Johnny Guitar (1954) * Favorite Review *
Starring: Joan Crawford (Grand Hotel; The Unknown), Sterling Hayden (The Killing; Dr. Strangelove)
Directed By: Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without A Cause)
Overview: A woman builds a saloon outside of town, waiting for the railroad to come in and make her rich. She hires a guitarist for entertainment but when Johnny arrives, he finds that the townsfolk aren't so pleased at Vienna's big city plans.
Acting: This is the Joan Crawford you remember. The aging woman that you can picture, years later, sitting in her opulent den, crying to herself as she watches her own movies, reliving her past. She's washed out and the director knows not how to flatter. Johnny's 'rich Americana' voice that leaves no room for subtlelty is a pleasure compared to Mercedes McCambrige, who seems blessed with the gift of dramatic turning. She shares this blessing with us as she spits EVERY SINGLE line throughout the entire production. Acting this bad has to be on purpose. American machismo has a champion in this kitsch.
Cinematography: It's been a good long time since I've had a chance to dump on a movie. It's nice. It's healing. To think that all but three takes were shot with the camera in mind is also healing, since laughter is the best medicine. Fire, explosion, shootout. I guess with those three things, a Western doesn't need much else, does it?
Script: "Never met a woman who's more like a man. Acts like one, thinks like one and sometimes I feel like I ain't!"
This script is like eating a Bavarian chocolate-covered rotten onion. In the beginning, it's dramatic, exhilarating, doesn't pull any punches and gets you right into the story fast, with the occasional bitter aftertaste of masculine puffed chests. Then the men turn into infants as they fight over an old lady, exchanging teen-angst insults at one another in EVERY SCENE they're in. By the end you're left with a bad taste in your mouth that's worse than Durian Fruit. That, my friend, stays for hours.
Plot: Subtext. It can be the defining difference between formulaic garbage and deep artistic commentary. When we look at these two old lovers still pining for one another, but don't mention it or show any chemistry until half way through, all while the men are trying to knock each other out with their cocks. Nicholas Ray is obviously such a genius that I missed the meaning of his vision. Either that or he was ritualistically abused during his formative years by a father who wore a Stetson.
Mood: The mood is "how big can I make my penis without stepping on it myself?" Even the women sprout cocks for this one. Let me tell you, if you think masculinity in a woman is a good thing, this film might change your mind. And if a man needs to be macho to turn you on, then definitely see this. Maybe then you're realize why the Wild West was so wild for so long, rather than becoming civilized a decade earlier, like it could have been had self-important imbeciles like this not been ruining the show.
Overall Rating: 32% (So Bad You'll Be Jitterbuggin')
Aftertaste: Joan Crawford had a miracle worker in an agent if she, at fifty years old, could still get romantic roles. I can't remember a movie so bad that I had to stop and watch it in three installments. The only saving grace this film has is that there is a touch of originality in the fact that two women have a shootout, and no that wasn't a spoiler. In the first ten minutes of the film the women banter about how they're going to kill each other... "Not If I kill You First." TERRIBLE.