Consciously crafted by director George Stevens as a piece of American myth making, Shane is on nearly everyone's shortlist of great movie Westerns. A buckskin knight, Shane (Alan Ladd) rides into the middle of a range war between farmers and cattlemen, quickly siding with the "sod-busters". While helping a kindly farmer (Van Heflin), Shane falls platonically in love with the man's wife (Jean Arthur, in the last screen performance of a marvellous career). Though the showdowns are exciting, and the story simple but involving, what most people will remember about this movie is the friendship between the stoical Shane and the young son of the farmers. The kid is played by Brandon De Wilde, an amazing child performer; his parting scene with Shane is guaranteed to draw tears from even the most stony-hearted moviegoer. And speaking of stony hearts, Jack Palance made a sensational impression as the evil gunslinger sent to clean house--he has fewer lines of dialogue than he has lines in his magnificently craggy face, but he makes them count. The photography, highlighting the landscape near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, won an Oscar. --Robert Hortonfrom£5.59 | RRP:
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Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 or region free DVD player in order to play A drifting gunfighter comes to the rescue of a homestead family terrorized by an ageing cattleman and his hired gun
Alan Ladd stars as the titular gunslinger in this Western directed by George Stevens. Shane is a soft-spoken, lonely ex-gunfighter who becomes a farmhand for a frontier family. When all the local homesteaders are terrorised by a ruthless cattleman, Shane reluctantly faces the fact that his gunfighting skills are of more use than his farm labour. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards and won for Best Cinematography.
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Shane Arshad Mahmood
If ever there was an archetypal classical western from the golden age of the genre looking at good versus evil and set in the "Old West", Shane is the film that epitomises all the hallmarks better than all others. On the surface, you have an enigmatic and yet charismatic drifter in the title role who stumbles straight into a conflict between a homesteader, Joe Starrett and a ruthless cattle baron, Ryker and his clan sometime at the end of the nineteenth century in a remote part of Wyoming. He obviously takes sides with the homesteader and his family who are shown to hold the moral high ground by taking up residence on the land without resorting to violence and living a peaceful existence. Shane becomes their hired hand and is selfless in putting the family's needs before his own. Clearly though, he has a troubled past and was most certainly a gunslinger.
What ensues is an ever greater pressure exerted by Ryker to take over their land as well as all the other homesteaders who reside in the surrounding area and how the homesteaders led by Pacifist Starrett initially refuse to give in to the mounting intimidation while others are slowly forced out. Shane, initially refuses to fight back but slowly his patience wains and his true nature comes out and he starts to hit back, gaining victories for the homesteaders that starts to give them the upper hand. Finally Ryker hires the menacing Wilson, a frighteningly psychopathic gunslinger who slowly starts to make his presence felt. Shane is finally forced to replace fists for gunsmoke and hence you have what you'd expect from a Western from the golden age of the genre.
But if you look at the subtleties of the film, it offers a great deal more. You get the sense that Shane knew Starrett's wife in the past, and her young son starts to idolise Shane as someone that he loves almost as much as his father. When Shane teaches Starrett's young son how to use a gun and her mother disapproves of his lesson, stating that she doesn't want guns to be a part of her life and Shane responds by stating that a gun is like any other tool and that the gun is only as good or as bad as the man who holds it, you get the sense of an American hero advocating for the National Rifle Association when in actual fact he's the villain. But there is something deeper in Shane's message that comes to the fore by the end of the film; namely that to get rid of guns you sometimes have to use one. In addition, the character of Ryker, though terribly villainous, is also three dimensional because he believes with a passion that the old gunfighters sacrificed a great deal to liberate the land from all other invaders and the natives but wrongly felt that this gave them the greater right to the land to do as they pleased.
Finally the setting of the film with the Teton mountain range imposing themselves on the lives of all concerned adds to the unique beauty of the film and is a precursor to some of the Clint Eastwood westerns that he directed in the 70s. Shane will get you reflecting on how some answers are not as black and white as they first appear.
Shane John Moore
As its title suggests, Shane focuses on the man Shane, whose luminous character elevates the film to classic status. The cast of characters are archetypes - albeit finely drawn - of the western genre, just as the plot is a staple western myth. Starrett (Van Heflin) runs a small homestead with his wife (Jean Arthur) and young son. When the mysterious and reluctant gunfighter Shane (Alan Ladd) crosses the Starretts' land on his way north and witnesses them being threatened by Ryker, a wealthy cattle man, he offers his protective support and decides to stay with them. In the western genre, this is so far, so routine. So what gives the mythical man Shane so much appeal that it has secured for the film an exalted place not just in western cinema, but in all of Hollywood cinema?
George Stevens (producer and director) pulled off a master stroke by casting Alan Ladd. Ladd was an unusual choice to play a western hero: short, slight, and softly-spoken, he could not have been a greater contrast to the usual machismo of a western hero (such as John Wayne). The film opens with the magical allure of a fairy tale. We see Shane, clothed in light buckskin, riding down the green foothills of the Teton mountains, accompanied by the first strains of the film's beautiful score. He seems different, a man apart. When working for Starrett he shows humility and loyalty. With Mrs Starrett he is courteous and chaste. And with the boy Joey he is kind and gentle (and Joey responds with a child-like faith in Shane).
But Shane is a gunfighter, as richly endowed with courage as he is with quickness on the draw. He puts his life on the line to protect Starrett's family and the other families in the valley, even though he knows he's facing a 'stacked deck' - an enemy comprised not only of Ryker and his men but also their murderous hired gun. Unlike many other western heroes, who kill the villains as if it's all in a day's work, Shane faces his enemies in the final scene as if it is a heavy cross to bear. One can feel his deep reluctance whatever the outcome: whether he kills or is himself killed. Having descended from on high into a valley of trouble, clothed in light; having lived as a servant, and exuded graciousness with all; and finally, having risked his life to free the valley from evil, Shane ascends back up the mountain, as if to some ethereal land, clutching his injured arm. The Christ-like analogy is complete.
What makes a film a classic? It's a difficult question, but Shane scores highly by occupying a balanced position along three axes. It is simple but profound. Its hero takes a specific form as a western myth, but he is also a universal hero. And it represents 1950s American values - such as the traditional family unit, hard work, individualism - but its message endures across time. Add to all this many stunning images, such as of the stag paddling in the sparkling lake, and of the farmer gunned down in the cloying mud, and you have a film to adorn any film lover's collection.
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