Screengrab: What Price Victory in Cowboyland?



RICHARD LUTZ   checks out the films you just gotta see this week on the box

Westward Ho. Or maybe South, East or North, for that matter. Sometimes it didn’t matter when it came to cowboy films that had a mission and an inner journey involved.

Is it a coincidence or, shock-horror, a matter of cute planning that one channel this week decided to schedule in a single day two beauties like this – both made in 1956?

First there is 7th Cavalry (Fri; Film4,11 AM). Here’s the lowdown on the high jinx. B movie cowboy star Randoph Scott is Capt Tom Benson who returns from leave to find that his boss General Custer has been wiped out by the Indians. He is despised by his buddies for not being at the battle and so Scott…well…starts a mission to recover the  dead bodies deep in enemy territory.

This is a movie about redemption, simple courage and, in a nice twist, a sympathetic take on the Native Americans who do the decent thing when the soldiers finally reach the massacre site.

The film has some regular B movie faces that bounced around the old west to give it a bit of heft: Jay C. Flippen, Denver Pyle, Harry Carey  and, of course, Mr Scott lui meme,who had 34 years of movies in his back catalogue and was in his late fifties  when he jumped on a horse for this film.

Was Scott’s mission successfully completed? Did he find peace of mind for not being there when his fellow soldiers were killed? Does he still hate? Watch for his own  personal mission statement

Now, hold the recording button for later in the say for The Searchers (Fri; Film4; 14.30)

Some say this is the best western ever made.  It has John Wayne, ably directed by his old mentor John Ford. Wayne  is Civil War veteran Ethan Edwards who takes the big journey (5 years)  to track down his niece (Natalie Wood) who was kidnapped by the Comanches after they wiped out her farming family.

Edwards is a lonely man driven by hot hate and deep seated revenge for the tribe that killed his brother’s family and took the little girl. He is psychotic and vows when he finds his niece, he simply wants to kill her because she has probably become a Comanche after all the missing years.

The Duke plays it with blind anger and cuts a solitary figure who is not liked, not likeable and not given to sympathetic thoughts. He is borderline evil.

The racism is hot and heavy and Ford shows that it diminishes everyone- especially The Duke.

Ford, and for that matter Wayne himself, also reveal that unfortunately, this is the regretful violent way the west had to be won. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t heroic. It was plain nasty many times

Both films take you with its characters. And  both films are beautiful to look at. They anticipate the coming film era when the question was asked:  What price is victory in cowboyland?

Two bits of Searchers whimsical trivia for you geeks: It’s said the pop group The Searchers grabbed the name of the film for their stage name.  And it’s believed that Buddy Holly grabbed the phrase ‘That’ll Be The Day‘ from a catchphrase that Wayne uses throughout this fine film.

There- that’ll make your day.