashes Johnny's gun hand, Johnny is undeterred and returns to town to face down the gang. Fearing for Johnny's life, Lily asks Blaisdell to help him, asserting that Blaisdell owes her for killing Ben Nicholson. When McQuown's men appear, Morgan pulls his gun on Blaisdell and holds him prisoner, rendering him unable to come to Johnny's aid. Johnny impassively faces McQuown, but when one of the gang tries to shoot him in the back, Skinner kills the man, assuring a fair fight. McQuown, a slow draw, is then outgunned by Johnny, who arrests the regulators. Finally realizing that Morgan goaded him into killing Nicholson, Blaisdell breaks with his long-time partner. Insane with hatred, Morgan gets drunk, shoots up the saloon and then staggers into the street, gunning for Johnny. Claiming that Morgan is his responsibility, Blaisdell locks Johnny in a cell and then commands his old friend to leave town. When the crowd begins to jeer at him, Morgan boasts that he can beat Blaisdell and draws his gun. Blaisdell fires back, killing him, and then carries Morgan's lifeless body to the saloon. In pain over his loss, Blaisdell sets the saloon on fire and Johnny tells him that the time has come for him to move on. Blaisdell vows he will never go without a fight, and when Jessie pleads with him to stay with her, he muses that he is nothing without his guns. The next morning, Blaisdell faces Johnny. After drawing first, Blaisdell holds his fire, throws down his golden-handled pistols and then rides out of town.

No comments: