Cast & Crew
On his journey home to West Texas, Tom Buchanan, who has been working as a mercenary in Mexico to raise money to buy a cattle ranch, stops at the border town of Agry, Texas. Agry is owned lock, stock and barrel by the Agry brothers, and consequently, as soon as the affable Buchanan enters the town limits, he is gruffly questioned by Lew Agry, Agry's corrupt sheriff. At the hotel, Buchanan meets Lew's brother Amos, the bumbling, slow-witted proprietor of the establishment, who soon discovers that Buchanan is carrying a large cache of gold coins. When Buchanan ventures over to the saloon for a meal, he is confronted by Roy Agry, the belligerent, reckless son of Simon, the family patriarch and town judge. Buchanan is amused by Roy's drunken antics, which are brought to an abrupt end when Juan de la Vega, the son of wealthy Mexican rancher Don Pedro de la Vega, bursts into the saloon and shoots Roy. When Lew and his deputies pounce on Juan, Buchanan intervenes on his behalf and as a result, Lew also arrests him. Upon learning about Buchanan's gold from Amos, the greedy Lew, plotting to pocket the bankroll, declares that Buchanan will be hanged along with Juan. As they await their execution, Juan tells Buchanan that he killed Roy in retribution for molesting his younger sister. Disturbed that Lew has taken the law into his own hands, Abe Carbo, the only other voice of authority in town, rides to Simon's ranch to warn him that a lynching would ruin his chances of becoming senator. As the nooses are being slipped around Juan and Buchanan's necks, Simon gallops into town in his carriage and proclaims that justice demands they be given a trial the following morning. The next day, Simon presides over the courtroom as Lew tries to paint Buchanan as an accessory to murder. After the jury finds Buchanan not guilty, Juan stands up and publicly confesses to killing Roy and is then sentenced by Simon to hang before sunset. After Amos and Lew divide Buchanan's bankroll, Lew instructs his deputies, Pecos Hill and Lafe, to escort the now penniless Buchanan out of town. Soon after, Esteban Gomez, Don Pedro's emissary, comes to Simon's ranch and offers to buy Juan's freedom. Amos eavesdrops on the conversation as Simon demands $50,000 for Juan's return. When Gomez agrees to his terms, Simon sends Carbo to notify Lew that he has decided to postpone the hanging. Meanwhile, on a trail on the outskirts of town, Lafe orders Buchanan to dismount. As Lafe is about to shoot Buchanan in the back, Pecos, a fellow West Texan loathe to kill one of his own kind, defies Lew's orders and shoots Lafe instead. After Lew receives Simon's directive to postpone the hanging, Amos agrees to reveal the reason for Simon's altruism in exchange for $10,000, then divulges the terms of Simon's deal with Gomez. Determined to double-cross Simon and claim the money himself, Lew tells his deputies, Waldo Peck and Hamp, to spirit Juan out of town and keep him at an abandoned shack until he is ransomed. Unknown to Lew, Pecos and Buchanan have stopped at the shack to rest, and when Juan and his deputies arrive, Buchanan overwhelms them. After tying up the deputies, Pecos leads Juan to the border while Buchanan rides back to Agry to reclaim his money. Soon after they leave, Lew's thugs free themselves and follow Juan and Pecos. After killing Pecos, they recapture Juan and head for town. Later that day, Gomez returns to Simon's ranch with a saddlebag filled with $50,000 and demands custody of Juan. After Simon sends Carbo to town to fetch Juan, Carbo discovers Juan's empty cell, and Lew then states that Gomez must now negotiate with him. Soon after Carbo departs, the now-armed Buchanan walks into the sheriff's office and demands the return of his money. After handing over Buchanan's gold, Lew goes to the saloon to placate the bloodthirsty citizens who are impatiently awaiting Juan's execution. Once Lew leaves the office, Waldo and Hamp return and lock Buchanan in a cell with Juan. After Carbo returns to the ranch and relays Lew's message, Simon angrily asks Amos what Lew has done with Juan. When Amos, who