Captain Spaulding on Skull Island

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While wandering around the internet, I always stop to read “Best” film lists. Some I agree with and some I question but all of them give one or two movies to add to my “To Be Watched” file.

In that vein, I wanted to compile a list of westerns. I didn’t want to go the usual “Best” route, listing the customary culprits like Stagecoach, High Noon and The Good the Bad and the Ugly. I wanted to come up with something a little different.

So here, for your reading pleasure, is a list of 10 great westerns you may not know about:

The Big Trail (1930)
Directed by Raoul Walsh and Louis R. Loeffler
Written by Hal G. Evarts, Marie Boyle, Jack Peabody, Florence Postal and Raoul Walsh
Starring John Wayne, Marguerite Churchill and Tyrone Power Sr.
A beautiful telling of the great pilgrimage west with all of the ups and downs that go with it.
This film set out to make John Wayne a star – and failed. His big break wouldn’t come for nine more years. Shot in widescreen, even though only two theaters in the country had the ability to show films in that aspect ratio. Widescreen would quickly disappear to make a triumphant return in 1953.

Man With The Gun (1955)
Directed by Richard Wilson
Written by N.B. Stone Jr. and Richard Wilson
Starring Robert Mitchum, Jan Sterling and Henry Hull
Robert Mitchum plays a town tamer hired to clean up Sheridan City and put an end to the rowdy rule of an evil cattle baron. Released the same year as another great Mitchum performance in Night of the Hunter. Look for Angie Dickinson in a small, uncredited role.

Seven Men From Now (1956)
Directed by Budd Boetticher
Written by Burt Kennedy
Starring Randolph Scott, Lee Marvin and Gail Russell
Randolph Scott hunts down the seven men that caused the death of his wife. Scott is the epitome of the strong silent type in this film and Marvin creates a villain that is just as likable as the hero. Scott and Boetticher made seven films together and this, in my humble opinion, is the best.

Forty Guns (1957)
Written and Directed by Sam Fuller
Starring Barbara Stanwyck, John Ericson and Dean Jagger
Barbara Stanwyck rules an Arizona county with an iron fist and a gang of forty gunmen. When a new U.S. Marshall shows up, sparks and bullets fly. Fuller had to compromise on the ending, but it’s still a great movie. And, let’s face it, you should see all of Sam Fuller’s films.

Terror in a Texas Town (1958)
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Written by Dalton Trumbo
Starring Sterling Hayden, Sebastian Cabot and Carol Kelly
A Swedish whaler returns to Texas to find that his father has been murdered for his oil-rich land. Any movie that starts with Sterling Hayden threatening people with a harpoon has to be good.

Day of the Outlaw (1959)
Directed by Andre De Toth
Written by Philip Yordan, adapted from the novel by Lee E. Wells
Starring Robert Ryan, Burl Ives and Tina Louise
A showdown is interrupted when a gang of outlaws arrives and takes over the town. Wonderful snowy settings and great performances.

Navajo Joe (1966)
Directed by Sergio Corbucci
Written by Fernando Di Leo, Ugo Pirro and Piero Regnoli
Starring Burt Reynolds, Pierre Cressoy, Aldo Sambrell and Nicoletta Machiavelli
A great Spaghetti Western. A town has to turn to an Indian to protect them from outlaws, an Indian who has his own issues with the bad guys. Interesting by itself, but also noticeably a heavy influence on Quentin Tarantino. A stylish, entertaining film with a great score by Ennio Morricone.

The Great Silence (1968)
Directed by Sergio Corbucci
Written by Mario Amendola, Bruno Corbucci, Sergio Corbucci and Vittoriano Petrilli
Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Klaus Kinski and Vonetta McGee
More Spaghetti. More influence on Tarantino. The wife of an outlaw hires a mute gunslinger to avenge her dead husband. The ending left me shocked for days.

Dead Man (1995)
Written and Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Starring Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Robert Mitchum and Iggy Pop
One man’s strange journey through the mythic west. Beautiful and haunting. Robert Mitchum and Johnny Depp in the same movie! What more needs to be said?

Open Range (2003)
Directed by Kevin Costner
Written by Craig Storper, adapted from the novel by Lauran Paine
Starring Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner and Annette Bening
Free range cattlemen run afoul of a land baron and his corrupt sheriff. Brilliant directorial work by Kevin Costner featuring a masterful shootout at the end that also shows the aftermath of violence.
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