Duncan McKaskel hits town and a snag on
His journey out west with a loaded down wagon.
He, wife Susanna and little boy Tom
Encounter Doc Shabbitt with civil aplomb.
But, once they have left, Doc suggests to his forces
They ought to appropriate this family’s horses.
Meanwhile, a man by the name of Con Vallian
Rides up to tell Duncan he’s missing some stallions.
The non-violent husband goes back into town,
And Vallian assists in a rousing showdown,
Which sees Duncan flee with the horses they stole
And kills off Doc’s son, making vengeance his goal.
From then on, the family flees further west
While Doc’s gang pursues, getting further obsessed.
The gravel-voiced Vallian rides on as their guard
And picks off Doc’s men without showing his cards.
Con’s clearly attracted to Duncan’s fair wife,
And they share a kiss in the midst of the strife.
Yet chivalrous Vallian guards all the McKaskels
And tries to discourage ol’ Doc and his rascals.
But Vallian desires revenge on another,
An Indian half-breed that murdered his mother.
This “breed” rides with Doc and injures his foe,
But Vallian recovers and brings the “breed” low.
Once Duncan and company locate the home
Susanna’s own brother built, no more they roam.
But Doc and his gang, who have shrunk now to three,
Catch up to their trail and approach them with glee.
Susanna herself shoots an outlaw point blank,
And Duncan and Con kill the last from their flank.
Now that the McKaskels are safe from their thrills,
Con bids them farewell and rides off toward the hills.

This The Quick and the Dead is a 1987 HBO film starring Sam Elliott as Con Vallian, not the 1995 Sam Raimi film featuring Sharon Stone. While both are westerns, this 1987 movie is based off a novel by the prolific western master Louis L’Amour. Elliott is at his best as the mysterious cowboy defending a family of eastern greenhorns, and the chemistry between him and Kate Capshaw as Susanna makes this one of my VC’s favorite films.

The cinematography starts out flat, like the initial plains the McKaskels are first shown traveling through, but it gets more spectacular as they journey into the gorgeous mountains of Wyoming. The plot itself struck me as almost a reversal on that of a horror film, with the bad guys being the ones picked off one by one by the heroic good guy, who usually shoots only when he or others are being threatened. His vendetta against the Indian, his infrequent profanity, and his prurient glances at Susanna threaten to make him more of an anti-hero, but I appreciate that he at least has the chivalry not only to defend her husband but to curb his own passions, much like Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer.

The Quick and the Dead is one of the few westerns on my list. It’s not that I don’t like westerns per se; I just think that most of them are rather repetitive and less than original, which is why I believe they have fallen by the wayside in modern cinema. Yet this film features many western clichés in a very entertaining and straightforward way: the family in search of a better life, the enigmatic gunslinger out for blood and justice; the gang of outlaws brought low by the heroes. Tom Conti does a good job as Duncan McKaskel, who may not be as ruggedly appealing as Vallian but at least sticks up for his wife and has the courage to walk up to armed bandits with only a single rifle. Considering her more well-known role in the second Indiana Jones movie, it was also nice to see Kate Capshaw getting her hands dirty and not whining for a change.

This film may contradict my statement a few posts ago that I’ve never watched a film with “dead” in the title (it still isn’t about zombies though), but it remains one of my favorite westerns.

Best line: (Vallian to Duncan) “The meek ain’t gonna inherit nothing west of Chicago.”

Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 6
Watchability: 8
Other (brief language): -3
TOTAL: 32 out of 60

Next: #289: Kung Fu Panda

© 2014 S. G. Liput