has witnessed Juan's return, reveals that Juan is back in jail, Simon hurries back to town, where he finds Gomez at the saloon negotiating with Lew. Still believing that Juan is being held prisoner at the shack, Lew scoffs at Simon's claim that he can produce Juan. After Simon sends Carbo and Gomez to the jail to get Juan, Waldo and Hamp burst into the saloon and inform Lew that Juan is indeed at the jail. Taking Simon hostage, Lew heads for the jail just as Carbo frees Buchanan and Juan. When Simon and Lew arrive, Buchanan grabs Simon and Gomez's saddlebag and forces Simon into his wagon. As Juan speeds the wagon across a rickety bridge, the wagon tips over, spilling out Simon and Buchanan and flinging the saddlebag into the street. After abruptly stopping the wagon, Juan jumps down to help Buchanan. In a standoff, Lew seizes Gomez, after which Buchanan promises to release Simon in exchange for Gomez. After releasing Simon, Buchanan orders him to retrieve the saddlebag. When the panicked Simon bypasses the saddlebag and starts running toward town, Lew shoots him. At gunpoint, Lew then tells Waldo to walk into the street and pick up the saddlebag. As Waldo hesitantly inches his way into the street, he is caught in the crossfire as both Buchanan and Lew demand that he return the money to them. With Buchanan's pistol now empty, Lew is about to shoot him when the mortally wounded Simon clutches his gun from the dirt and kills his brother. Buchanan then returns the saddlebag to Juan and Gomez and in gratitude, Juan presents Buchanan with his prize horse. As Carbo prepares to take over control of the town, Buchanan rides off to West Texas.
L. Q. Jones
Joe De Santis
Don C. Harvey
Jim B. Leon
Harry Joe Brown
Frank A. Tuttle
Homer Van Pelt
Buchanan Rides Alone
Producer: Harry Joe Brown, Randolph Scott
Director: Budd Boetticher
Screenplay: Charles Lang, based on the novel The Name's Buchanan by Jones Ward
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Art Direction: Robert F. Boyle
Film Editing: Al Clark
Cast: Randolph Scott (Tom Buchanan), Craig Stevens (Abe Carbo), Barry Kelley (Lew Agry), Tol Avery (Judge Simon Agry), Peter Whitney (Amos Agry), L.Q. Jones (Pecos Hill).
Buchanan Rides Alone
The Films of Budd Boetticher Box Set
Budd Boetticher first directed Randolph Scott on Seven Men From Now, a western made for John Wayne's production company, Batjac, written by first-time screenwriter Burt Kennedy. It was a lean script with sparing but rich dialogue and Boetticher's direction matched the writing. Scott was so impressed with the film and pleased with Boetticher's direction that he approached Boetticher to direct for his own Scott-Brown Productions. For their first production together, Scott acquired a property that screenwriter Burt Kennedy had developed for Batjac, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's short story The Captives. " I had found the short story," Kennedy recalled in an interview. "Duke's company bought it and I was under contract and I wrote the script." It was a perfect match for Scott's persona and the film, renamed The Tall T, was the first of five films Boetticher directed for Scott and partner Harry Joe Brown.
Scott stars as struggling rancher Pat Brennan, a likable fellow in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Richard Boone is his villain counterpart Frank Usher, the charismatic and ruthlessly charming leader of a small gang of homicidal punks who hijack the stage that has picked up the laconic cowboy. It's supposed to be a shipment of silver but instead they find aging newlywed Doretta Mims (Maureen O'Sullivan), the "homely" heir to a mining fortune, and her conniving, cowardly husband John Hubbard, who sells her out to save his own skin. The heist turns into a kidnapping, but Usher unexpectedly lets the unnecessary Brennan live. He likes Brennan; he's a man in contract to his gang members, who are merely boys (and stunted, shallow ones at that), a realist not afraid to admit he's scared yet never showing it in his face, and the one person in Usher's (admittedly limited) social circle he can confide in.
