"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Last Sunset (Universal, 1961)

Averagely alright

Robert Aldrich only really directed one good Western and The Last Sunset wasn’t it. The likes of Vera Cruz and Apache were pretty average and the bratpack 4 for Texas was dire. Only Ulzana’s Raid was a powerful, tense and authentic Western.

Perhaps it was the writing. Dalton Trumbo had one of the best names in history (Dalton Trumbo) and did the wonderful Lonely Are The Brave (also with Kirk Douglas) but sadly, nothing else of much quality. He tried to go for the psychological Western but it didn’t come off. The Last Sunset is a romantic drama with a love triangle (Rock Hudson and Douglas are both after Dorothy Malone) rather more than an action Western. A daring hint of incest was written in. The coming showdown between the men is quite tense, as it builds, but before the end we know pretty much what the outcome is going to be and that rather takes the sting out of it. It’s not much of a plot really.

Douglas is OK, in his skin-tight black outfit, and Hudson is satisfactory (he could be surprisingly good in Westerns but is no more than average in this one) in his silly hat. Malone is blonde and curvesome (although hardly passionate) and Carol Lynley does a good job as her adolescent daughter. Joseph Cotten, a ham actor at the best of times, is the drunken and bitter Confederate husband, but he is soon written out and was wasted in the part. He was never any good in Westerns so isn't missed.

I have certainly seen worse cattle-drive movies (The Tall Men, for one, see post of 19 July) but I’ve also seen better. This is nowhere near in the Red River class, for example, or even Cattle Empire or Vengeance Valley.

Kirk’s derringer is rather good, and his justification for it. Derringers usually have a bad rep as gamblers’ sneaky hideout pieces or ladies’ puny purse guns but Douglas succeeds in making his menacing. Not that he would have been able to hit anything with it except maybe at the card table.

The main fault with this movie is that it is too talky.

There is nice Ernest Laszlo photography of the Aguascalientes locations and very little studio work, so the movie gets marks for that.

Neville Brand and Jack Elam make excellent badman brothers, though have too little to do or say, and their sidekick The Julesburg Kid (James Westmoreland) isn’t bad either. I liked the two Mexican musicians, sadly uncredited.

It’s not exactly a dull Western (probably such a thing is not possible) but it sure ain’t one of the rip-roaringest either.


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