45 – Shane (1953)

Joe Starrett: I know one thing, the only way they’re gonna get me outta here is in a pine box.
 
Seen before?

R: Only the few seconds of it that feature in Logan (2017).

F: Same here.

 

Thoughts?

R: We come to the fourth Western on the list, and after The Wild BunchButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Unforgiven this is an older and much more traditional example of the genre. We are out on the American frontier, with law enforcement days away, and it’s a good ol’ fashioned story of standing up to bullies with a little help from the Second Amendment. I think it’s a little tame.

F: It’s certainly my least favourite of the four Westerns so far. For me, all of the above had better storylines and characters, were more gritty or more charming and had me interested in a genre I previously had little time for. That’s not to say this is bad but it’s not the film to convince me about Westerns.

R: It’s pretty slow to get going, and while I think the gentle build-up of tension ultimately pays off, I don’t think the film uses the early quiet time as effectively as it could to establish the characters. There’s not a lot more to Shane than “quiet guy who’s good at everything”. Perhaps he’s meant to be a blank slate that a mostly male audience can project themselves onto?

F: Perhaps that’s it. I have no idea why the little boy is so obsessed with Shane. To me his father is much braver and nobler. He’s also a much more interesting character from my point of view because he has a motivation. Shane just waltzes in without any background and is suddenly this great hero!

R: I guess you’re supposed to put it down to the intrigue of a mysterious stranger. What did you think of the performance of Brandon deWilde, who plays the little boy Joey? To me he was sort of terrible but still quite captivating.

F: I think he was fine. Not the dazzling heights of Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver or even Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense but a perfectly fine child actor. That said, I’ve never had any strong opinions about the name Shane before but after hearing this kid cry and scream it multiple times over two hours it’s become quite grating (apologies to any Shanes reading this!)

R: Shy-aaaaaaaane!

F: Exactly like that!

R: While we’re being mean about the film, I’d also suggest the cinematography is another element that has quite obviously been surpassed in more recent times. The early bar brawl in particular feels really sloppily filmed and/or edited, with quite significant actions happening out of view. You’ll see an arm move to punch but won’t see either the hit connect or the person hit reacting. It feels very unconvincing.

F: It reminded me of a fight scene in any recent comic book movie – over the top and quite cartoonish. However, I was actually quite impressed with the shots of the landscapes.

R: Yeah, it’s probably worth stressing it’s only really the action sequences where the cinematography felt a bit substandard by modern standards.

F: It felt very firmly in the Western genre. Having only seen the ending of this in Logan, [SPOILER] I genuinely thought Shane died at the end of this film. It seemed the only explanation as to why the kid was so upset. But he just leaves! What a disappointing ending.

R: I guess it’s intended to be a family friendly film, and the death of the main hero might have been a bit intense for younger viewers. But yes, it was fairly strongly telegraphed that Shane would not be around at the end of the movie, with Marian warning Joey toward the start not to get too attached to Shane. [END SPOILER] Like a number of the older films on the list we’ve watched recently, the plot doesn’t spring too many surprises.

F: Yeah there was nothing here that stood out for me.

 

Is it worthy of the top 100?

R: It’s a perfectly fine film but it’s not top 100 material.

F: This doesn’t cut it for me I’m afraid.

 

Up next:
44 – The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Previously:
46 – It Happened One Night (1934)

3 thoughts on “45 – Shane (1953)

    1. R: Ha! That is a way more interesting way to read that scene, although given the serious beating he and Joe were able to brush off earlier in the film it never even occurred to me to look at it that way. And from a quick bit of Googling I’m not totally convinced we got it wrong. Did find this enjoyable scene from The Negotiator (1998) though…

      Like

      1. I always liked that scene from the Negotiator!
        I think that the deliberately ambiguous ending is the final pay off of the movie and what makes it stand out from other westerns of the era and maybe why it’s in the AFI100. The fact that it is being debated in other films and on the internet over 50 years later is testament to that.
        As you mention it’s referenced in Logan.. a film where the hero dies at the end.. (though you never can be certain with superheroes).
        My take is that it puts you in the position of the young boy wanting to believe in a happy ending – you really want to believe Shane is alive and can maybe convince yourself that he is going to be ok… even though he rides off, symbolically through the graveyard, bleeding and slumped in the saddle…
        The movie is about the the end of the era of gunfighters. Shane is quite literally a dying breed.

        Liked by 1 person

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