Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day Movies

The History Channel just got done showing Tombstone, with Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Michael Biehne, and Billy Bob Thornton.

Now it's showing The Outlaw Josey Wales, a Clint Eastwood picture with Clint and John "Whoop-de-god-damn-de-doo" Vernon.

While Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are after vengeance and call it keeping the peace, Josey Wales is after vengeance on the Kansas Irregulars who slaughtered his wife and child and burned his home down.

Wikipedia says that Josey Wales was a revisionist western, in that the hero is a Confederate veteran, now on the run, and the villains are the Kansas "Redlegs" who first burnt his homestead and then joined the Union and shot Josey's companions after they surrendered.

The conflict in Tombstone builds for a while, before an accidental spark sets it off: One of the Clanton gang gets high on opium and shoots the local marshal while handing over his guns. Wyatt and Doc and the other heroes get pressured into taking down the gang, and it turns personal when the Clantons shoot Morgan Earp.

For Josey Wales, it's personal from the beginning. Both movies are of the Reluctant Badass genre, in which the heroes are simple, peaceful folk until Someone Touches Their Stuff. Then the kid gloves go off.

I don't think the History Channel was thinking much about the implications of these two movies, especially set back to back. I think they just thought, "Wow, it's Father's Day, let's fill up our schedule with westerns!" But they ended up with two movies whose protagonists are basically the same people, just on different sides of "the law," which in both cases is merely an excuse for a lot of gunplay.

There's one other parallel between the two movies: The antagonists wear red in both films. The Clanton gang wears red around their waists, and the Redlegs sport the infamous leggings. A lot of red blood gets spilled. It's pretty dull in Josey Wales, which seemed to have been filmed under an overcast autumn sky, while in Tombstone it's nice and bright, just like the rest of the film, which is nominally set in Arizona.


Sherry said...

You might enjoy Lance's musings on Last Train from Gun Hill

Falconer said...

I believe I have read them. That's the one where the sheriff has to arrest the boy of his old pardnuh, isn't it? And things end badly. Well, it's worth reminding myself.