Western Films -- DVD/Blu-ray display | Mechanics' Institute

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Western Films -- DVD/Blu-ray display

The history of American cinema up to today has included the "Western" as a central genre. While inspired by popular literature, Westerns continue to tell stories about the perils settlers experienced during Western expansion. Mechanics' is home to an extensive collection of Western Americana, including many titles from the Western silver screen and television. 'Giddy-up' to the Western film display on the 2nd floor and take home DVD and Blu-ray from our diverse collection ranging back to the 1930s.

Craig recommends Johnny Guitar starring Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden. "In this drama film, released in 1954, Joan Crawford as Vienna plays a strong-willed saloon owner. She battles the local townspeople headed by Emma, the local sexually repressed, lynch-happy female rancher. She is out to frame Vienna for a string of robberies. Johnny Logan is a guitar-strumming drifter who was once in love with Vienna, and is offered a job in her saloon. This film is often considered one of the most original westerns of all time... and the women in the film are far tougher than the men."

Taryn recommends:

  • Red River -- "Based on the almost brilliant but still pulpy Blazing Guns on the Chisholm Trail"
  • Dances with Wolves -- "Fascinating native scenery and much of the dialogue is spoken in Lakota with English subtitles."
  • Taryn also recommends the True Grit the novel by Charles Portis, along with both film adaptations starring John Wayne and Josh Brolin.

Veronica recommends High Noon calling it "one of my all-time favorite Westerns".

Lisa recommends True Grit and McCabe and Mrs. Miller

Myles recommends Django Unchained -- "Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western, loosely based on the 1966 Italian film Django, is set in the South and follows freed slave Django, played by Jamie Foxx, as he carries out revenge on plantation owners that have kept his wife captive. Embedded in this violent revisionist Western are the familiar themes of frontier justice, but it’s the frank take on race relations that makes this film stand out."

Steven recommends:

  • The Searchers -- "John Ford directed the best known classics of the Western genre. Many consider this his greatest achievement; it features John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter searching for a girl kidnapped by Comanches. The ending will surprise you."
  • High Noon -- "Gary Cooper won the Oscar, some say for looking at a clock with a worried expression on his face. This 50s classic has the quintessential shootout scene in which we see the gunfight as a spectator sport. Contrast this with Costner’s Open Range (below)."
  • The Frisco Kid -- "A hidden gem from the 70s. Gene Wilder plays a rabbi sent fresh from the yeshiva school in Poland to a congregation in San Francisco. He has to team up with an outlaw (Harrison Ford before the Star Wars movies) in order to make his way across the country."
  • True Grit -- "The Mechanics Institute library has both the original with John Wayne and Kim Darby as well as the 2010 remake with Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld. Wayne and Bridges both won the Oscar for Best Actor. The remake had additional Oscar-winning performances as well.  A teenage girl seeks justice for her murdered family. Justice proves a bit elusive."
  • Once Upon a Time in the West -- "Of all the spaghetti westerns this is my favorite. The casting of Sergio Leone’s classic stands as one of the most subversive contributions to the genre: he cast actors quite diametrically against type with Henry Fonda as the sociopathic villain and Jason Robards as morally ambiguous outlaw.  Mythic themes such as the hero’s journey and redemption make this more than just another Western."
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales -- "The 1970s saw a revision of the Western genre to include more historically accurate elements. Screen writer Philip Kaufman integrated these into a script that shows, long before his Indiana Jones movies, that he could craft a perfect story arc. The title character’s outlaw career as a consequence of the Civil War and its aftermath along with a sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans frames the Western in a very different manner than the earlier classics."
  • Dead Man -- "Auteur Jim Jarmusch directed Johnny Depp in this strange and dream-like re-imagining of the Western. Picture the classic Shootout at the OK Corral on acid. In black & white with an interesting collection of actors including Iggy Pop, John Hurt, Gabriel Byrne, Crispin Glover and Jared Harris (son of Richard Harris)."
  • Unforgiven -- "Eastwood further deconstructs the Western in this 1992 movie that goes to great lengths to ‘de-romanticize’ and ‘de-mythologize’ the Western. In a key scene Gene Hackman blows apart the mythos of the western gunslinger with an uncomfortable truth. Some younger viewers may like to see a performance by Richard Harris before he was Dumbledore."
  • Open Range -- "Kevin Costner studied of primary sources and photographs from the period in aid of creating this neo-realistic Western. Unlike the stereotypical depiction of the gunfight in a Western (High Noon, for example), the townspeople flee before the final showdown, not wanting to be anywhere near when the bullets start to fly. Set during one of the many ‘range wars’ that displaced the small-scale ranchers on the frontier in the late 19th century, the film dramatizes a little known chapter of the history of the western United States."

Posted on Feb. 19, 2019 by Myles Cooper