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Shane (1953)


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...").


Copyright© 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, May 28,1948

Star View photos courtesy of