WINCHESTER ’73 [1950] movie review

December 31, 2011 · Print This Article

There is something really valuable about a great western movie to me.  It shows a time when a man of honor and courage could take it upon himself to directly set things to rights when witnessing vile actions.  In the old west it seems there were two societies, one in the game, and one not, though both were dominated by those in the game.  You had to choose to strap a six-iron to your hip and be in the game, then to choose the side of honor or the side of the low-down.  If you chose not to be in the game, the low-down would still not treat you like Switzerland.  WINCHESTER ’73 is an intimate, yet sprawling western largely shown from the perspective of the low-down, but dominated by James Stewart as a man of honor.

After WINCHESTER ’73 ends and you think back to the story, you realize how entirely clever it was. It starts with a shooting competition for a Winchester rifle model 1973, a gun that inspires incredible awe. With no cars yet to dream of, it seems old west kids dreamed of the Winchester model 1973, and in particular the “1 in a 1000” ones that are manufactured “perfect.”

Hmm, I just remembered yet another clever part of the story I only realized now. Great script.

James Stewart’s character is of course a man of honor, though he is obsessed with hunting down one man in particular, a one Dutch Brown. You hardly realize the movie is an extended chase scene of sorts.

WINCHESTER ’73 also forces the viewer to realize the plight of the Indians in those times. It is uncomfortable, but that is because the issue was written and directed about so spot on.

The climax is an outstanding demonstration of shooting, for one’s life. I have never seen ricochets used like that in shooting before.

I always keep my ears open for a good, if not great western movie, and I do not remember where I heard of WINCHESTER ’73, but you are hearing about it here. Watch it on a Sunday afternoon.

–One other note, the movie is set in 1876, which is 135 years ago from present day. I really wonder if anyone from that time could possibly imagine how different the world would be in such a short time? Guns still exist, but are marginalized (though obviously not enough). There is a face to every name. Or maybe things are not so different, or less violent. Still, the time of the old west existed with the same relative technology for hundreds of years. Can things be as radically different for us in 2146? I cannot decide. It seems very likely we will be in a similar cycle for the next few hundred years with just our technology improving evolutionarily. Or will society be radically changed like it was in the past 135 years? Somehow I fear genetical engineering the most.

All Men carried a gun in 1876. In 2011 all men carry a mobile phone.


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