The rest of the picture is a tight character drama of shifting relationships as Brennan uses his wiles and wits to isolate and kill the individual gang members, who have already murdered the stage driver (Arthur Hunnicutt in a small but memorable role) and a stagecoach station manager and his young son. Usher is the greatest of the charming antagonists that Boetticher and Kennedy love so much and Boone is brilliant in the role: quiet in his command, both alert and relaxed, ready to jerk to attention. He expertly, pitilessly runs the show, and his easy body language couldn't be more different from the stiff, self-conscious carriage of Scott, or from the insolent, lazy lean of the punk gunman Henry Silva. The language is equally defining. Scott, true to form, gets all the arch clichés in tough, terse bites and he delivers them in his usual flat tenor, but the two illiterate gunmen played by Silva and Skip Homeier speak in a kind of frontier poetry of simple words and offbeat grammar that communicates immaturity, lack of education, and petty yet impassioned dreams with an unexpected sensitivity. Violent as they are, these boys are full of life and feeling. But they live a violent lifestyle that catches up with them. The violence of The Tall T is not explicit but it is brutal and a little grotesque. There's nothing neat or gentle about dying in this cycle of films.
Shot on location in Lone Pine, a popular location for western productions a few hours north of Los Angeles, it was a low budget production shot on an 18-day schedule. Boetticher shot it sparingly, so that there was only one way to put the film together, a lesson he learned from directing in the studio assembly-line at Universal. "It was cut on the set," he described in a 1989 interview. "(The editor) couldn't eliminate anything because there wasn't anything to eliminate. He just pieced the thing together. And that was the movie." One of the film's most memorable moments was originally an accident that Boetticher incorporated into the film. Scott steps out of the shack in the morning and whacks his head on the low-hanging roof jutting over the doorway, prompting Usher to burst out laughing. "That's the kind of thing that you do," explained Boetticher in an interview. "All the funny stuff, that's not in the script." It also marks one of the defining moments of Scott's character, who is stoic but definitely vulnerable and decidedly human.
Burt Kennedy was still under contract to Batjac so Charles Lang wrote the next couple of films in the Boetticher and Scott collaboration. Decision at Sundown, based on a story by Vernon L. Fluharty, leaves the desert for a town setting, where a bitter Scott arrives to kill the man who ran off with his wife. It's an odd and intriguing little picture and Scott makes one of his most memorable entrances he holds up a coach from the inside, then steps off to let it go its own way but neither Boetticher nor Scott are in their element in the culture of the town setting. In Buchanan Rides Alone, Scott switches from grim to affable and easy-going as a momentarily wealthy cowboy (Scott) who wanders into the corrupt bordertown of Agryville and runs afoul of the amoral, backstabbing Agry family that runs the town. It's a genuine black comedy with a thoroughly mercenary cast of characters who keep double-crossing one another as they scheme to steal Scott's hard-earned money and the ransom charged for a Mexican prisoner, the son of a wealthy rancher across the border. Boetticher was dissatisfied with Lang's script and called Kennedy for an uncredited rewrite, keeping him on the set for the whole shoot as they ad-libbed the production, which was shot in Arizona to capture the parched desert landscape of the Mexican-American border region.
Boetticher became a producer for his last two films for Scott (the production banner was changed from Scott-Brown to Ranown) and Kennedy, whose contract at Batjac had expired, wrote magnificent original scripts that echoed the strengths of Seven Men From Now. Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station are a pair of films with almost identical plots but essential, elegant differences. Scott plays self-imposed outcasts with a past and a mission, and his journeys becomes wound up with a woman he saves/escorts and a collection of mercenary outlaws who invite themselves along as riding companions and competitors: both after the same thing and neither ready to back down. Yet these men that would see each other dead will save each other's lives before the final showdown.
In Ride Lonesome, the men are Boone and Wid (Pernell Roberts and James Coburn, in his film debut), outlaws who want to start fresh. Bringing in wanted man Billy John (James Best at his punk kid best) will give them amnesty, but Scott's driven bounty hunter Brigade has already captured him and he's on a mission of vengeance against Billy John's ruthless criminal brother (Lee Van Cleef, who brings an oily charm to the role). In Comanche Station, Scott's nemesis is Ben Lane (Claude Akins), a smiling snake of a outlaw who wants the reward that Scott's Jefferson Cody is due for rescuing a white woman (Nancy Gates) from Indian captivity.
