Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ride the High Country

Tonight's TCM lineup contains a lot of westerns about the changing of the Old West, and how older cowboys try to adjust to the change. One of these movies is the excellent Ride the High Country, at midnight ET tonight.

Joel McCrea stars as one of the aging men, a lawman around 1900 who has taken on the job of guarding a shipment of gold from a mining town because, frankly, he needs the work. When he's signing up to take on the job, he meets his old pal Randolph Scott, now working with the carnival. Scott has a young friend, Ron Starr, and since there's safety in numbers, McCrea decides to let Scott and Starr come along with him. What he doesn't realize is that Scott has other ideas for the gold.

On the way to the town, they stop at the farm of an extremely old-fashiond farmer, whose daughter (Mariette Hartley) has fallen in love with a man in the mining town, but who can't see him because her father would never permit it. The presence of these three security guards, however, gives her an opportunity to run away, which she takes, joining them on the trip to the mining town. Of course, it's fairly obvious that along the way, Starr is going to fall in love with Hartley, and that this is going to cause problems when they get to the mining town.

Those problems quickly manifest themselves when the four reach the mining town, and Hartley discovers that it's a den of iniquity -- and that her beau has several brothers, all of whom would like to partake in some of that iniquity, with her being taken along for a ride. She doesn't like that, and so decides to run off with the three men who took her to the mining town in the first place. That's a big problem, because the brothers are going to come chasing after all of them, and they won't just want her; they'll want the gold too. Never mind that Scott still has his own plans for the gold....

Joel McCrea is one of those terribly underrated actors, probably because he spent the second half of his career making westerns. However, he's as good here as he ever was. The plot of the movie could just as well be an allegory for the changing of Hollywood: with the advent of TV, and the breaking down of the old Code prohibitions in the movies, Hollywood was becoming less and less of a place for people like McCrea and Scott. Still, oftentimes the movies of such "old-fashioned" people are just as good, if not better, than the more transgressive movies, as looking back to the older values can be more timeless. (Indeed, I've the similar argument regarding the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours.)

Ride the High Country has been released to DVD, so you don't have to watch tonight's TCM airing.

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