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The Kansas Law Dog!

Wichita is directed by Jacques Tourneur and written by Daniel B. Ullman. It stars Joel McCrea, Vera Miles, Wallace Ford, Edgar Buchannan, Lloyd Bridges and Keith Larsen. It's filmed in Cinemascope/Technicolor with cinematography by Harold Lipstein and music by Hans J. Salter.

Wichita is an origin story, that of one Wyatt Earp (McCrea), the story is set before he gets to Dodge City, where apparently some famous gunfight occurred. From a narrative stand point it's a town tamer story, Earp arrives in a newly thriving Wichita, at this point he's a hunter of buffalo only. But as the cowboys converge on the town, and things turn very dark, Earp - a bastion of good and just righteousness - finds it impossible to continue in turning down the town superior's offers of becoming the town Marshal.

It's one of those Western movies that made Western movie fans become Western movie fans. A film you would have watched as a youngster and just bought totally into the good guy against the baddies central core. Of course as youngsters we wouldn't have cared a jot about thematics such as capitalism ruling over common sense, or metaphysical leanings ticking away, all while a genius director is composing shots and frames of great distinction. Hell! Even the intelligence and maturity in the writing would have escaped us, the dark passages merely incidents of no great concern...

Wichita is damn fine film making. OK! It isn't wall to wall action. Sure there is a good round of knuckles, a bit of trench warfare and the standard shoot-outs, but these are just conduits to smart and compelling human drama, richly performed by McCrea (brilliantly cast) and company. Tourneur, Ullman and Lipstein make sure there is no waste on the page or via location framing, the costuming authentic and pleasing, and of course the story itself, the set up of the iconic man himself, is as compelling as it is splendidly entertaining.

It be a traditional Western for the traditional Western fan. Nice! 8/10

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