Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

One-Eyed Jacks

Marlon Brando only directed one movie in his entire career and that film is the pre-spaghetti western One-Eyed Jacks (1961). This film remains as one of the more overlooked and undervalued westerns, but we must remember that this is Marlon Brando territory so it is perhaps only fitting that this movie seems to be loved by other directors like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino while the average movie-goer has no idea this film exists. Is this a great film? I don't know. I know I liked it when I watched it. Really liked it. I could even see how this film might have impacted or at least foretold the coming of the spaghetti western because it does have that same sort of vibe. Had this film had more support then who knows what it could have been. 

Sam Peckinpah was originally slated to write the screenplay (based off a Rod Serling treatment of the novel The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones by Charles Neider) while Stanley Kubrick was slated as the director. Can you imagine Stanley Kubrick directing a Marlon Brando film? I mean, seriously. Assuming the film actually ever made it to theaters because the good lord knows that Kubrick certainly took his sweet time and Brando was ever so easy to work with... just what kind of legacy this film might have today? 

But none of that happened. Brando volunteered for the director's chair after Kubrick became unavailable and Guy Trosper (who the hell is he?) wrote the screenplay when Peckinpah got fired by Brando. Apparently, we have "studio disputes" to blame for a Kubrick-Brando vehicle not existing. Thanks a lot, assholes. 

Brando supposedly shot 300 minutes (or more) of footage for a director's cut that apparently no longer exists. Rumor has it that Brando destroyed the extra footage himself, but who really knows. After weeks of frustration, Brando was relieved (perhaps voluntarily) of his duties as director during production and the film was finished in a rush job. It's been suspected that the film's finale is where the true pressure of the studio's showed because the film ends on an uncharacteristically optimistic note (at least in regards to the rest of the film). 

Either way, I don't feel the ending hurt the film that much. Maybe a little, but not much. It may not have been what Brando wanted, but I don't think a three hundred minute western would have been much better. But I could be wrong. Maybe the 141 minute film I watched is really a butchered tragedy and I don't even know it. That's just what happens when footage gets destroyed and studios get bitchy. I really want to know what Brando's true vision was, but it's gone and Brando felt unsatisfied with the "finished" product and he never directed another film in his life. 

But this movie is pretty darn good. 

Karl Malden (playing the villainous Dad Longworth), Slim Pickens (playing a backwards hick with an inferiority complex), and Ben Johnson (a bank robber trying to rob a bank in Longworth's town with the help of the Rio Kid) all bring great supporting performances to the film and Brando's own performance (the Rio Kid - a Sergio Leone-sounding name if ever there was one) isn't minimized by the effects of him pulling double duty. The scenery isn't too shabby, either. It doesn't look like a first-timer directed it to me. 

The story itself may be a bit cliche, but it's a western and that comes with the territory a bit. 

Brando did well with this movie and it is a shame he didn't try his hand a directing another movie in his life. 

P.S. - Apparently, Guy Trosper wrote the screenplays for Birdman of Alcatraz, The Stratton Story, The Pride of St. Louis, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and Jailhouse Rock. I kind of feel like a douche for making fun of him. I love Birdman of Alcatraz

P.P.S. - I will say that there is actually one thing about this film that sort of bugged me. There is a pivotal scene early in the movie when Rio is betrayed by Dad and Rio ends up getting caught by the Mexican equivalent of the coppers and is forced to do heavy time. 

But the very next scene after the Rio Kid is captured shows the Rio Kid and his new prison buddy escaping some five years later. Perhaps some footage from the Kid's time in the pokie was filmed, but it obviously never survived the cutting room. Shame. 

1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen it but it sounds interesting. I'll have to look for it. It can't be half bad if Ben Johnson is in it too.

    I can't imagine Kubrick and Brando working together. Although, they could have had a great deal of respect for each other and it may have worked great. (One thing for sure, it either would have been absolutely great or an absolute disaster XD)