The Ox-Bow Incident (William A. Wellman, 1943)

“Paths of Glory” in the old west? Not quite, as you have barely a shred of the remorse for and sheer intimacy with the condemned men here as you have with the condemned men in Kubrick’s masterpiece, and Fonda as the de-facto voice of reason can’t hold a candle to Clenched-Jawed Kirk. And “Paths” had settings ranging from a no-man’s-land battlefield to a regal palace to a grimy holding area for the condemned men to a makeshift execution area as its backdrop, while “Ox-Bow” essentially uses one crappy-looking set with about 30 smelly men packed into it like it’s a can of sardines (although some select shots are quite impressive, particularly those involving the three on-the-spot condemned men huddled together and filmed like the world itself is crowding in on them). To its credit, though, “Ox-Bow”, like “Paths of Glory,” did genuinely get my blood boiling to see these three men – a family man, an elderly simpleton, and a mysterious and highly intelligent bandit – get treated like garbage by what amounts to a lynch mob. It all feels rather scripted and not all that “real”, whatever thatmeans, but nevertheless, to witness this group of men’s pack mentality, their bloodlust, their desire to see three necks snap, really for the heck of it rather than their claim that they want to see justice done, did genuinely piss me off in a good way and make me lament man’s continued inhumanity towards man in general. Solid western that I’m probably not giving enough credit to.


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