MOVIE REVIEWS

Shane (1953)

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8/10 NR 01 hr 58 min

April 23, 1953

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By John Chard June 22, 2017

A man has to be what he is Joey, can't break the mould.

Shane is a weary gunslinger, one day he happens upon a homesteader family and begins to do chores for them, he finds an inner peace that he long thought was behind him. Sadly his peace is short lived because a strong arm cattle baron is determined to drive all the small farmer families off their land, and Shane finds himself drawn into the escalating conflict.

Taken from Jack Schaefer's popular novel, Shane holds up today as one of the most popular revered Westerns because it has mass appeal to the watching public. It's main plot strand may be of a simple good versus evil type scenario, but it's the surrounding veins that enthuse the films heart with maximum results. The story plays out thru the eyes of a young boy, Joey Starrett, he worships Shane for the guns he can sling, whilst simultaneously not recognising his own father for the honest hard working man he is, this of course is not lost on the mother of the piece. The family axis then comes to the fore as Shane quickly becomes aware of his moral fortitude, and this gives us a fascinating inner picture to run alongside the outer evil cattle baron versus farmers story. Within this warm family environment Shane hopes to find redemption, but sometimes a man has to do what a mans got to do, and this leads us to the films crowning glory.

Alan Ladd is Shane, wonderfully attired and playing the character with just about the right blend of gusto and tenderness, perhaps dangerously close to stiffening up at times, Ladd however nails it and gives the Western genre one of its ever lasting icons. Van Heflin, Jean Arthur, and Brandon de Wilde play the Starrett family, all of whom come out with much credit, whilst Jack Palance leaves a lasting impression as the dark knight, deadly hired gun, Wilson. Brutal yet sweet, and seeping positive morality into the bargain, Shane is a film for the whole family to enjoy, oozing fine work from all involved, it is a smashing and permanently engaging film. Sometimes when one revisits the film it feels like it is the prototype Western, all the genre characters are so vividly evident, but it's a testament to director George Stevens and his crew that Shane holds up to the iconic status it has garnered. Loyal Griggs won the best colour cinematography award at the 1953 Oscars, within three minutes of the opening credits he well and truly deserved it, as good an opening sequence as genre fans like me could wish for, and of course the rest of the fabulous Big Bear Lake location in California is sumptuously filmed.

Both as a technical piece of work and as a shrewd story of some standing, Shane deserves every bit of praise that has come its way over the years, oh yes!. 9/10

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