I just seen the film again and must reread the book. I am surprised at some of the positive reviews, as I consider the film disappointing, certainly so when compared to the book.
At the centre of my hesitancy is two things, the portrayal of Shane by Alan Ladd and the acting competence of Brandon de Wilde who plays Joey, the family’s son and the protagonist of the book, if not the film. Much of my problem with Alan Ladd is physical, he’s too clean, and does not appear dangerous enough, and certainly not at first sight. (Has my expectations of the arriving stranger been set for ever by Eastwood/Leone’s “Fist full of Dollars”).
I feel that Shane’s past, his reputation, and his desire to leave it behind is also underplayed, partly because some of it is exposed in poorly acted, at least on one side, conversations with Joey. The sexual/romantic tension between Marion and Shane is also, in my view, underplayed, I feel because of its time, and what they could then show in the movies. Not that I need to see them shagging, which would be wrong as it is not part of the story; possibly, those commentators that say her attraction was to him and was resisted due to Shane’s sense of honour and love for Joe are right.
It all comes right in the end, the honourable stranger, kills the homesteader’s nemesis and their hired gun, moves on, and the nuclear family, we assume lives happily ever after and the town becomes a peaceful law-abiding community, foretold by Chris’s epiphany which is more clearly stated in the book where he becomes the Starret family’s hired hand. I think that this is more hopeful and closer to the author’s intent than alternatives explored in Barham’s recent review; the story is told by Joey and I think the pessimistic outcomes suggested in that review, are not part of the story Schaeffer wrote.
The imagery of Fistfull of Dollars seems appropriate, the motive of money in Fistful, if not Yojimbo is not; although the there’s the release of Marie Sol but the story is Kurosawa’s and comes from Japan. It’s not quite right, the themes of a man trying to leave a dark past behind him and build a better future, is better reflected in the Outlaw Josie Wales. I also rewatched Pale Rider, and am taken aback by the number of people who can’t see Shane in the story and revisit the mysticism of High Plains Drifter where the…