Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Ox-Bow Incident

Most of us like a bit of novelty and conversation from our cinema, and traditionally we shell out for the 'new release' for that reason: if there's something new we want to be the first of our friends to see it so that we get the thrill of crapping on about it and being listened to.

Like the long lists of books that you're supposed to read before you can consider yourself 'well-read'— there are those equally long lists of 'Movie Classics' but the problem with giving over your leisure time to these stories that have stood the test of history, is that afterwards there's often nobody to talk to about it.

Poverty ( and the reluctance to download ) have kept most of the new releases off my viewing menu for some time now. However, the possession of the one of last Video Cassette Players in Limerick has meant I can constantly supply meself with oldies at 50¢' a pop; if you can get into oldies, I recommend you do so because there really is quite a lot of treats out there.

I'm not a 'buff', and I can't say "I enjoy film" without putting an 's' on the end and before tonight, I had never seen nor heard of the Ox-Bow Incident, but it's a western, and it's a cracker...

How can I explain best?
Okay,-I'll put it in the context of a new-ish fillum that I have seen:

"Is it as good as say... um Coen brothers version of 'True Grit'?"

— you might ask, and the answer would be:

"Well... the acting's not as good, the writing's not as good,- it's in black and white and you never really feel like you're outside of the studio, there are no relatable female characters,- the moralising element of the story could seem naive and twee and the only black man has the mannerisms of a craven caricature, but yeah... it's just as good."

Speaking for myself, I found it more engaging; it creates a cowboy world of characters who each seem far more authentic than their surroundings; it has the tension of a thriller and quite determinedly describes the moral implications of a lynching in a way that, for every point it loses in realism, gains two for depth of theme and philosophical contemplation of the nature of mankind and the concept of civilisation.

So in other words: I enjoyed it.

I just wish there was somebody to talk to about it.


  1. I actually know this movie. During his stand-up days Woody Allen used to talk about his "first marriage, or as it was known -- The Ox-Bow Incident."


  2. I'm sure it's well-known enough, but just never showed up on me own personal radar... I've never seen 'Stand by Me' either.

  3. I saw this in the Dublin Film Festival years ago when at school, and was later horrified to find it listed in a 6th year religion text book as a film to watch under the theme of "Justice". What a downer.

    I actually really liked it too - to the extent that I've only ever seen it once, probably when I was about 15, it's stuck with me vividly ever since. Possibly I was going through a phase of "discovering" classics, and came across this, and while the "stageyness" of it jarred, there's a solid core of huge drama associated with it (kind of like watching "A better tomorrow 2" expecting "Reservoir Dogs" but rather gaining an insight into how RD could come about or arise from that genre and a million other influences). To use a word fraught with meaning - it's a very "informative" film that way.

    Needs to be seen in a larger context too, in particular in the work of Henry Fonda. In the '40's and '50's he was making pictures like this (1943), and "12 Angry Men" (1957) and "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940) which were making incredible statements about the nature of justice and fairness and equality, workers rights etc, that the establishment would readily have viewed as subversive, so in some senses it's amazing this kind of thing got made at all - probably wouldn't have without Fonda - even then he seems to have suffered during McCarthyism.....


  4. I reckon it shall stick vividly with me too.
    And speaking of stuff like as what sticks with you... you mentioned 6th year religon-books; some of that great old shite seems subversive in and of itself, almost as if it were designed by some disillusioned clerical minion with the intention of to making an atheist out of anybody who reads it.

    Here is something I shall never forget from
    "Ready, Steady Grow" - a sex-education manual for Catholic teenagers:
    "Girls should dress modestly and behave in an appropriate manner so that boys are not tempted to abuse them".