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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ulzana's Raid (Universal, 1972)


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1 comment:

  1. This is a superb western, one of the greatest ever made, and only really known to buffs. I have a friend, a well-read and intelligent non-western fan, who was open-mouthed when he saw this, on my recommendation. The fact that there are no comments on this thread is amazing. People rave about The Searchers, and it IS a fine movie, but there's plenty wrong with it.

    The comedy interludes with Ken Curtis make your toes curl. Many of the costumes are wrong for late 1860s Texas, according to Tommy Lee Jones, and he should know. Natalie Wood's make-up would embarrass an amateur repertory company. The Edwards' shack is made of wood that doesn't exist in Monument Valley and the superlatively photogenic Valley is nowhere near Texas anyhow. The guns - even the goddamn GUNS! - are wrong for the period (1868) and there's a massive blooper when Ward Bond's 1873 Colt Peacemaker goes off as he brings it up to fire. Wayne's Winchester switches from a carbine to a rifle in the same shot. When you come down to it, The Searchers is a tad overrated. There's even a pick-up truck in one shot. Seriously. Wayne, however, is magnificent, and so is Ward Bond.

    To my mind, Ulzana's Raid is up in the all-time western top ten. I'd put it above Ford's film. It's much closer to the real west, the nasty, horrific west of Apache who ate their horses and cut the genitals off their victims and burned people alive. The Comanche, who feature in The Searchers, did the same. (I realise, of course, that Ford could not show anything like the reality back in '56). The hoof prints left by Indian ponies on the Comanche Moon raids - to kill whites - are still visible in the Big Bend area. Ulzana takes the western as close to this historical accuracy as it's possible to come. It's simply a work of art, but there's no place left for films like this in a world obsessed with Star Bores and cartoon heroes; apart from blogs like this and the hearts of ageing movie addicts like this, that is.

    I've visited Monument Valley three times and still remember my first live glimpse of those incredible rock formations. Last year (2015) the graduate daughter of one of my best friends went there and was photographed at several locations. She showed me the picture with great excitement. I mentioned that one shot was taken at John Ford Point. She looked blank. I said he'd directed several classic John Wayne films there. She asked, seriously, who John Wayne is.