Buchanan Rides Alone
Drama / Western
Buchanan Rides Alone
Drama / Western
On his way home to West Texas, Tom Buchanan rides into the Californian border town of Agry, and into a feud between several members of the Agry family. In helping out a Mexican seeking revenge on one of them, Buchanan finds himself against the whole family.
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June 15, 2018 at 09:45 AM
Last of the ranown only slightly inferior to some others
Excellent and funny story of Agry-town, a place where everything costs ten dollars and a man can be hung for being on the right side of a fight -- but the wrong side of the law. Hypocrisy and the essential weakness of human nature are humorously juxtaposed with Scott and his friends' hardboiled masculine ethic. Only the ending is a disappointment -- rushed and somewhat confused. Lang's writing is good and very barbed but somewhat predictable as the famous Ranown cycle winds down with this film.
The Pacific Film Archive here in Berkeley CA has been showing these films for the last few years, and in 2000 I and my mother had the chance to meet the director, the very charming, funny, and intelligent Bud Boetticher, and also the people who are restoring these movies for Columbia. They're doing a wonderful job, and hopefully soon we'll all be able to enjoy restored, less yellowed prints of these classic films (especially the incredible "Seven Men from Now") on DVD. Put any pressure you can on Columbia, folks, let them know you want to see these films on DVD, because the restoration is already well underway -- we just need to let them know there's an audience out there!
Who's going to pick up that saddlebag?
Burt Kennedy and Charles Lang were Boetticher's favorite writers. Here is Lang's turn, adapting a novel by Jonas Ward. Buchanan rides into Agry Town, where he meets the Agry brothers and also the son of Simon Agry, Roy who ends up getting killed. It is hard to conceive a more despicable, corrupt, disloyal family with no principles at all. Craig Stevens is Carbo, who seems to have more brains than the brothers and is a kind of adviser to Judge Simon Agry. Lew Agry, the sheriff is the meanest of the lot, but one of the guys that helps him, called Pecos Hill is not so bad and he feels friendly in relation to Buchanan because they both come from the west of Texas. Amos Agry is the brother with no brains and he is like a Ping Pong ball between Simon and Lew. One of the best moments of the film is tragically funny: there are two groups of people shooting at each other and a saddlebag full of money between them. If one goes to pick up the saddlebag, whichever side he will run with the bag, the other side will shoot him, it is a no win situation. A fast moving, highly enjoyable western with a very good story and Randolph Scott at his best.
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Likeable, good-humoured B-movie
Perhaps the only really unjustified feature of this Western is the title. They should have kept the original, "The name's Buchanan" - a line which crops up sufficiently often in the first five minutes to verge on becoming a catchphrase for the title character. One thing Buchanan *doesn't* do is ride alone. For a cowboy hero - particularly one played by Randolph Scott! - he's an unusually cheerful and sociable type, who picks up friends and allies almost everywhere he goes. I don't believe I've ever seen Randolph Scott smile so much in all the rest of his films put together - and it has much the same shock value as a grin on the face of Leonard Nimoy.
But it's mainly the humour that sets this film apart from a hundred other unpretentious B-Westerns. The plot twists don't hurt, either. This slender piece bears as many stings in the tail as the final chapters of a Hercule Poirot mystery. Tables are turned by one side upon the other so often that it verges upon the ridiculous; a point milked to wry appreciation by the script. The other interesting point is that Buchanan himself has little influence over the course of events. He merely (albeit adroitly) rides the tide, as the bickering Agry brothers provide the main engine for the plot. This film is far less of a one-man star vehicle than many Westerns of its era. To a degree, it might even be suspected of spoofing the genre.
I spotted only one technical blooper: as the sheriff(?) leaves the jail after demanding the keys, the far side of the street, for one brief aberrant moment, appears to consist of red-brick houses with paned-glass windows! Young de la Vega's horse really is a beautiful animal, on the other hand - the beast fully bears out the script's claim that the de la Vega horses are some of the best-bred in the country. Judging by the stunts, it was also presumably a trained performer - I wonder what its 'day job' was? :-)
To summarise: a cheerful, swift-moving Western with a touch of dry humour that helps it to stand out among a host of other B-movies. If you've watched 'Unforgiven' too many times, until your guts feel like treacle - if you can't take one more coarse joke from 'Blazing Saddles' - then try 'Buchanan' for a breath of fresh air, and watch Randolph Scott for once in his life having fun!