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One of the Best Westerns of the 50's
10/10 In the 50's Westerns were extremely popular, and many of that decade's best movies were Westerns. The Searchers, Winchester '73, The Man From Laramie, The Naked Spur - the list of great Westerns from the 50's could practically go on for days. One movie that should always be included on any list of best Westerns from the 50's is Warlock.2 years ago
Warlock's strengths start with a very well written, intelligent script that gives the characters three dimensions and realistic motivations. The script uses these characters well in pushing forward the many solid plot points. Warlock isn't a "shoot 'em up," Western, but it does have its share of good action. Many fans have described this as one of the quintessential "Psychological Westerns," and to a degree that is true. It also features solid drama, and genuine excitement when the action scenes come.
Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn, and Richard Widmark give some of their finest performances in Warlock, and a strong case could be made that this is Anthony Quinn's best performance in a Western. Fonda's dark, brooding performance foreshadows the even darker and nastier performance he would give almost a decade later in Once Upon a Time in the West. DeForest Kelley gives a strong supporting performance as well, showing his natural abilities in the Western genre.
Edward Dmytryk directed Warlock with a steady hand. He didn't overdo the direction looking to push the artistic envelope with unusual camera angles, but he did direct the movie with a flair and style ideal for a Western.
Ultimately, Warlock holds up not only as one of the best Westerns of the 50's, but as one of the best Westerns of all time and may be one of those movies that receives more acclaim with each passing decade.
Another Wonderful Fifties Western.
7/10 WARLOCK (1959) was the final entry in the roster of splendid Cinemascope/color westerns that 20th Century produced in the fifties. With a star studded cast headed by Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn and Dorothy Malone this project was produced and directed by Edward Dymtryk. The excellent screenplay by Robert Alan Aurthur derived from a novel by Oakley Hall and the superb cinematography was by the great Joe MacDonald.2 years ago
Warlock, a small mining town in the west, is plagued by the unruly and lawless cowhands from the San Pablo ranch who wreak havoc every weekend on the hapless citizens. The gang have just run the current Sheriff (Walter Coy) out of town and the impatient town council have now decided enough is enough. They make the decision to hire a gunfighter - an expensive gunfighter. So along comes a famous Marshall by the name of Clay Blaisedell (Henry Fonda) and his friend and bodyguard Tom Morgan (Anthony Quinn) to take on the job. He also brings along his portable gambling casino complete with the shopfront hoarding naming his gaming saloon "The French Palace". (He explains to the council "What you pay me for keeping the law would hardly keep me in ammunition for my gun practice - gambling is my business - it's how I make my living"). But through one difference or another and having to outdraw and kill his friend Tom Morgan and set his gambling saloon alight the town eventually sours against the Marshall. The now reformed gang member and newly appointed Deputy Sheriff Johnny Gannon (Richard Widmark) tells Blaisedell he'll have to leave town by morning. The picture ends with Gannon confronting Blaisedall the next day with the gunman easily outdrawing him. But surprisingly the Marshall capitulates and tosses his gold handled six-guns into the street to the visibly shocked Deputy's relief. Then with a wry smile to Gannon the colourful gunfighter mounts his horse and rides on out of town forever.
Performances are generally excellent throughout! Although Widmark has top billing it is clearly Fonda's picture. His Clay Blaisedell is the film's pivotal personality. As the well dressed gunfighter he is cool, smooth and lightning fast on the draw - as one challenger (DeForest Kelly) finds out to his utter astonishment in one gripping scene. Fonda hasn't been this good in a western since his superb portrayal in "The Tin Star" two years previously. Good too is Quinn in a really meaty characterization as Blaisedell's neurotic, over-protective and club- footed bodyguard. Also effective is Tom Drake as the Pabloite gang leader but Dorothy Malone is quite irritating and gives her usual breathless overwrought and over played portrayal of an old flame of Blaisedell. Better, and prettier to look at too, is Dolores Michaels as his newer love interest.
Underlining this engaging western is the music of Leigh Harline. The composer had worked before with director Dmytryk on the excellent "Broken Lance" (1954) which elicited from him his best score. Here his music is just as dramatic. The music under the titles is robust and determined featuring strident strings against repeating and striking brass figures pointing up the menace of the errant San Pablo gang. There is some tender music for the scenes with Fonda and Michaels and a reflective lyrical cue for Blaisedell himself which is wonderfully uplifting for the end scene as he rides out of town.
WARLOCK is a good western and warrants repeated viewings. A well structured character driven drama set in an engaging western environment and well played by an equally engaging cast in what is yet another memorable movie from the cinema of yesteryear.
Psychological western in disguise
9/10 After banging on about the sea change in Westerns from the 1940s to the 1950s in my reviews of THE TALL T and MAN OF THE WEST on this site recently, I watched 1959s WARLOCK unfold with a certain set of expectations in my head.2 years ago
At first glance, WARLOCK appears to be a western of the old school, not that far removed from earlier classics like MY DARLING CLEMENTINE or THE WESTERNER. In fact, it even shares some plot similarities with John Ford's 1946 Wyatt Earp biopic. But the key difference here is that in the older style of western, the immutable Code of the West is the salvation for men such as Earp, but in WARLOCK it is the millstone that will drag them into the abyss.
