Talkie of the Week: Buckskin
USA 1968, 97 minutes, color, Paramount Pictures. Director: Michael D. Moore, Producer: A. C. Lyles, Written by: Jimmie Haskell. Cast: Barry Sullivan, Joan Caulfield, Wendell Corey, Lon Chaney Jr., John Russell, Barbara Hale, Bill Williams, Barton MacLane, Richard Arlen, Leo Gordon, Jean-Michel Michenaud, George Chandler, Aki Aleong, Michael Larrain, Craig Littler, James X. Mitchell, Emile Meyer, Robert Riordan, Leroy Johnson, Manuela Thiess
Plot summary: Marshall Chaddock tries to bring order to a remote Western town which has been controlled by local crook Rep Marlowe. He seeks the support of the homesteaders who are ready to sell out and take flight until Chaddock proves to be willing to risk his life to fight for justice.
Review: Buckskin is a film made in true Western tradition featuring a full cast of well-known Western names and faces. Barry Sullivan leads the excellent group of actors as Montana Territorial Marshall Chaddock who comes to Glory Hole as an outsider with his halfbreed son Akii (Jean-Michel Michenaud). Their introduction to local homesteaders (wedded acting team Barbara Hale and Bill Williams, as well as their on-screen son Michael Larrain) is awkward and almost painful to watch, but not because the performances would lack depth or appeal. It’s the characters’ hardship that’s rather apparent from the get-go. The homesteaders have long given up on expecting help from anybody, let alone outsiders coming in with a promise to turn things for the better. It takes some drastic measures to convince them to support a man who finally lives up to what he says…
Buckskin is a typical tale of the lone Western hero, beautifully told with a touch of the late 1960s and thus a slight political undertone. Barry Sullivan gives a convincing performance of his character’s stubborn effort to win allies in an area that once belonged to his son’s forefathers and is now controlled by a greedy crook. When he ultimately succeeds, the fight for justice does not come without sacrifice for those who have struggled with unfortunate circumstances all their lives. Supporting cast members Barbara Hale and Bill Williams give strong performances as homesteaders Sarah and Frank Cody whose lives are affected by both, Chaddock and Marlowe, in unfortunate and unpleasant ways. Joan Caulfield gives an equally convincing portrayal of school teacher gone barmaid Nora Johnson. Her fate contrasts Sarah Cody’s, but strangely resembles it in a way. Both of their lives have been severely influenced by the men surrounding them, which adds a mild sense of women’s rights to the story.
All in all, Buckskin is a worthy pick for everybody who enjoys to watch a mature cast of fabulous actors in a Western scenery with a moral in the end to pass on to your kids. A great flick for a rainy Sunday afternoon, tissues included if you are as hooked on powerful yet subtle emotional scenes as I am.
Available on VHS.