Masters Of Cinema #109 - Man Of The West - Blu-ray Review

'Mann opens with his 'man of the West' already into his twilight years, and from there on his film's aim is only ever made clearer.'

A surprisingly brief one hundred minutes (not forgetting this is a 1950s Western), Anthony Mann's Man Of The West does eventually prove out that less is not always more. Whilst the running time might mirror Mann's message - this is a film aimed at least partially at subverting the genre - there is less here of note than in some contemporary, longer, offerings.

Mann opens with his 'man of the West' already into his twilight years, and from there on his film's aim is only ever made clearer. Link Jones (Gary Cooper) is an ageing, retired outlaw, now off in search of a schoolteacher for his village. In a coincidence to end all coincidental film plots everywhere, Link happens to ride the very train robbed by his old gang, an event which happens within walking distance of his old hideout where, of course, the gang have gone to lay low.

If Link is one half of the dual personality old man of the west, then the other is here as Dock (Lee J. Cobb), a past-it bandit with dreams of the one big score. Wrapped up close to the fire, desperately trying to keep a handle on his motley crew as he wheezes alcohol fumes, Dock is the 'die' part of the 'adapt or die' scenario. Clinging to the Old West, there is no place for Dock here, a fact that becomes crystal clear when the narrative finally reaches his El Dorado, only to find it in ruins. His plan for the bank robbery that should take place here is delivered with a touch of genius by Reginald Rose's script, the 'tomorrow a man rides into the bank' narrative structure echoing the ageing novels to which Dock belongs.

With his tale told well, through two characters, Mann is rather left with little else to capture the attention, though there are other notable features. In what could be a clunky narrative, there is at least some attempt at lightness, particularly during the opening (watch for the old lady on the train flirting with Link) and a fantastically forward-thinking section which sees one of the villains stripped and murdered after he has attempted to do the same to Billie (Julie London). The visuals are not altogether sparkling but on an auditory level, Leigh Harline's brass-led score is resplendent.

Man Of The West though feels like a film more interested in its undertones than its story. It makes its point plainly enough, but never with the sparkle of more developed efforts.

Founded in 2004, The Masters of Cinema Series is an independent, carefully curated, UK-based Blu-ray and DVD label, now consisting of over 150 films. Films are presented in their original aspect ratio (OAR), in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.

Man Of The West is released in the UK on Monday 23rd March 2015

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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