A Deep Dive into Classic Western Movies: Jeremiah Johnson

Jeremiah Johnson

 

For those of you who have been reading my blog for some time you know this movie holds a special place in my heart.

Not only is it the BEST Mountain Man movie ever made IMO, it is an amazing story BASED on a REAL LIFE Character that went by the name of “Liver Eating Johnson.”

The book “Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver Eating Johnson” by Raymond W. Thorpe Jr. is a worthwhile read.

 

 

Best Western Movie of 2021: Old Henry

H/T to My Favorite Westerns

 

 

Real Westerns are a dime a dozen these days.

About every five years one comes along that is worth watching from a writer not influenced by the current woke agenda that seeks to inject a version of fantasy instead of history, you know the kind I am talking about: where any color other than white makes up the majority of the cast and lesbian gunslingers save the day?

Seriously, I can count on one hand the best western movies of the last decade:

  • True Grit (2010)

  • The Homesman (2014)

  • The Revenant (2015)

  • Hostiles (2017)

  • Old Henry (2021)

Starring one of my favorite actors, Tim Blake Nelson, whose body of work includes such films as O’ Brother Where Art Thou?, The Homesman and Child of God.

Old Henry is superbly written, with some down home wisdom that will make you smile.

Son: “I still don’t believe this is what you wanted; up at dawn, feeding the stock, working the crops, hot or cold, rain or shine.”

Old Henry: “You’ll discover there’s worse arrangements…”

I also really liked how the movie dived head first into the duality of the gunfighter mythos and historical reality.

I remember watching Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) when I was a youngster (which I still consider one of Sam Peckinpah’s finest works next to the The Wild Bunch (1969) and I immediately got hooked on the story and mythos surrounding Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War.

To Hell on a Fast Horse is one of the best books I have ever read on the subject of Billy the Kid, aka William Bonney, aka Henry Atrim, aka Henry McCarty.

Obscure Westerns Worth a Damn: The White Buffalo

I consider myself the quintessential Charlie Bronson fan and by that I mean I am a fan of ALL of his films, not just his big features that most people give him acclaim for.

Bronson, like Eastwood and Mitchum, came from an era in Hollywood when men were men and damn proud of it. There was no put on, no fakery and definitely no political correctness!  Bronson’s face had that particular kind of look where the deep lines and folds spoke volumes about the man without him ever having to say a word, unlike the plastic refined robots that try to pass off as actors today.

Having been born in the mid-seventies, this was without a doubt one of my favorite decade for westerns. Movies like Jeremiah Johnson, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Man in the Wilderness and The Shootist are still to this day some of my favorite and fondest western classics.

Three things stuck out to me about this movie: The Cast, the Atmosphere and the Dialogue. But before I jump into that let me first briefly touch on one of the biggest problems most people have with this movie: The Special Effects.

Yes, the effects are corny AWFUL. The white horned buffalo looking creature with the steaming nostrils and glowing eyes charging around on sometimes visible tracks is not what you would call “cutting edge” by any stretch of the imagination. Add to this the set decoration for the Black Hills winter always reminded me of the “Fortress of Solitude” ice city in Superman (made in 1978 not surprisingly).

OK, so once you get past THAT, this movie really does have a lot to offer the TRUE western fan!

 Cast

Jam packed to the gills with solid gold western talent! Slim Pickens, Jack Warden, Kim Novak, Clint Walker, John Carradine and Ed Lauter just to name a few. Will Sampson, a full blooded Muscogee Indian who plays Crazy Horse, will forever be cemented in my memory as Ten Bears in The Outlaw Josey Wales and Chief Bromden in one of my all time favorite Jack Nicholson films, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. 

Atmosphere

The surreal dream like quality that permeates this entire movie is really unique. The director went to great lengths to integrate Native American spirituality into the story without being insulting or too over the top. The Death and War songs that are sung throughout by Crazy Horse are authentic examples.

Dialogue

It was not until I had watched this movie a third time that I started picking up on the distinct dialogue. Often times in westerns, writers do not go to great lengths to use some of the same colorful regional language and colloquialism’s that were used during that time period (1870’s in this case). This would be later repeated on a very grand scale in the series and movie Deadwood (which not ironically stars Keith Carradine as Wild Bill Hickok!)

Some of my favorite lines and sayings come from Slim Picken’s character, Abel Pinkney

“God Damn! Blue Whistler musta caught her right in the third eye!” 

“Well there she is partner, Fetterman, Metropolis of the Bozeman Trail! Prettier than a nine tit sow ain’t she?”

and this one from Jack Warden’s character, George Zane (One Eye):

“Don’t freeze, it’s colder than a hooker’s heart.”

So next time you want to watch a decent western, grab one of your youngsters and check out The White Buffalo, it’s American storytelling at it’s finest and I think you both will enjoy it!

Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous!