A long-overdue box set last year told the DVD generation what Western lovers had known for a half-century: that director Budd Boetticher made some of the most striking movies in the genre--dust-blown chess matches in which vengeful heroes and avuncular villains maneuver for the upper hand, using words, women and psychological warfare as preludes to the inevitable face-off. This double feature gathers two classics from Boetticher's fertile collaboration with star Randolph Scott and writer Burt Kennedy: 1959's Ride Lonesome, with Scott as a bounty hunter who's not in it for the money; and 1960's Comanche Station, with Scott vying with cut-throats to deliver a bartered woman safely back to civilization. Spare and cut to the bone (neither movie lasts much longer than an hour), the movies strand viewers in isolated locales along with Scott and watch as he figures his way out; the landscapes, so confining in Anthony Mann's Westerns, here become unnerving because they're so vast and unbound. There's a new route to hell in every direction, and in Boetticher's knockout Westerns, every man must abide by the choice of that first step down the path. Not to be missed on the big screen, the movies screen as part of The Belcourt's excellent summer-long Western series.
Sat., June 27; Sun., June 28; Mon., June 29, 2009