Monday, May 30, 2011

Triple Feature: Lone Star, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and Touch of Evil

Similarities abound in this trio of films about law, history, and legends in the American West.

Lone Star (1996)

"Forget the Alamo."

In Lone Star, the past of a small Texas border town is dug up — literally, in the remains of Charlie Wade, a cruel and corrupt sheriff who some 40 years earlier controlled the town through intimidation, extortion, and racial hatred until a young deputy named Buddy Deeds confronted Wade and ostensibly ran him out of town. When Wade's skeleton and badge are found barely below ground in a remote spot of desert, though, Sam Deeds — Buddy's son and the current sheriff — soon has reason to believe his late and now-legendary father may have been the killer. Sam continues digging, talking to townspeople who lived through Wade's tyranny and who view Buddy as their emancipator. The closer Sam gets to learning the truth about Wade's death, the more he learns about his own past and what it could mean for his future.

Set in a contentious town along the Texas/Mexico border where parents clash with teachers about the history of the Texas Revolution, Lone Star fills every moment with consideration of the past — certainly the pasts of Wade and Buddy, but also those of Sam, his high school girlfriend Pilar, Pilar's mother and successful businesswoman Mercedes, Wade's surviving deputy Hollis, and the estranged father-and-son pair Otis and Del Payne. Everyone is made to consider the past and to decide if history should be rewritten or if old legends should remain untarnished.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

When prominent senator Ransom Stoddard arrives in the western town of Shinbone to attend the funeral of all but forgotten rancher Tom Doniphon, the editor of the local paper demands to know why. Stoddard unravels a tale of Shinbone's past, of his arrival in the frontier town as a young lawyer eager to bring civilized justice to the West, of a ruthless gunfighter named Liberty Valance who terrorized the town with a gun, and of how Stoddard's showdown with Valance catapulted Stoddard to fame and to Washington, D.C. The more Stoddard reveals, however, the more the reasons behind his now-legendary rise to power are made suspect. When the editor finally learns about the role of Tom Doniphon in these events and of the secret Stoddard has been concealing, he must decide how important the past is to Stoddard's reputation and to the town of Shinbone.

Touch of Evil (1958)

"He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about people?"

Mike Vargas is a Mexican narcotics officer just married to an American woman. Out for a stroll with his new wife, he witnesses a murder-by-car bomb the moment he steps across the border into the US. He is soon joined on the scene by Hank Quinlan, an American cop who bears no love toward Mexicans and who doesn't hesitate to use intimidation and excessive force when interrogating Mexican suspects. Vargas and Quinlan butt heads and end up working the crime separately. To Vargas' surprise, Quinlan arrests the first suspect he finds, claiming to have found conclusive evidence. Vargas does some investigating of Quinlan, though, and what he finds threatens Quinlan's perfect record — and Vargas' life.


Post a Comment