The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Talkie of the Week: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

USA 1962, 123 minutes, black & white, Paramount Pictures. Director: John Ford, Written by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck, Based on the short story by Dorothy M. Johnson. Cast: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien, Woody Strode, Andy Devine, John Carradine, Lee Van Cleef.

Plot summary: Rance Stoddard and his wife return to their roots to bury a friend and tell the real story behind a legend that started his political career out West.

Review: John Ford. James Stewart. John Wayne. Three legends of their own merit. Three men whose names stand for quality in entertainment. In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, they worked together for the first time and created a masterpiece that is every bit as gripping now as it was fifty years ago when the film was released by Paramount Pictures. Build up like a mystery within a character-driven plot, the film focuses on the lives of Ransom Stoddard (Stewart), Hallie (Vera Miles) and Tom Doniphon (Wayne) in a small town called Shinbone. Starting with the arrival of an elderly Senator Stoddard and his wife who return to town to bury their friend, the story soon sheds light on the past to begin where it ultimately ends – with the truth behind Stoddard’s political success and the question who actually shot Liberty Valance. Filmed in black and white, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance benefits from an atmosphere that is unbearable at times; dark and depressing, the lack of color adds to a reality of hopelessness and violence, a situation only Stoddard seems to wish to change. New in the West and with a law degree in his hands, he is eager to make a difference in a place he has chosen to be his home, a place he wants to improve through justice and education. Confronted with arbitrary laws and fear, Rance soon has to learn that it takes resilience, allies and courage to reduce his ideas to practice, and that outlaws only understand the argument of a gun.

Available on DVD. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance trailer

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Bride of the Gorilla

Talkie of the Week: Bride of the Gorilla

USA 1951, 70 minutes, black & white, Realart Pictures. Director: Curt Siodmak, Written by Curt Siodmak. Cast: Raymond Burr, Barbara Payton, Tom Conway, Lon Chaney Jr., Paul Cavanagh, Gisela Werbisek, Carol Varga, Paul Maxey, Woody Strode, Martin Garralaga, Felippa Rock, Moyna MacGill

Plot summary: Plantation manager Barbey Charvez kills his boss to marry his beautiful wife Dina and gets cursed for it by a native witch.

Review: Bride of the Gorilla – the title may already suggest it – is a B movie from the early 1950s. Blessed with a decent overall cast, the film stands out for its silly but entertaining plot. Raymond Burr leaves a lasting impression with his portrayal of Barney Charvez, a plantation manager who leaves little to the imagination about his intentions towards his employer’s wife, Dina Van Gelder. Married to an older man, Dina feels lonely and neglected in the middle of nowhere, bored in her husband’s large house which is surrounded by miles of South American jungle. Suggestive in her reaction to Barney’s advances, she causes a fight between her sick husband and a young and boisterous Charvez who ultimately gives into a sudden impulse of killing his boss. Observed by a native witch, Barney gets away with murder when the police is unable to convict him but is cursed to turn into the beast he proved to be when he took Klaas Van Gelder’s life. Unaware of what’s really happening to him, he roams the jungle at nighttime and is haunted by the experience of being a gorilla during the day. When he finally craves the jungle more than his newlywed wife, Barney faces his own demise as Dina is trying to stop him from running away.

Although the storyline may not sound worthwhile, the movie is fun to watch. Bride of the Gorilla is not the kind of film that will will leave an emotional imprint on your heart, nor will it blow you away with its surprising plot – but it will divert you and make you laugh. It will relax you despite (or rather thanks to?!) its righteous ending. And truth be told, Bride of the Gorilla is particularly enjoyable for anyone who’s fond of Raymond Burr. Barbara Payton and ex-Falcon Tom Conway also deliver neat performances, it is Burr’s seething aggressiveness, however, that makes this film better than expected. With his introverted emotions and impressive physicality, he easily turns this film into a guilty pleasure – just watch him enter at the end of the second minute and you’ll see what I mean. For his screen presence alone this film is a must-see, at least for anyone who’s ever wanted to savor a very different side of TV’s Perry Mason.

Available on youtube in public domain.