Ride Lonesome became Boetticher's first widescreen production and he settled into the CinemaScope format by shooting longer takes, often shooting complete traveling scenes in one long take using a dolly car. The films, shot in Boetticher's defining landscape of Lone Pine, chronicle long journeys, with pauses and stops along the way, which begin and end in the wilderness, and again the terrain is used to dramatic effect. Scott makes his entrance into each film walking through a sheer crevice, hemmed in by walls of rock on either side, and this barren image is the defining state of his world: barren deserts, rugged plains where the rocks jut out of the Earth instead of trees, and featureless valleys, all ringed by distant mountains that are as much fences as borders, trapping them in a domain far from civilization. Even when the films leaves the sun-parched desert for the green coolness of the forest, it's merely an oasis in the self-inflicted purgatory. Boetticher carefully paces the rhythm of landscape his parties travel through, which served the crew as well as the film; a stop-off in a shady grove or by a cool river was good for company morale during the shoot.
"A man needs a reason to ride this country. You gotta reason?" invariably Scott asks the men he meets in the nowhereland of the desert. More than a valid query, it's a telling one. These characters are driven by the past and can't stop talking of the future, but the films are viscerally in the moment, in the now, as if neither past nor future exist. When all is said and done, these final films are American frontier odysseys with tragic dimensions and Scott is like a mythic figure doomed to wander the deserts for eternity in his obsessive quests.
The films were very financially successful and largely ignored by critics at the time for the very elements that make them so great. These low budgets films are modest productions, unpretentious westerns pared down to their essentials, lean stories about men on the frontier living a life in a dangerous, inhospitable world. Years later these tight, taut, often savage little pictures were reassessed and recognized as classics of the genre. The five films were branded "the Ranown Cycle," which is technically incorrect but serves its purpose just fine, and the name has a certain frontier color to it.
All five films have been beautifully restored and remastered for DVD. The images are sharp and the color vivid. The film grain is evident in the darker scenes, which is appropriate and part of the film's texture. The earlier three films, which have been shown on TV in full-screen editions (when shown at all), have been mastered in their proper theatrical aspect ratio (adjusted to the 16x9 format of widescreen TVs). The CinemaScope films are beautifully mastered in the correct widescreen format and correct years of bad pan-&-scan TV prints.
Among the film's fans and supporters are Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood, both of whom are involved in the DVD release. Martin Scorsese provides a marvelous video introduction to The Tall T (and, by extension, the entire series) and Ride Lonesome with a mixture of historical perspective and cinephile love of the films, but beware that he does include "spoilers." His introductions (and everyone else's) should probably be seen after the films. Clint Eastwood introduces Comanche Station, but an even greater contribution is the documentary Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That, a feature-length portrait of the director and his life and career produced by Eastwood and directed by Bruce Ricker. Ed Harris narrates the production, originally made for and shown on Turner Classic Movies, it's an excellent overview with rare interview footage with the director, who had died before the documentary was made. The documentary is on the first disc with The Tall T, accessed through the "Special Features" (a minor design flaw on the rather basic menus). Taylor Hackford provides the introductions to Decision at Sundown and Buchanan Rides Alone with more enthusiasm than insight and provides commentary on Comanche Station. More informative commentary tracks are offered by film historians Jeanine Basinger on The Tall T and Jeremy Arnold on Ride Lonesome. These film professors have a relaxed approach to their talks and provide both historical background and critical observations. The set is not lavish, but the supplements and the transfers are excellent. This is the presentation that these films deserve: lean, respectful, rich with information.
For more information about The Films of Budd Boetticher, visit Sony Pictures.To order The Films of Budd Boetticher, go to TCM Shopping.
by Sean Axmaker
The Films of Budd Boetticher Box Set
The working title of this film was The Name's Buchanan. According to a February 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, location shooting was done around Tucson, AZ. Although the copyright statement lists the film's running time as 78 minutes, reviews list it as 89 minutes, and the viewed print ran approximately 103 minutes.
Released in United States Fall September 1958
Released in United States Fall September 1958