Derik Badman's Journal

2021-08-08 13:30

This article just came up on Criterion about the "Ranown Cycle" western's I've been watching. This morning I've watched the 5th one Ride Lonesome, another tale of Randolph Scott's protagonist in search of revenge. Similarly to some of the others there is a complicated antagonist companion along for the ride. This one has some unfortunate Native American content (first they want to trade a horse for the leading lady, then later when they attack the heroes, they basically just ride around the camp in circles and get shot like idiots). Like Decision at Sundown it surprisingly ends without the final conflict resolving into a gunfight death, and then has this haunting image of smoke over the trees and Scott's character standing in front of the burning tree where his wife had been killed years earlier. It's another (the 3rd) about revenge.

Decision at Sundown was similarly, but actually worked to make the revenge seem a bit maniacal and unnecessary. That one was written by someone else (and in that article above the author seems to consider it a lesser part of the cycle) and that's maybe why I thought it was one of the more interesting so far. Instead of taking place out in the wilderness with a very limited set of characters, this one is another town western (my favorite), where the protagonist has to deal with society and society has to deal with the protagonist. Thus the ending without the final gunfight. Not that the plot doesn't have gunfights and death, but rather that the one that has been set-up from the start never really happens. It also adds a certain element of ambiguity to the protagonist's revenge plan, as it's never exactly clear the target of his revenge did anything that wrong. The protagonist blames his wife's death on the guy, but we never hear him really say why, and his partner from back home eventually admits he doesn't think that was the case.