John Ford weaves three "Judge Priest" stories together to form a good- natured exploration of honour and small-town politics in the South around the turn of the century. Judge William ... See full summary »
A young orphan is sent to the village of Moonfleet, in Dorset, England to stay with his mother's former lover, who has the facade of a gentleman but is a leader of a gang of swashbuckling bootleggers. The duo went on a treasure hunt.
As Mormon settlers head to the promised land at the San Juan river in Utah, they hire horse traders Travis Blue and Sandy as wagon masters. They have to forge a trail across unknown territory and face many hardships along the way. They quickly come across some stranded travelers, a medicine show run by Dr. A. Locksley Hall which includes the attractive Denver. Along the way however, they are also joined by Shiloh Clegg and his murderous clan of robbers and thieves. An encounter with the Navajo leads to an invitation to their camp but after one of the Clegg boys gets a whipping for attacking one of the Navajo women, Uncle Shiloh plans his revenge. It's left to Sandy and Travis to protect the travelers and get them to their destination.Written by
In the beginning of the film, when Travis on the horse talks to the marshal, he folds his right leg leaning it on the saddle horn. In the next shot he is with his right leg hanging unfolded. See more »
[after Sandy pushes a gun down the back of his pants]
Be careful or you'll blow yer brains out.
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One of the most poetic narrative films ever made, WAGONMASTER is nonetheless a difficult film to immediately like. I love this movie, but I recommend seeing some of John Ford's other westerns before taking a look at this one. The first time I saw it I was 18 years old and I hadn't seen too many other westerns, and I hated it. I thought it was incredibly boring. I kept waiting for something to happen. It took several years for me to love this picture. First, I fell in love with westerns in general -- the traditions, characters, landscapes, ways of talking, etc -- and that made me realize when I saw WAGONMASTER again that a lot is happening in it after all.
I also was simply a more experienced moviegoer at that point and had learned to appreciate visual storytelling, and to listen to what each image was telling me. WAGONMASTER is a very visual movie by one of the most visual of directors working near the peak of his career.
The movie is a celebration of a way of life, and its subject matter is more emotional and interior than other Ford westerns. Actually, that's not really as accurate as saying that, rather, it has a lot less exterior action than the other westerns. (The other westerns have exterior action AND interior emotion.) It quite beautifully places its Mormon pioneers in the context of nature. There are many shots of animals and children -- not for any surface, narrative purpose, but for illustrating this idea. That is why the movie can be called a poem. It isn't about the surface story (which barely exists) nearly as much as it is about an emotional idea, and it gets this idea across through composition, editing, sound and music. In fact, one could argue that this is a purer form of filmmaking because the images directly express the emotional idea of the film, rather than having to first service a "story."
Give this movie a chance, and allow it to exist on its own terms, not the terms of other westerns or other movies.
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