Sunday, May 27, 2007

May 27th Log

1943, William Wellman, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

William Wellman’s The Ox-Bow Incident is a classic film. Unforgettably powerful upon its release in 1943, the film still holds up today. The story is simple and to the point but one that holds true and universal. Today The Ox Bow Incident may appear heavy-handed at times but this is a film that holds up because of its artistic direction and its thought-provoking impact. Through the simplicity of the story emerges a film that questions the risk of group-thinking and of human nature cynical tendencies (ignorance, blame, hate, vengeance, madness, etc). The film questions the idea of putting the law and justice in peoples hands and even asks what is justice and what does it do to individual lives? The Ox Bow Incident was a film ahead of its time and certainly one of the saddest films produced during the Hollywood Production code era. The entire cast is terrific (notably Dana Andrews and a young Anthony Quinn as the wrongly accused men), but carrying the emotional core and moral dilemma of the film is the great Henry Fonda who seems to be foreshadowing elements of his memorable role in the 1957 classic 12 Angry Men. Wellman was an acclaimed director, but one who was not well liked because of his controlling tendencies. The Ox-Bow Incident is a very theatrical film, yet Wellman gives his artistic cinematic touches highlighted by the opening and closing shots which represent the film coming to a full tragic circle (as we see the opposite shot of the cowboys riding away from the town and the dog again crossing the screen in the opposite direction). A sad and thought-provoking film, The Ox-Bow Incident is a richly layered classic.


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