Saturday, January 19, 2008

Warlock (1959)

[This is a review from exactly one year ago that I only posted on bubbs, for some reason.]

Warlock is really good movie. It features a very unique interpretation of the Wyatt Earp/Doc Holliday relationship. In fact, of all the Wyatt Earp movies, aspects of Warlock are probably the most accurate to the actual historical relationship, according to what I've read on the subject. For example, the idea that Wyatt and Doc were thuggish and often seen as no better than those they fought. Henry Fonda gives a great performance as the Wyatt character, especially in scenes where he demonstrates the origin of his reputation. One of my favorites was the scene with the lynch mob: Fonda has taken two murder suspects into custody, and a mob from the town forms and demands them for a hanging. One big man threatens Fonda: "We'll run you down same as the others, Blaisedell."

"Come here," responds Fonda.

No response.

"Come here."

The big man moves a step forward. "You can't stop all of us."

"Come here."

The man moves one step closer. Fonda knocks him unconscious with his gun.

Now, we've seen this before in movies like Tombstone and Wyatt Earp, but those movies clung to the idea that Wyatt was mostly a sympathetic hero. Warlock says that Wyatt was a strong man, an extraordinary one even, but still a fallen man who has found that his skills and reputation will allow him to get whatever he wants.

And this is to say nothing of Anthony Quinn's excellent Doc Holliday character (that I'd swear Powers Boothe used as the basis for his character and performance in Deadwood), or Richard Widmark's complex Gannon character who becomes the real law in town and truly understands courage (despite starting the film as an outlaw).

Warlock was a very refreshing take on not only the Earp mythos, but the Western genre itself. Scenes like *spoiler alert* Fonda going nuts after killing his best friend, burning down their hotel/casino as a bizarre but appropriate funeral pyre, really stand out from the common sentiments of other 50s Westerns. Also interesting was the idea of law discussed in the film. Generally movies like this will say, "Hey, it's ok to hire gunmen to protect your town if the law won't." Look at The Magnificent Seven. But in Warlock the true hero says, "No, you have to have the law behind your enforcement. The town has to stand on its own feet. Otherwise we trade the tyranny of the lawless for the tyranny of our hired protectors."

Warlock seems to be overlooked or underrated. I'd only just heard of it.


Brian said...

Nice, I have to see this movie. I don't know what it is about the Wyatt Earp story but I love it - maybe cause its cowboys, maybe cause of the relationship between Doc and Earp - who knows.

Off to wiki to read about him . . .

Ryan said...

He really is a fascinating character. It's crazy to think that he didn't die until sometime in the 20s. My great-grandfather (1898-1998) could have met him! Could have been friends with him! The "Wild West" seems like such an otherwordly place, yet it wasn't that long ago, really. There were "Wild West" type towns still in existence in the early 20th century.

Brian said...

That's so strange to think about . . . Its really odd too cause both Wyatt and Doc were all around here in Colorado. I think I might drive to the grave site of Doc Holiday just to say that I've been there.

Dude I'm in Agadoni drawing withdrawal - whatchu workin on these days? Anything you can post?

Ryan said...

That's right! At the end of Tombstone Doc's in Colorado.

I have been working on stuff, I need to post some of it.

What about you, though, Mr. Takes-Down-His-Comic-Blog? Are you drawing anything?

Brian said...

Well I stopped posting on the LARPs one cause we put the project on hold - but I've been doing my own thing on my new blog:

That's where I post everything now.

Ryan said...


Excellent, I had no idea you were posting somewhere.