Top 5 Favorite Westerns (That Aren’t The Good The Bad and The Ugly)
Last week I talked about my favorite western while covering the work of Sergio Leone.
I’ve wanted to talk about westerns for a long time. However, if I mentioned them all, then most of the entries would be taken up by one director’s filmography. Then, there’d barely be any reason to talk about the remainder films of Leone which deserve discussion. I decided to separate them to be able to more fully discuss them all. So just remember the true number one of this list is “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” so just shift everything down and after “Unforgiven” shift everything down again to account for “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More” tying for the next spot.
Why am I going through all this trouble? Well believe it or not westerns are my favorite genre of films. I am not even joking. It’s a genre that too often gets overlooked and I want to fix that. SPOILER ALERT.
5.) “Blazing Saddles”
I had a very difficult time figuring out what to put in this spot. It’s quite a testament to how many great westerns are out there. Now I may technically like this film more than some of the others on this list as I think it’s one of the greatest comedies ever made. However, I ultimately decided to put it here because it’s still a spoof and one could argue not a TRUE western. Still, it’s good enough that I simply could not NOT talk about it. So after “The Producers” and “Twelve Chairs” Mel Brooks wasn’t doing as well as you might think. He got a hold of this usual outline called “Tex-X” and thought the way to do it would be to make it the ultimate spoof of American westerns. This changed the course of Brooks’ career as you’ll notice practically all his movies after this were parodies. It was also a fantastic year because he later made “Young Frankenstein” also in 1974. It’s hard for me to pick which one I like more. It generally seems to be whatever film I’ve seen most recently.
The film is about a black railroad worker named Bart promoted to a town’s sheriff. The Attorney General, Hedley Lamarr wants to get the town to leave so he can construct a new railroad to go through it. Figuring the townspeople will either be so racist as to leave as soon as they see their new sheriff or that an inexperienced black man will just mess things up anyway. Needless to say that does not occur (though the townspeople are still incredibly racist) and hilarity ensues. Like so many others have said there’s no way this film could be made today. I’m honestly a bit afraid some modern audiences will just focus on how many times the N-word is used and not pay attention to what the film is trying to say. The important thing to remember this film is not promoting racist ideas IT’S MOCKING them! The butt of the jokes are always the idiots who are saying “N—-r!” On top of all of that it’s filled with a who’s who of comedy in front of and behind the screen. Comedy legend Richard Pryor even co-wrote it. Give it a watch and be prepared to laugh your ass off. You may have noticed I haven’t given much in the way of examples of jokes, but that’s only because I want you to be surprised by not only how funny they are but also how varied.
4.) “High Plains Drifter”
After the major hit of his first directed film “Play Misty For Me,” Clint Eastwood returned to familiar territory for his second directed feature, “High Plains Drifter.” It’s one of the most unusual westerns you’re likely to see. Right from the beginning you know it. A lone cowboy rides through the desert seemingly out of nowhere as music that sounds like it’d be at home in a horror film plays. Clint Eastwood takes the anti-hero concept as far as it can go before becoming a villain. As soon as he comes into town he takes a young promiscuous woman who was flirting with him and rapes her. The original script had more explicit references to the supernatural with Eastwood’s character actually being a ghost. Eastwood took all the direct references out, but kept in key moments of him surviving things he shouldn’t be able to.
The townspeople needing someone to protect them from criminals fresh out of jail who are coming back to the town soon decide to hire him. He agrees and they basically let him control the town. He makes them literally paint the town red and renames their sign “Hell.” It’s as striking of an image as you think. As the film goes on you realized almost nobody in this town is innocent. They let the criminals whip their previous sheriff to death. Is the stranger a relative or an avenging ghost? The film never gives us solid answers. It also maybe the reason we never got a Clint Eastwood-John Wayne western. After this film, Eastwood wrote to John Wayne asking him if he wanted to collaborate on something. John Wayne apparently hated the film and how it made everyone in the west seem so nasty and morally gray at best. After sending a letter ranting about all this, Eastwood decided not to pursue the idea.