(Review originally written at 15 January 2007)

"Shane" is a powerful movie about a gunfighter who settles down with a homestead family. The movie has themes such as family value, loyalty, friendship and courage, central in it. The movie inspired many other later formulaic genre movies and was truly a bar-raising movie, back in the early '50's.

It's a western, also with action in it but the movie above all is a family movie. It's a movie for everyone to watch, even those who aren't really too fond of the western genre. The story is touching and powerful, with universal themes in it. The movie works out as good the way it does, due to the fine story itself, it's directing from George Stevens and the fine performances from the cast.

In its core the story itself is quite simple. It's never made complicated and is about real people and real situations instead. Though the movie is of course melodramatic at times, it doesn't really ever feel forced. It's just because of the style of film-making of the '50's and the musical score, that some sequences might have an overly present melodramatic feel now by todays standards. The movie is about good versus evil. A couple of friendly and non-violent settlers are being bullied around by a cattle-driver, who wants their land. When Shane sees this injustice he takes matters into his own hand and decide to stand up against Ryker's men. It all sounds incredibly formulaic by now but back in 1953 it all was quite new and refreshing. Basically every western genre cliché that we know by now are features in this movie, some for the very first time.

The story, simple as it is, is told really great. It makes the movie really a warm and powerful one to watch. It also leaves room for some typical genre action, such as for instance a good old fashioned saloon fight.

The movie is beautifully shot with some atmospheric landscapes. No wonder that the movie looks visually so good, director George Stevens used to be a cinematographer during the '20's and early '30's. His work for the Laurel & Hardy movies in the '20's is his most notable and best known work. The movie also has some great editing, that took over a year to complete and some good camera-work, when it comes down to its positions and close-up work.

The main character Shane is perfectly portrayed by Alan Ladd, who has a kind though still tough looking appearance. Jack Palance was also truly great as the ruthless gunfighter, hired by the Ryker's. He's scary and tough looking character. A real good villain that you love to hate but he only is in the movie shortly though, toward the ending of it. Ladd and Palance would later star again together in "Once a Thief" (1965), that is a fairly enjoyable movie to watch.

A timeless classic. Still as powerful as ever, with a classic and much debated last shot(s).


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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