Charles Bronson in Sergio Leone's 'Once Upon a Time in the West'

‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) puts the opera into “horse opera.” Leave it to the Italians to put genuine operatic dimension into the great American saga of western expansion. Sergio Leone’s loving tribute to the myth of the American West leaves the cool, cruel mercenary world of the Clint Eastwood Dollar films […]

Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper in the 1954 western by Robert Aldrich

‘Vera Cruz’ – The proto-spaghetti western on Criterion Channel

“You’re the first friend I ever had,” grins flamboyant mercenary Burt Lancaster to lean, laconic Gary Cooper in with a smile that suggests that he may be the last. They’re a pair of Americans abroad looking to cash in the Mexican revolution by selling their services to the highest bidder in Vera Cruz (1954), Robert […]

‘Jubal’ – Frontier Othello on VOD and Criterion Blu-ray/DVD

Delmer Daves was a Hollywood pro with a long career and an impressive filmography when he made Jubal (1956). A screenwriter turned director, Daves moved easily between all genres—war pictures, romances, westerns, Biblical epics, and a few noir-inflected dramas—and oddly enough found his biggest success in glossy melodrama A Summer Place, but I think he […]

Phil Karlson directs John Payne, Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef, and Jack Elam in this B-movie film noir classic.

‘Kansas City Confidential’ free on Kanopy

Kansas City Confidential (1952), the first of three collaborations between Phil Karlson, a director who graduated from B-movies with a strong storytelling punch and a tough, two-fisted sensibility, and John Payne, a former light romantic lead and bland song-and-dance man of Fox musicals, was a career changer for both of them. Payne was already reinventing […]