Reviewed by Doug Boilesen
OK, so this movie ends with the often satirized
"Shaaaaane..., come baaaaaack..." And for Friends of
the Phonograph it doesn't have any phonographs in the movie
(wrong time period).
Nonetheless, Shane is in my top ten because it
is a great western. Perhaps I'm trying to justify how many times
I've watched it by calling it great. But who cannot think of Shane
as the archetype of movie westerns with its storyline and its setting
in the magnificent Grand Tetons. It's good guy vs. bad guy, Alan
Ladd as the one and only Shane in his white hat versus Jack Palance
in his black hat and perfectly cast as the evil gunfighter Wilson
("yeah, that was Wilson all right. He was fast, real fast...").
1953 Paramount Pictures
I first saw this movie at the Star View drive-in
theatre in Lincoln, Nebraska in the 1950's when the outdoor theatre
was the king of screen size. The open country and scenery of Wyoming
is breathtaking and it seemed in scale at the outdoor theatre.
Watching the movie one feels the remoteness of
the place, separated from law and order and miles from the nearest
town. Store-bought clothes and soda pop gave clues in
Grafton's General Store that there was civilization beyond the muddy
streets where Palance would gun-down Elisha Cook, Jr. But the source
of those goods was a distant world from this valley with no real
impact on daily life.
What was real was the land and the people and the
conflict between the fence-building homesteaders and the open-range
cattlemen who did not want civilization or change. In this time
and place Shane was destined to bring this world into a new order
by removing those that had outlived their time. And when Shane accomplished
what needed to be done, he too had to leave because he was part
of that old order and was now the last gun in the valley.
In the early 1980's I frequently enjoyed this movie
at the home of my friends Dave and Kathy Aiken who owned an RCA
SelectaVision videodisc player and Shane was one of their CED (Capacitance
Electronic Discs) videodiscs. The videodisc itself would not be
able to compete with video tapes and laserdiscs and by 1986 videodiscs
were no longer made. But as a Friend of the Phonograph I
appreciated CED technology because it was essentially a high-tech
phonograph that actually used a record player needle to display
images and sound. It was part of that new world of home entertainment
that allowed the presentation of movies like Shane in your own home
whenever you wanted to insert a disc.
March 22, 1981 RCA introduced its analog video
format, the SelectaVision CED VideoDisc system
Shane clearly has personal associations for me
regarding when and how and where I watched it and perhaps it is
getting some extra review points for those connections. But ultimately
it is a great movie regardless of those memories.
In short, I enjoy this movie as a classic western
and consider it the pre-eminent example of its genre. With the panoramic
scenes and its simple story embedded with the values and dreams
and struggles of homesteaders in the 1870s this movie for me is
a top ten.
Grand Opening ad for the Star View Outdoor Theatre,
Star View photos courtesy of Cinematreasures.org