A Movie A Day: FIRECREEK (1968) How could you let it happen? You were all here! HOW COULD YOU LET IT HAPPEN?!?
Published at: July 30, 2008, 3:13 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
The great Henry Fonda bridges us from yesterday’s IN HARM’S WAY to this small Western, FIRECREEK, co-starring Jimmy Stewart.
Let me start by saying this movie is dull, incredibly slow moving and feels forced on most levels… but goddamn is it worth slogging through to get to the final reel.
Essentially what you have here is the story of a simple man pushed too far. Jimmy Stewart is a farmer in a small dustbowl of a town. He has a family and is also sheriff of the town, not that it needs one, really. He doesn’t even have a gun or a badge for that matter. His kids made him up one that he sheepishly carries around, but doesn’t wear (probably because of the misspelling “Sheraf.”)
A group of assholes role into town, led by Henry Fonda, who was apparently in a dark mode as his iconic baddie turn in Sergio Leone’s amazing ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST was also released in 1968. Fonda is hurt, but we don’t know why… and never find out. It’s not important. What is important is he’s not a bad man leading a group of bad men, so he has to be cruel to keep his command.
They need to hold up for a night, Fonda needing some rest and medical attention and the rest needing to blow off some steam.
The character work is outstanding in the movie, but director Vincent McEveety isn’t up to the task of keeping the film visually interesting. The whole thing is flat. McEveety had a long career directing TV in the 70s and 80s and that’s what this feels like a bit in the execution.
There are also two or three plot threads that look like they’re going somewhere, but don’t really… or do, but don’t seem to warrant the time spent on them. I’m looking at you cute Native American with White Baby.
But when something horrible happens at the end of the third act, when Fonda can’t control his boys and Stewart is forced to leave town to return home… Stewart goes FALLING DOWN. He goes NETWORK. That’s it.
And a great final reel happens, making it worth the awkward, but watchable lead-up.
Listen, when you get a movie with Henry Fonda and James Stewart, there’s always something to watch. These are two masters of their craft with more talent and charisma than 98% of the people who ever made it onto a movie screen. The script and technical direction isn’t top notch, but it’s not impossible to watch.
I could go on about this, but it’s late and I’m tired… let’s get to my final thoughts.
Final Thoughts: Not a classic, shot somewhere between a feature and a TV show, but filled with memorable performances from some great character actors (including crazy-eyed Jack Elam and the just crazy Gary Lockwood, who came out with a role in 2001 the year this one came out) and the two leads. The near-insane Jimmy Stewart of the last act is something to behold and suddenly the movie jumps up from mediocre to worth watching.