For Johnny Gannon (Richard Widmark), the Code causes him to leave behind the lawless San Pablo ranch cowhands lead by the increasingly psychotic Abe McQuown (pronounced McEwan), to accept the post of Deputy Sheriff, eventually bringing him into conflict with his old gang, which includes his own kid brother, and finally making him face up to hired gunslinger Clay Blaisedell (Henry Fonda).
For Blaisedell, though he initially believes he can leave his old life and marry local beauty Jessie Marlow (Dolores Michaels), the Code re-asserts its grip when Blaisdell is forced to confront his own partner Tom Morgan (Anthony Quinn) in a street shoot-out, and he realises that he will never escape his destiny as a gun-for-hire, no matter how he tries.
(Incidentally, I disagree with another reviewer here who claims Anthony Quinn's line "I won!" as he gasps his life out on the Warlock street means only that Quinn won the draw. I believe that line signifies that Quinn has proved that Fonda cannot escape his fate as a hired killer. The only way for Fonda to prove he'd changed would have been to NOT shoot Quinn. So in that sense Quinn won not just the draw but also the philosophical point that Fonda would never change.)
The Tom Morgan character has no loyalty to the Code. He simply enjoys his life as a "friend" of the great Clay Blaisedell. His motivation is that at Clay's side, men fear him and, though they may think him just a "cripple", they'd never dare say it aloud. Without Clay, Morgan would be just another casino owner.
But ultimately, you could say Morgan sacrificed his life to save Clay from himself. Because without Morgan's manoeuvrings, Clay may well have tried to settle in Warlock and would probably have ended up "backshot" by some old crony of Abe McQuown.
So, not the simple tale of the west it might at first appear, WARLOCK is a clever, subtle and insightful look at the psychological motivations at work in this deceptively complex three-way conflict.
A movie definitely worth more than one viewing ...
A pretty exciting law and order Star Western...
9/10 The Colt revolver was a tool and the more you study the men who used it at a high professional level the more it becomes obvious that they were also tools, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes (according to Western films) quite the opposite... Necessary tools, necessary men in a very compressed package of American history... They have their brief moment on the stage and then it's time to take their leave, preferably with their boots on, knowing, or not knowing that they've done the job that history actually required, but that history, in fact, won't thank them for it...2 years ago
Fondaa quiet dominant personality in Westernsputs this over perfectly in Edward Dmytryk's 'Warlock,' unpretentious Western Here Fonda is a professional hired gun brought in specially, and most temporarily, one always feels, to calm down a town plagued by cowboys, some of them with outlaw affiliations...
Every word he says ('I'm a simple man, handy with Colts'), every calculated ploy, shows that he's marvelously clear-eyed about his situationthat today he's wanted, that tomorrow he won't bebecause he's an old professional and it's all happened before...
Spruce as spry as ever, Fonda is Clay Blaidsdell, a legendary gunfighter, the ideal professional gunman with great expectations... He is hired, temporarily, by the citizens of Warlock to clean up their town from the outlaws... The movie focuses on his rise when he succeeds in removing the bad guys in a spectacular confrontation, and his fall when he is forced to face his best friend in a showdown...
Fonda brings with him his hero-worshiping right hand and conscience, the ex-killer Tom Morgan (Quinn), who challenges his one-man rule, one vindictive old girlfriend and one loving new flame... When the pair defeats the San Pedro gang, one of its members, Johnny Gannon (Widmark), stays behind and volunteers to become Blaisdell's deputy...
As an uneasy peace settles onto Warlock, the relationship between Blaisdell and Morgan deteriorates when the marshal finds romance with a local girl, Jessie Marlow (Dolores Michaels). Gannon, meanwhile, becomes involved with Lily Dollar (Dorothy Malone), who at one time had been Morgan's mistress and now hates both Blaisdell and him for killing a man she had hoped to marry...
Blond for the only time in his career, Quinn curious and different as the complex, clubfooted gambler-gunman whose relationship with Clay, leans rather strongly toward homosexuality made Dmytryk's multi-plotted film somewhat daring for its time... Its complicated story line, working at various levels, and its shadowy psychological innuendos, turned off critics and audiences alike, and from several corners came concern that Dmytryk had carried the 'new convention' Western too far too fast... Nevertheless "Warlock" remains a typical law and order Star Western, well written, pretty exciting, and entirely in the classic mold...
About changing and the fear of changing.
9/10 This great film never got the recognition it deserved. Edward Dmytryk had a lot of problems starting in 1947, because he was an ex member of the communist party, he ended up in jail, and eventually revealed some names that apparently were common knowledge. Richard Widmark is Johnny Gannon a man who changes and also changes sides. He was a member of McQuown's gang and in spite of his brother remaining in the gang he becomes the marshal. He is very much like Marlon Brando in "On The Waterfront" which was made by Elia Kazan who had the same political problems. Henry Fonda is hired to clean the town and he comes along with his partner Anthony Quinn. Fonda falls in love with Dolores Michaels and wants to change(get married and settle down) but Quinn has a terrible fear of changing and being alone. There is nothing homosexual in their friendship-partnership, only too much mutual dependency.2 years ago