Saturday, May 31, 2014

1972 - BAD COMPANY, a very dour western

Robert Benton and his writing partner David Newman had written the script for Bonnie and Clyde. With the success of that film, they had enough clout to get one of their personal projects made.  They chose to film a cynical western about a group of young men heading west during the Civil War.  They hired a decent cast in particular Jeff Bridges who was always a likable actor.   The cinematographer Gordon Willis who shot Bad Company had been associated with urban dramas like The Godfather and many of Woody Allen's best films.  The result was a well acted but depressing film story wise and visually.  

Gordon Willis was known for pushing the limits when it came to filming in darkness and shadows and he really pushed it here.  Scenes set inside houses are so dark at times it is almost impossible to tell what is going.  Even when the film goes outdoors filming on some arid Kansas prairie, Willis smothers the film in sepia filters and you still can't see anything.  Bad Company is a pretty ugly looking film.

Bad Company is one of those revisionist westerns.  The film wants to show what the west was really like.  While that is all very good it doesn't actually make for a lot of fun when you have to sit down and watch it.

Bad Company does have a rather amusing in-joke.  The character actor David Huddleston plays an outlaw called "Big Joe."  Big Joe is based on film director Joseph L Mankiewicz who Benton and Newman had worked with on There Was A Crooked Man, another revisionist western.

93 minutes.

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