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Rich Hall's How the West was Lost


Nick R
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In this week's films on TV thread, it was mentioned that there are a lot of Westerns are being shown - some of them are on Film4, but others are part of BBC4's Westerns Weekend. This began with a documentary presented by Rich Hall.

A generous hour and a half long, it covered a variety of films and directors in good detail, and was a great balance of informative analysis (how people like Buffalo Bill promoted themselves; talking about how the public's changing tastes in Westerns was linked to contemporary events) and jokes so that it never became too ponderous (I liked his definition of "highbrow" - and the shot in the back gag!).

The only problem was that some of the clips seemed to be of surprisingly low quality - perhaps because they were taken from trailers, rather than the better prints of the films used for the DVDs and TV broadcasts.

Unfortunately I've seen embarrassingly few of the films he discussed: Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy (which he didn't seem too keen on), The Searchers, The Wild Bunch and Unforgiven, and that's about it. :lol: Somehow I'd never heard of Dustin Hoffman's Little Big Man...

So, a superb documentary - it's repeated Sunday and Monday, and I'd recommend you catch it.

I love BBC4. :(

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The only problem was that some of the clips seemed to be of surprisingly low quality - perhaps because they were taken from trailers, rather than the better prints of the films used for the DVDs and TV broadcasts.

A particularly weird example of this is the first few clips of the magnificent 7 were really bad quality then some ones used later on were miles better looking.

Really enjoyed the documentary. I'm a big fan of Rich and he seemed to put a lot of effort into this programme.

He really seemed to stick the boot in with regards to the spaghetti westerns.

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Can't see this on iPlayer, which is a shame. Missed the first half!

That will be because of all the movie clips they used....anything other than 100% BBC content brings up all sorts of licensing payments and copyright restricitions.

Watched last nights repeat, really enjoyed it.

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He basically said Sergio Leone's westerns were shit. So he's an idiot.

Leone's films aren't really Westerns - they are only set in that period. the stories can (and have been) shuffled about to suit different times. Once Upon A Time In The West is a flat-out revenge film and could be filmed *anywhere* - Point Blank is pretty much the same story, with the concrete and metal of LA in place of the dust and wooden shacks.

The Wild Bunch is probably the last great Western which portrayed the era with any kind of dignity and affection. it's main characters are completely at odds at the rapidly changing world around them and can only cling onto what they know, knowing fine well it will end in disaster.

and never mind all that cynical, revisionist shit like Unforgiven which is less entertaining than amputation surgery. only worth watching for Gene Hackman, everything else is toss.

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Leone's films aren't really Westerns - they are only set in that period. the stories can (and have been) shuffled about to suit different times. Once Upon A Time In The West is a flat-out revenge film and could be filmed *anywhere* - Point Blank is pretty much the same story, with the concrete and metal of LA in place of the dust and wooden shacks.

The Wild Bunch is probably the last great Western which portrayed the era with any kind of dignity and affection. it's main characters are completely at odds at the rapidly changing world around them and can only cling onto what they know, knowing fine well it will end in disaster.

and never mind all that cynical, revisionist shit like Unforgiven which is less entertaining than amputation surgery. only worth watching for Gene Hackman, everything else is toss.

I don't think I'd agree with you that Leone's films aren't really westerns, the two biggies Once Upon a Time in The West and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly have storylines and themes running through them that are specifically "western" in character. In OUATITWs case the same theme as the Wild Bunch, the death of a particular way of life in the face of progress' march. I think you're wrong about that being a straight revenge film as well, it's an epic in every sense of the word (in a way that Point Blank clearly isn't), the revenge story is only one aspect of it.

Of course if you boil them down to their simplest component parts any western will share similar stories with films of other genres, there are only so many stories to go around after all. In the case of these two though the setting informs the film to such a degree that they would be completely different works outside of it.

I also really enjoyed Unforgiven but that's another discussion altogether.

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  • 2 years later...

Rich hall's documentary about the south that was on BBC4 just now was just as good as the westerns one (though it suffered from the same bad-quality trailer clips, good-quality movie clips as the earlier documentary did). Some really funny bits - his rant about Joaquin Phoenix and Jamie Foxx playing Johnny Cash and Ray Charles was amazing. :unsure:

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  • 4 years later...

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