Raoul Walsh, Adventurer

For a man who toiled in the studio system for close to 50 years, cranking out genre quickies and prestige productions with equal aplomb, Raoul Walsh’s work remains astonishingly coherent. My grab-bag syle of viewing has made this resoundingly clear. This week I watched his earliest work, Regeneration (1915) and The Thief of Bagdad (1925) through two films he made in 1953: The Lawless Breed and Gun Fury. The above still is from Along the Great Divide, a spare, Oedipal Western from 1951. All of them, in one guise or another, deals with Walsh’s major concern, the benefits (freedom) and costs (self-absorption, loneliness) of individuality.

In Along the Great Divide (available from the Warner Archive), men are subsumed under vaulting rock formations, isolated and doomed. Kirk Douglas, in his first Western, plays a neurotic U.S. Marshal intent on protecting a cattle rustler accused of murder (Walter Brennan) from his would-be lynchers, and on bringing him to justice. He pushes his deputies as hard as his prisoners, eventually alienating all of them over a harsh drive through the desert. Douglas represses his world-devouring charisma into a bottled-up rage, unleashed only when a bemused, sardonic Brennan starts incessantly humming a tune, “Down In the Valley”, that the Marshal’s Dad used to sing, triggering unwelcome memories.

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2010: A First Quarter Viewing Calendar

It’s time to stagger into the new year with eyes thrust forward. No more list-making and list-arguing and dwelling on the decade that was. Let us break free from our immediate history and nostalgia’s uncomfortably warm grip to embrace the rambunctious year to come. We’re going to squeeze out its tender juices one month at a time, with a touch too much enthusiasm that will emit a pungent, ripe scent of dreams yet to be dashed. Yes, these are the images I will rush to imbibe in the first quarter (and a bit more) of 2010:

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The latest on 3-D.

Traditional audience at 3-D function.

I’ve been behind on reading my weekly Variety’s, so I took home the last three issues tonight and thought I might assemble a hodge-podge of excerpts from those since I know most people don’t subscribe (it’s friggin’ expensive!)… but as I was assembling my clippings on “Polish movie fans (that) stripped naked at a Warsaw cinema last week for the chance to watch films by Alejandro Jodorowsky…” (June 16-22), and a movie review on the latest film by Frank Henenlotter, the director of Basket Case, about “a genitally engorged male monster with a blonde babe who has seven sexual organs and a singular case of ‘permanent sexual arousal,’” (also June 16-22 issue), it occurred to me that… never you mind all that. Spanning these last three issues of Variety one theme rose up to catch my eye, and it’s going to catch a lot more eyes soon: I’m talking about the latest developments with 3-D. [...MORE]

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