The list sure seems to have a liking for Anthony Mann and his westerns. Normally his star would be James Stewart, and the list has three of these Stewart-Mann collaborations in its laurels. This, however, instead stars Gary Cooper, in the first western he would star in since his success in 1952’s High Noon. Anthony Mann is one of the quintessential western directors, who reliably makes one great genre film after another, and with Man of the West, his final western, he gives a swan song send-off to his beloved genre with heart and heroism aplomb.
The film contains many staples of the western genre, with plenty of action, a strong central hero, a slew of no good rascals, and a no-holds-barred dame who finds herself inexorably linked to the protagonist, all combined with sweeping visuals of the surrounding landscapes and an equally sweeping score. For this film, however, while the score is present in many occasions, Mann saves the most dramatic moments for when the score is absent, raising how effective these moments are. The main baddie this time around is an aging robber, played by Lee J. Cobb in a fantastic performance; he is completely unrecognizable in his role as an old codger of a rascal, and keep in mind this came a mere year after his somewhat youthful role in 12 Angry Men, so you know that most of it can’t be attributed to natural age.
This is much more personal than your typical western, but the nuts and bolts are still there, without a whole lot of effort in order to see them. The story is also a lot darker than most westerns, mostly thanks to the shady past of Cooper’s character and the various deeds the bad guys, but stays rooted in the genre well enough. I find myself without a whole lot else to say about this one; it’s different enough, but still felt like such a typical western that I oftentimes felt like I was watching rehashed elements spliced together. You’ll like this if you’re a fan of westerns or Gary Cooper, but just be careful of running the risk of seeing too many of them over too short a period of time, or films like this one will seem a little too samey for most tastes.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10