the fresh films reviews

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One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

Marlon Brando
One-Eyed Jacks
141 minutes
Frank P. Rosenberg
Screenwriter (based on a novel by Charles Neider):
Guy Trosper
Calder Willingham

Cast includes:

Rio Marlon Brando
Sheriff Dad Longworth Karl Malden
Maria Longworth Katy Jurado
Louisa Pina Pellicer
Bob Amory Ben Johnson
Deputy Lon Dedrick Slim Pickens
Chico Modesto Larry Duran



The one and only film Marlon Brando ever directed is just as moody, dwelling and distressed as Marlon himself. It is an overlong film filled with juxtapositions of right and wrong portrayed more deeply and probingly than was accustomed or even allowed in westerns at the time. But then again, One-Eyed Jacks never turned out a western in the John Fordish sense of the word, which is no surprise considering Brando's affiliation. There are no vivid descriptions of ways of life, and no warmth of atmosphere. The film is completely void of nostalgia, which is rather rare for a western. Even Sergio Leone's cruel rendition of western life had that soft spot. In all probability this simply didn't interest Brando. What One-Eyed Jacks did was to give him a chance to explore the human psyche, which he did excessively, inconsiderately and with a fair share of that well-known arrogance of his.

After Brando produced a first cut of the film at five hours, the studio trimmed the film down to its meagre two and a half hours to fit conventions. And while this saves us from what would have been an indigestible chunk of Brandoisms, it also deprives the film of some depth - making certain segments somewhat loosely motivated, and ultimately, the romance even mushier than Brando and Pellicer are able to make it in the scenes they share. The film is naturally at its most interesting concerning the Brando/Malden relation, which is one of timeless and explosive proportions. Brando does well in leaving the friction between the two simmering throughout the movie, it gives the film suspense and tension. And Malden is the director's most powerful instrument, giving a riveting and complex performance. For all Marlon Brando's eccentricities, or perhaps because of them, it is a pity One-Eyed Jacks remained his only directorial entry.

Copyright 2.9.2007 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang