‘Shane’ (1953): The Law of the Gun, Manifest Destiny and The American Dream
Shane: “A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.”
‘….But No one burns as God unless they fall with him to hell, wherein the candle glows that knows the darkness to be God as well.’’
— For a Friend in Pain, Paul Smith
Shane is a 1953 American Western film, produced and directed by George Stevens and starring all of the above with Alan Ladd as Shane. This movie is always in the top three of greatest westerns ever made whether that be a movie buffs list or a list chosen by the ordinary Joe or Marian. It has been referenced in many other movies most recently in Logan (2017) and I have no doubt it will continue to be a point of reflexivity, cleverly and purposively employed within the metanarrative of other films, which have yet to be made.
There are other Westerns which are now and then referenced but this has nothing to do with the story or dialogue of the film and everything to do with its music. I of course refer to the Sphaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone and his awesome ‘Dollars Trilogy’. I am not dismissing Leone’s directorial genius only the deliberately sparse dialogue which is simple and without any deeper meaning, either political or social. It would be down to Clint Eastwood to add a metanarrative to the character ‘Man with No Name’ he had portrayed in these Westerns, when he subsequently made and starred in his own reimagining of the West. Pale Rider for example.
And then there are some films which have both. Another classic that is always referenced and this time for both story and music is The Magnificent Seven (1960). Unsurprising, given this is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s masterful Seven Samurai (1954). A small, elite group of men — in one we have Samurai in the other we have gunfighters — highly skilled with weaponry and experienced in killing, are the last hope of villagers suffering at the hands of a merciless and powerful tyrant. Far from being the mercenaries they seem at first, the events of…