Ride the High Country (1962) – A Movie Review

“Ride the High Country” was a 1960s revisionist Western directed by Sam Peckinpah.  It stars Joel McCrea as Steve Judd an over the hill lawman who is taking on a job to guard a gold shipment from a mining town called Hornitos in the Sierra Nevada.  Judd hires his old partner Gil Westrum, played by Randolph Scott, and a young cowboy named Heck Longtree to help him guard the gold on the trip.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Along the way to Hornitos, they stay over at a farmhouse owned by Joshua Knudsen.  And we meet his daughter Elsa, played by a very young Mariette Hartley, who wants to run away from home to marry one of the miners in Hornitos named Billy Hammond against her father’s will.  After the men head out Elsa catches up to them and Judd allows her to ride with them out of concern that she might be attacked by wild animals in the wilderness.  Along the way we see Longtree flirting with Elsa.  But we also learn that Westrum and Longtree plan to steal the gold from Judd.

When they reach Hornitos, Elsa meets up with Billy and the rest of the Hammond brothers.  To say the least they are depraved animals.  Billy marries Elsa in the town bordello with the madame and prostitutes as bridal party.  When Billy passes out before the honeymoon two of the brothers attempt to rape her in the “bridal suite.”  Judd and Longtree hear her screams and rescue her from the Hammonds.  When Billy demands his wife back Westrum threatens the judge who married them to force him to claim that the marriage was illegitimate.

They leave Hornitos with Elsa in tow to bring her back to her father.  The next night Westrum and Longtree attempt to sneak out of camp at night with the gold.  But Judd catches them and takes them prisoner.  He binds their hands and declares that he will hand them over to the law when he delivers the gold.

The next day Billy Hammond and his brothers catch up with Judd and demand to have Elsa back.  Judd agrees to allow Longtree to have a gun and between them they kill two of the Hammonds.  The other Hammonds ride off and Judd and the rest of the company stop for the night.  Westrum escapes on horseback and returns to the scene of the gun battle and retrieves a pistol from one of the dead Hammonds.  Then he begins to follow Judd’s party.

When Judd and Longtree reach Elsa’s home they find her father dead on the ground and come under fire from the Hammonds who have set up an ambush.  Longtree is shot in the leg and Judd is hit in the belly.  But before the Hammonds can finish them off Westrum rides into the scene and tells Judd that he’s returned to help his old partner face off against the Hammonds.  A classic gun duel, with both sides walking toward each ensues and the three Hammonds riddle Judd with bullets but the two old lawmen manage to kill their three enemies in the fight.

Judd tells Westrum that he’s going to die but doesn’t want Longtree and Elsa to see him expire.  He tells Westrum to finish up the gold delivery and also says that he is satisfied that Westrum has come back to his duty and will do the right thing.  Then he dies and Westrum joins Longtree and Elsa to tend to Longtree’s wounds and finish the job.

Although this is supposed to be a modern Western with a blurred boundary between the good guys and the bad, for the most part McCrea and Scott are very close to the quintessential golden age cowboys.  Scott’s turn as a bad guy is shown to be not very deep seated as he comes back at the end to risk his life for his old friend.  There is a lot more realism in the depiction of how depraved the folks in the mining camp were as compared to a classic western.  But for the most part this film still stays pretty close to a classic western.  I’ll say that I quite enjoyed the movie and I recommend it for fans of traditional westerns.  It’s about halfway between the movies made in the ‘30s and ‘40s and the stuff you might see in the spaghetti westerns that Clint Eastwood starred in.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 23 – All Our Yesterdays

Kirk, Spock and McCoy visit planet blah, blah, blah that is about to be destroyed by its sun going nova.  The whole population has used a time machine to escape into the past.  But one librarian is sticking around to handle any late arrivals.  He tries to convince the Enterprise crew to use the time machine to escape.  Kirk accidentally goes through the portal and ends up in an analog of 17th century England.  And McCoy and Spock follow him and end up in an Ice Age hellhole.

Kirk is accused of witchcraft when he is heard talking to Spock and McCoy when they are in a different time through the portal.  He finds a fellow time traveler and convinces him to help him escape back to the future.  When he gets back, he has to violently convince the librarian to help him find Spock and McCoy.

Meanwhile Spock and McCoy are found by another time traveler.  It is a woman named Zarabeth who has been sentenced to the Ice Age prison by an evil dictator.  But because they are now 5,000 years in the past, Spock reverts to the emotional condition his ancestors existed in at that time.  He becomes quite belligerent when McCoy calls him a pointy eared Vulcan.  And, of course, he falls in love with the pretty woman (played by very pretty and very young Mariette Hartley) in the skimpy cavegirl outfit.  When McCoy accuses Zarabeth of lying about whether McCoy and Spock can get back to the future Spock becomes enraged and starts choking McCoy.  McCoy brings this to Spock’s attention and he realizes that he is acting like a primitive.  Zarabeth clarifies that she knows she can never return to the future alive but she doesn’t know whether Spock and McCoy can.

The two men decide to try to find the way back and with just minutes to go before nova Kirk has the librarian open the path to the Ice Age time portal.  After Spock paws at Zarabeth for a few moments Kirk successfully urges the two men to return.  McCoy talks to Spock about how he feels about leaving Zarabeth in the past and Spock says some Vulcan jazz about her being dead and buried but it sounds more like bitterness than lack of emotion.  The librarian quickly makes his escape to his own time destination and the Enterprise beams the landing party back just in time to escape the nova.

This is a pretty good episode.  Sure, it’s silly and set up as a thriller with the clock running out on the nova.  But the story moves along and watching Leonard Nimoy act almost like a human being is amusing.  I especially liked when he had McCoy by the windpipe.  Even Kirk avoided his usual histrionics.  And the funny little bald librarian provides some humor to the proceedings with his bureaucratic fussiness.  And Mariette Hartley is a charming looking woman and did the best she could do with the lines she was given.

With the series all but over and faced with the reality of transgender Kirk in the final episode I feel extremely generous.  I’m going to award this episode with a 8 // 2.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 15 – The Long Morrow

Douglas Stansfield is an astronaut who has been selected to go on the first interstellar mission.  The round trip will take forty years so Stansfield will be put in suspended animation for the trip.  Right before the flight he meets a girl named Sandra Horn who is working for the space agency.  They fall in love on their one and only date and she tells him that her life will be a meaningless exercise without him and when he returns in forty years, she will greet him at the landing.

When Stansfield’s ship returns the mission, controllers see a note to notify Sandra Horn.  When the controller asks whether he should check the old age homes his colleague says that she is currently in a cryogenic facility.  The base commander meets Sandra when she is revived from suspended animation and gives her the shocking news.  Stansfield set his cryogenic unit to revive him very shortly after his launch from Earth.  He has aged almost the entire forty-year interval.  When Douglas and Sandra meet, she tells him that the age difference won’t matter to her.  But he tells her it would matter and he releases her.  The base commander tells Stansfield that he is honored to have met a man as selfless as he is.

The very pretty Mariette Hartley plays Sandra and she does a good job of representing the tragic love story that sets up the surprise ending.  But anyone who has read a lot of golden age science fiction stories saw this one coming a mile away.  Still in its day it was probably a surprise for the audience.  B.