06 February 2016

International Westerns

I have, for some reason, been writing a lot of Western stories lately. They're still suspense stories, I suppose, and they certainly contain a fair amount of lawbreaking and wrongdoing. Let's call them historical crime fiction.

I've also been watching a lot of Westerns, but that's nothing unusual. I of course love the classics--Shane, High Noon, The Searchers, Unforgiven, Once Upon a Time in the West, Lonesome Dove, The Wild Bunch, Dances With Wolves, The Magnificent Seven--but I've stumbled across a few new ones that I enjoyed as well. For those of you who like that kind of thing, here are five excellent Western films that came out fairly recently. The one I liked best is listed first, down to the one I liked the least--but I thought all of them were well done.

1. The Salvation (2014) -- This is an action-packed, revenge-driven movie filmed in (believe it or not) South Africa, and starring actors from France, England, Wales, Sweden, Scotland, the U.S., South Africa, Germany, and Spain. Last but not least, the director, lead actor, and most of the crew were all from Denmark. Featured are Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Sir Jonathan Pryce, and an extremely spooky Eva Green. Directed by Kristian Levring.

2. Bone Tomahawk (2015) -- The plot in a nutshell: four men from the frontier town of Bright Hope set out to rescue a woman kidnapped by a cannibalistic Indian tribe. The cast includes Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Patrick Wilson, David Arquette, and Richard Jenkins. Authentic and ultra-violent (the villains here would give Hannibal Lecter nightmares), and filmed in California. Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler.

3. Tracker (2010) -- An overlooked and visually stunning movie with British actor Ray Winstone in the title role. Filmed entirely in New Zealand, it's a story of the evolving relationship between a hunter and the man he's hunting, and features a truly satisfying twist ending. Directed by Ian Sharp. (Not to be confused with The Tracker, an Australian film from 2002.)

4. The Homesman (2014) -- If there is such a thing, this is a "literary" Western. A great performance by Tommy Lee Jones, as a drifter rescued from the hangman's noose by pious widow Hilary Swank and then hired to escort her and a wagonload of insane women to an institution run by, of all people, Meryl Streep. (How could this movie not be good?) Jones also directed and co-wrote. Filmed in New Mexico.

5. Mystery Road (2013) -- The only present-day Western in this list, with the bleakest setting I've ever seen and an almost unknown cast. The only actors I recognized were Hugo Weaving and Jack Thompson, and they aren't exactly household names. The plot: a detective returns to his home in the Outback to investigate the murder of a young girl. Filmed in Australia and directed by Ivan Sen.

That's it. Let's hear it for horse opera, both here and abroad. Now, back to reading and watching mysteries…


  1. My favorite is still Tombstone, but that's mostly because of Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday and a script that includes these lines:
    Turkey Creek Jack Johnson: Doc, you oughta be in bed, what the hell you doin this for anyway?
    Doc Holliday: Wyatt Earp is my friend.
    Turkey Creek Jack Johnson: Hell, I got lots of friends.
    Doc Holliday: I don't.

    Doc Holliday: Nonsense, I have not yet begun to defile myself.

    Doc Holliday: It's true, you are a good woman. Then again, you may be the antichrist.

    Yep. Doesn't get much better than that.

  2. Yep, that's a fine movie, Eve. And Kurt Russell does as great a job in Bone Tomahawk as he did in Tombstone--he's just (like all of us) a little older. I thought the shootout at the O,K. Corral in Tombstone was especially good because it was so realistic--like the one in Open Range.

    One of my favorite Western cable series was Deadwood--up close to where you live.

  3. Oddly, I dash off a Western once in a while and don’t have a clue where to send them. Mine are drama, suspense, and kind of an edge of mystery.

    I have to check out your list. Thanks, John.

    Is it fair to mention the Spaghetti Western, La resa dei conti, ‘The Settling of Scores’ aka The Big Gundown? Starring *the* Lee Van Cleef and an international cast. It has a great bad guy, too.

  4. Leigh, the truth is, there aren't many markets out there, for short Western stories (but I write 'em anyhow). I'm glad to hear someone else does too.

    Yep, I've seen The Big Gundown, with good old Lee Van Cleef. The only time I ever liked him as much as I liked him in the Italian Westerns was in Escape From New York, which will always be one of my favorites. Yes, I know--I never grew up . . .

  5. It's weird, John, that these movies come out and they just sort of disappear. Thanks for the heads up.

    And by the way, I thought I had posted this not too long after your post went up but now I see it's not there. Don't know what happened. Hope this one gets through.

  6. Thanks, Paul. Yes, there's not much said about Westerns these days--I found these mostly by browsing Netflix and Amazon Video offerings. I'm a movie maniac anyhow, so I spend a lot of (too much, probably) time with that king of thing.


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>