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Movie Critic Article: A Frontal Assault on Cliches




 "One-Eyed Jacks was one precursor to the Spaghetti Western (SW). In a SW, the protagonist is a revenge-seeking tough guy, a convict or a bounty-hunter but a 'cool' anti-hero (like, say, Eastwood). The main difference between One Eyed Jacks and most SWs, however, is that Jacks has a truly worthwhile story, which can't be said for most Italio-Westerns; also the anti-hero in "One-Eyed Jacks" slowly transforms into a potentially positive member of society."
"The film's influence goes well beyond just the Spaghetti Westerns. Take, for instance, Brando's crucifixion-style beating and long restoration. The film "Conan the Barbarian" pretty much ripped-off this entire sequence; Arnold Schwarzenegger even admits to it."
Tarantino's latest movie Django Unchained borrows the visual brilliance of the protagonist training to draw his gun faster when Jamie Fox practices gunslinging .



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It was reported that Brando tormented his crew while filming One-Eyed Jacks, his first and only directorial attempt. Lengthy shooting time and retakes.
Sam Peckinpah
Initially Brando clashed with Sam Peckinpah who wrote the script from a very loose adaptation of the novel "The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones" by Charles Neider. Sam walked out of the project and later used the same story to write his own film about Billy the Kid "Pat Garret and Billy the Kid" which starred James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson. Then Brando insisted on having Stanley Kubrick as director because he liked Kubrick's first movies (including Spartacus). But Brando, soon, clashed with Kubrick over character development and fired him! Brando, then, decided to direct the movie himself.
That was how and when he tortured his crew!
He did not know what to do as a director!
He ended up with a movie that was 5 hours long and at a cost about ten times the budget!

 Stanley Kubrick



Yet, the movie One-Eyed Jacks  has several attributes: * Marlon Brando is one! Then the host of superb actors:* Karl Malden, this was the third and final pairing of Brando and Malden, marking the end of a memorable working relationship.* Katy Jurado (High Noon 1952, Broken Lance 1954) is terrific as Malden's wife. And, in her first and only US film appearance,* Pina Pellicer is unforgettable in the role of Louisa. Sadly, after a brief film career in Mexico, Pina committed suicide at the age of 24. * Slim Pickens is wonderful as the sadistic deputy sheriff. Brando also borrowed two actors from John Ford's stable:* Ben Johnson and * Hank Worden.
A third attribute of the movie is beautiful cinematography by Charles Lang. " Lang's use of color and the contrasting locations of Sonora, Mexico and Monterey, California make One-Eyed Jacks an aesthetic treat and well worth another look."
These attributes effected recent critical praise of the movie as a psychologically fascinating and visually stunning entry into the Western genre!



THE STORYLINE
Dad Longworth (K. Malden) literally "takes the money and runs" as he leaves his young partner in crime, Kid Rio (M. Brando), behind to rot in a Mexican prison. Rio escapes 5 years later with only vengeance in mind. He finds Dad in Monterey, California, now a respectable town Sheriff with a Mexican wife (K. Jurado) and step-daughter, Louisa (Pina), living the American Dream on the beautiful Pacific coast. The situation is complicated by Rio's teaming up with two low-life criminals whose only intent is to rob the town bank, as well as Rio's romantic dallyings with Louisa.
It was no 'vanity project' as light criticism of the movie goes! It is not Brando alone who fascinates! The whole cast is just terrific and captivating and acted with sure steps!
This simple story of vengeance has multiple themes that reveal how a person fits in his society, how a person can be haunted by his own past and how love could have a redeeming effect on people.
*
Brando's original purpose was to make a Western based on the plot of an ultimate epic of revenge such as in Alexander Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo". He claimed that he wanted to make a "frontal assault on the temple of cliches." He was referring to his role as Kid Rio which is truly not cliched or over-used and lacks heroic qualities. But many reviewers found the film oddly cliched itself. Time magazine, for instance, called it "A horse opera" and claimed it was "the usual melodrama of revenge." But the New York Times called it "extraordinary". Critical acclaim for One-Eyed Jacks is gaining momentum in recent years. I had no problem following those parts of the movie that were thought of by some as slow as I find it enjoyable to read the powerful portrayals of the actors. If one thinks of it is slow, then what is the hurray for? were else can you find such renderings of emotions through fine acting?
One-Eyed Jacks is not the everyday action/adventure Cowboy. It's a kind of "Old friends turn true enemies" It's very surprising that the direction is so well crafted and flawless for a first time director. The scenery is a extremely delightful and the soundtrack is wonderful. It's truly an underrated classic! A lost masterpiece! As such, One-Eyed Jacks, has promoted its actors to many great films.But the most fortunate actor was Ben Johnson who had such a strong presence in the film.

One-Eyed Jacks 1961 USA 141 min. Technicolor, Sound mono
Genre: Western/Drama.
Producer: Frank P. Rosenberg
Director: Marlon Brando
Screenplay: Guy Trosper, Calder Willingham, based on Charles Neider's novel.
Cinematography: Charles Lang (nominated for Oscar.)
Original Music: Hugo Friedhofer
Principal Cast: Marlon Brando (as Kid Rio), Karl Malden (as Dad Longworth), Pina Pellicer (as Louisa), Katy Jurado (as Maria), Ben Johnson (as Bob Amory), Slim Pickens (as Deputy Lon Dedrick), Timothy Carey (Howard Tetley), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Carvey), Ray Teal (Barney), Larry Duran (as Chico), Sam Gilman (Harvey Johnson).


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