Film Review – MAN OF THE WEST (1958)

MAN OF THE WEST (1958, USA, 100m, 12) ****
dist. United Artists; pr co. Ashton Productions / Walter Mirisch Productions; d. Anthony Mann; w. Reginald Rose (based on the novel “The Border Jumpers” by Will C. Brown); pr. Walter Mirisch; ph. Ernest Haller (DeLuxe | 2.35:1); m. Leigh Harline; ed. Richard V. Heermance; ad. Hilyard M. Brown.
cast: Gary Cooper (Link Jones), Julie London (Billie Ellis), Lee J. Cobb (Dock Tobin), Arthur O’Connell (Sam Beasley), Jack Lord (Coaley), John Dehner (Claude), Royal Dano (Trout), Robert J. Wilke (Ponch), Joe Dominguez (Mexican Man (uncredited)), Dick Elliott (Willie (uncredited)), Frank Ferguson (Crosscut Marshal (uncredited)), Herman Hack (Train Passenger (uncredited)), Signe Hack (Train Passenger (uncredited)), Ann Kunde (Train Passenger (uncredited)), Tom London (Tom (uncredited)), Tina Menard (Juanita (uncredited)), Emory Parnell (Henry (uncredited)), Chuck Roberson (Rifleman-Guard on Train (uncredited)), Glen Walters (Train Passenger (uncredited)), Guy Wilkerson (Train Conductor (uncredited)), Jack Williams (Alcutt (uncredited)).
This psychological western sees Cooper in fine form as an ex-outlaw aboard a train when bandits rob it. When Cooper tries to intervene, he is knocked unconscious and left stranded in the middle of nowhere with a saloon singer (London) and con man (O’Connell). Cooper leads them to his nearby former home, which is now the hideout for the bandit led by his uncle (Cobb). He must re-join the old gang for one last holdup to save his friends. Mann directs with a sureness of hand and total control of the material. A strong script by Rose, adapted from a novel by Will C. Brown gives Cooper, Cobb and co plenty to get their teeth into. The cast gives excellent performances as the tension mounts between the bandits and their captives. Cooper is splendid conveying a man wrestling with a past he would rather forget, whilst Cobb is frightening as his unstable older mentor. Standout scenes include an exhausting fistfight between Cooper and Lord and a superbly staged shootout in a ghost town as Cooper looks to gain the upper hand. The result is another example of Mann’s mastery of his craft and his ability to elevate seemingly familiar material to new heights.