Saturday, 23 August 2008

No.38 : Winchester ‘73

Winchester '73 at the IMDb

James Stewart stars in this 1950 western that follows the exciting history of the titular rifle.

We meet Stewart in the midst of a man hunt that has gone on for many years. He eventually catches up with his quarry in Dodge City but is denied a shoot out by Wyatt Earp who enforces a strict no guns policy. Typically in America this doesn’t preclude massive gun contests and our man enters one in the hope of winning a Winchester 1873 rifle - the ‘one in a thousand’.

Everyone in town really sucks at shooting so it’s between James Stewart and his nemesis, Dutch, for the prize. After several ties Stewart wins the valuable weapon by shooting a stamp out of a washer. The fact that he later can’t hit a man with 20 shots isn’t mentioned. Sadly for Stewart his enemy is a sore loser and gets knocked over the head and the prize weapon stolen. Just as well really as the thing is plainly cursed.

The thief has to trade it to a gun dealer after losing at cards and he in turn is tomahawked off screen by an Indian who takes a fancy to it. The Indian is then shot by Stewart who doesn’t know the rifle is lost nearby. The gun then falls in to other ill fated hands before winding back with Dutch just in time for the final shoot out.

This was a pretty decent western with the rifle being a good narrative device for advancing the story. James Stewart plays himself as usual and is helped along by love interest Shelly Winters before she ate all those pies. Young versions of Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson also show up but neither had much to do.

The baddies in the shape of the Indians and a gang of outlaws offer a slight distraction but neither represented much in the way of character or danger. The Indians, who just rode around whooping a lot - they can’t blame anyone but themselves for losing the continent on this evidence!

No one really raised the issue of why no one just bought the rifle from a shop rather than kill all and sundry for it. It was also shown to be less than effective as I don’t think it registered a single kill throughout the film. A case of be careful what you wish for - as everyone else wants it too.

A really enjoyable, fast paced western with great characters and a couple of surprises. Well worth your 90 minutes.

Best Bit : The shooting contest - I thought they would be going for a gnat’s baw hair next!

‘W’ Score : 18/23

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