Screengrab: Ride The High Banter

RICHARD LUTZ gets on his high horse about the films that will make you grab for the TV record button this week.

Well, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. (Wed, 10.40, More4) ). What can you say? I mean, just what can you say?

Redford and Newman cheekily say a fond farewell to the old west as they banter, nag and love each other to death in cowboy gear. The olden times are fading and they know it. The pair are beautiful to look at, there is loyalty a-plenty and, eventually, the pair of ageing bank robbers, amid the quick-witted chitchat and the sarcasm, head for Bolivia to run for that final freeze frame surrounded by riflemen.


Wait a minute. Hold them horses, Pilgrim.

Two days earlier is a forgotten gem which preceded Butch and The Kid and really was a model for the modern self aware take on the dying of the west. Ride the High Country (Mon,12.50, Ch4) stars Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea as two ageing gunslingers who argue and banter their way across the roadless tracts of the west while…well, you know the rest. Made in 1962 (a little more than half a decade before Butch), it really is a terrific cowboy movie. Scott and McCrea are grizzled, hardened, resistant to the ending of the good old days and tied to each other, yet again, by the draw of a fast buck and the allure of buddyness though they refuse to let old grudges die. Like Butch, there is a girl between them.

And like the Newman/Redford duo, the continual banter almost seems an extended ad lib amid the dust, the horse dung and the gunfights. Peckinpaugh directed so it’s visually attractive. And a good supporting role from Warren Oates who looked beat up even when a young actor. Note: The original pairing for this item was John Wayne and  Gary Cooper. A remake was on the cards with Heston and Eastwood. Never happened.

Scott, a B movie favourite for 20 years, called it quits after Ride The High Country. He said he couldn’t better the role he played. McCea retired too. But he later went in front of the camera again for the allure of acting or, most probably, to make some quick cash.

Both movies are part of that End of The West genre. And if you like that sort of thing, there is a third film on TV this week that adds to that theme of how modern life changed legend. There is little humour or irony in Brokeback Mountain (Wed, 12.05 Ch4…well, actually 0.05 Thurs am to be specific) . It’s a tough story from writer Annie Proux  about two modern cowhands who simply fall in love high up in the Wyoming back country.

The homoerotic coupliing (and yes, there is coupling a-plenty) is well handled and Jake Gyllanhaal and the late Heath Ledger are the pair of lust-in-the-dust lovers who know their affair will end badly – very badly.

Brokeback Mountain doesn’t have the cheeky dialogue of the two others. It is a sober account of how some traditions die and others will not be allowed to evolve. But it is a worthy companion piece to our quick-witted gunslingers arguing their way through  the beauty and violence of the Old West.