Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Probably NOT the greatest western ever made (overrated films)

From an underrated film to one that I consider overrated - "Once Upon a Time in the West". On my day off I decided to watch it all the way through. Previously, when I had tried to watch it on the TV I had turned it off because I found the wailing harmonica and the other music annoying. I also found some of the camera work pretentious and boring. Well, I have to admit it is a great film - great, but not that great. Why do reviewers rave about it so much? I certainly do not consider it to be the greatest western ever made, and I would struggle to place it in the top ten. This is no doubt a kind of cinematic blasphemy to some, but I would regard myself as, from an early age, a western aficionado, and I have seen most of them. This does not come anywhere near "Shane" or "The Searchers". Ultimately, if Sergio Leone was trying to write a glorious epitaph for the western, it didn't work. The western is not dead because myth does not die, and the "myth" of the struggle between good and evil which lies at the heart of all good westerns will never die as (to quote Wayne in "The Searchers") "sure as the turnin o' the earth"


  1. Father, I do not have the video/disc or means to watch these films--maybe possibly some bits on You tube. May I ask you another question, even if it not related to the film, but may be worth another subject/discussion somewhere--maybe you have already discussed it. Michael Davies, Vatican 11. I am just half way through his book, published in the 1970's. Is there any up-to-date books or articles that refer to the subject? I must admit Vat 11 came in when I was first interested in the RC Church and it put me off for modernising the mass( among other things) --the same happened in the C of E, with the Book of Common Prayer.

    Many thanks from Brighouse

  2. I think this could be the basis of a good discussion and I would be pleased if it developed out of something relatively inane - namely a post about a pretentious western film!

    I must admit that when I was younger I had no time for Michael Davies, but that was because I had swallowed a lot of nonsense that I had been told at the seminary (I mean nonsense about the liturgy). I have not read his book on Vatican 11, but from a distance I would guess it to be too negative. One of the best books on Vatican II is by Blessed John Paul II - "Sources of Renewal". It does not discuss all the main documents but provides the "philosophy" behind them. The proper understanding and reception of Vatican II is something that we still need. So many on either sides of a (sadly unnecessary) fence cannot see it for what it is because of prejudices and fears. I have seen a recent book by Ladlislaus Orsy (have I spelt it correctly?) but I have not read it.

  3. Back to the "relatively inane" as you put it!
    Makes such a change from Catholic politics on the web.

    I love Westerns. As a librarian I saw their popularity plummet to be replaced by other genres based on taming a hostile environment such as outer space.

    Watching the television westerns as a child it never occurred to me to identify with the vacuous bar-room females or that I could not be a cowboy (cowperson?) if I wanted to be.
    I loved the noise of the galloping hooves, the metallic sounds of stirrups, the clouds of dust as the posse raced to save the day. I visited some of these places around Durango many years later.

    There really are cowgirls now but not too many baddies around to make it worth my while joining them! I thought my daughter might share my interest but she prefers the science-fiction world.

    To make it relevant to a Catholic blog we are talking about good and evil here and, inevitably, in Westerns good triumphs!

  4. Thank you Father,

    I have nothing against the films but my video is broken and I seem to either read books or do things on the computer--though I confess to being a 3 D film addict, esppecially Imax!
    Thank you for your views on Michael Davies, I had never heard of him and now I am up to my eyes in him but my head is spinning with it all! I do like to attend Latin Mass, but Saturday morning is my child-minding morning, I occasionally go to Halifax, and still use my first prayer book from 1960.

    I look forward to more discussion and thoughts on Vatican 11, I am sure not many people know just what it is all about, I am, of course a convert, so have a lot to learn yet on many matters in the Church.

    Many thanks

    Sorry for the silly name, it seems to have been one I used ages ago and had forgotten I was registered with it!


  5. Father, Once Upon a Time in the West is a great film! I was lucky enough to see it at a one-off screening at the local cinema a couple of years ago and was blown away by it... and I loved the wailing harmonica :)

  6. I used to watch Westerns with my grandfather and elder brother, on a Saturday(pocket money day) after Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller or some name like that?)
    I remember smoke filled rooms, maybe because my Grandad always smoked a pipe haha! We would always have a bag of chips from the chippie, for our lunch, smothered in tomatoe ketchup! Happy days.
    I don't tend to watch westerns these days, they break into precious locked away childhood memories maybe? I am strange about mixing my emotional memories. I have lots of 'no go' areas. I guess I am a bit super-sensitive with certain atmospheres from the past. (or just nuts haha!)
    John Wayne and another very dark haired and dark eyed chap are my favourite heroes.

  7. High Noon has got to be number one Father!

  8. Richard,
    as a kind of mental relaxation - or time-wasting - I have often wondered which is number one. One of my favourite films of any genre is "The Searchers", but is it the best western? I will compile a list of ten which, for me, are the best;

    In no particular order (I may change the list slightly later);

    The Man who shot Liberty Valance
    My Darling Clementine
    Rio Grande
    The Magnificent Seven
    High Noon
    The Searchers
    (Red River - couldn't leave it out!)

    Close runners; The Big Country, Gunfight at the OK Corral, Tombstone, Free Range, The Ox-bow incident, The Westerner, Stagecoach, Man of the West, Three Faces West (I could go on)

    No doubt there are others that could be named and I may change my mind after I have thought about it. Making a list of only ten (eleven) is daunting.