Winchester ’73 (1950)
The story of a rifle and the fate that befalls its owners…..against this backdrop, original owner, Jimmy Stewart searches for the man who murdered his father.
A film which packs a punch. Anthony Mann’s “Winchester ’73” is probably his best movie.
James Stewart plays a complicated character, a crack-shot marksman who has become traumitized by the death of his father. Stewart originally wins the rifle of the title at a shooting competition but it is stolen from him and evades him for the rest of the film, switching owners frequently throughout – bringing only pain and suffering to those men who own it. The rifle’s owners include an unscrupulous and morally dubious tradesman (the gravelly John McIntire) and a brutal Indian Chieftain (an athletic-looking Rock Hudson) – both of whom are incapable of staying alive whilst keeping the rifle….the twist that comes later in the film is more predictable than a revelation of this kind should be, but this doesn’t detract from the power of the film which has a lot to do with some show-stopping performances from the cast. The best of which comes from Stephen McNally as the blood-thirsty ‘Dutch’ – a man no-one would like to come across on a dark night I can tell you………
Mann’s direction is untypical of the western genre with his emphasis on the psychological and I loved the way the camera focusses on the gun at key moments – I mean this is one neat-looking weapon… – a blistering soundtrack rounds things off very nicely.
Mann’s iconic finale sees Stewart engaged in a rifle-shooting match with his father’s murderer amongst the rocks and undergrowth of mountains high above the plains. Whilst the good guy always wins in the films of this era, this is no happy ending. Mature and bleak as Westerns come, “Winchester ’73” is a film which sticks in your head.
hotdog rating: 8.5/10