Cinematographer Fraker's directorial debut is a corker. After years of running the camera for several others, he finally got his chance to say "action" and made the most of it. MONTE WALSH is an interesting, atypical western romp that signals the end of the era. There is a similarity between this film and LONELY ARE THE BRAVE. Although the time frames are different, both films are pessimistic in their heralding of the end and both leave the viewer with a sense of relative hopelessness. Fraker's eye for imagery is evident in every shot, although he didn't let that overtake the compelling characterizations of the actors.
Marvin and Palance are two down-at-the-boot-heels cowboys who ride toward the ironically named town of Harmony and take jobs at a ranch run by Davis. They encounter an old saddlemate, Ryan, and go into the town where Marvin pays a call on his one-time mistress, Moreau, at the local saloon. When the ranch is foreclosed by Eastern bankers, Palance begins to woo McLerie, a new widow who now owns a thriving hardware store. Ryan also loses his job, gets involved in a fracas and winds up killing Johnson, a lawman. Meanwhile, Palance and McLerie tie the knot. He immediately becomes the soul of conservatism and family thinking, advising the grizzled Marvin to forget about cowboy life and settle down. However, Moreau has left Harmony so Marvin trails her and asks her to marry him. But she tells him she has tuberculosis and thinks it might be better if they avoided any long-term entanglements. Marvin is distraught by her news and promptly gets drunk. As he leaves town, he comes across a wild stallion and manages to "break" it. The horse is part of a wild west show and the owner offers Marvin a job as a carnival attraction. Although he is flat broke, Marvin has too much pride to accept the job of impersonating "Texas Jack Barrat," stating "I ain't spittin' on my whole life." Riding the wild horse through the small town, he does quite a bit of damage. Then, returning to Harmony, he learns that Ryan was robbing the hardware store and murdered Palance. He rides out after Ryan, but when he hears that Moreau is very sick, he goes to her new town, finding she has already died. Ryan is also in the town, and he knows full well that Marvin intends to exact revenge. In the final scene, the two men stalk each other through town until Marvin kills Ryan (who was making his film debut).
After seeing Marvin in CAT BALLOU, the first tendency is to smile at his bust-out cowboy, but we soon realize he is a serious man this time around. Palance grins his way through the picture with more charisma than he usually demonstrates. Fraker spends too much time re-creating Remington-style paintings on screen and the opening scenes are slow to develop. But once the action begins and the relationships are established, the picture succeeds on all levels. Filmed near Tucson, MONTE WALSH didn't make a lot of money, but its realistic depiction of the disintegration of the "Old" West made it a sentimental favorite for nearly everyone who saw it. In small roles, note Fred Waugh (one of the best stunt men around) and Dick Farnsworth, who eventually came to the world's notice with his excellent role in THE GREY FOX. Roy Barcroft, the great western and serial villain, had a bit role in this film and died just before it was released in 1969.
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- Rating: GP
- Review: Cinematographer Fraker's directorial debut is a corker. After years of running the camera for several others, he finally got his chance to say "action" and made the most of it. MONTE WALSH is an interesting, atypical western romp that signals the end of th… (more)