Shane is a classic western from 1953 which is known for influencing many films with its story of a stranger showing up at a farm, looking to leave their past behind, but is put in a situation where he must go back to his darkened past to protect those around them. This influential story still holds up to this day.
Shane ends up settling with the family whose father/husband, played very well by Van Heflin, is doing all he can to keep the settlers from leaving their farms as they are constantly bullied by the cattle baron (Emile Meyer). The husband and his son Joey instantly gets along with Shane, as does his wife (Jean Arthur) who also seems to have an attraction towards the gunslinger.
The cinematography is gorgeous and colorful, and the director, George Stevens, does a great job with his depiction of this tale with the conflict between the homesteaders and cattle barons. What I thought was interesting, was how George surrounded some chaotic moments with more chaos. Such as the fight between Shane and the husband being intensified with the stirring of the horses, or when the wife is stressed over the thought of her husband going to town with a gun and the son comes storming in acting like a gunfighter yelling, “Bang! Bang!” making a stressful situation much worse. However, in contrast to this, the director shows patience and calmness during a wonderful scene between a hired gunfighter, Wilson (Jack Palance), and one of the farmers in a long intense shot as the farmer walks in the muddy street towards the taunting gunfighter.
All the actors do a fine job with their roles. Alan Ladd is small in height, but he pulls off a great white hat gunslinger that is looking to put his past behind him. He has good looks and charm, and he comes off friendly to those he meets, however, cross his path and darkness will descend. When Shane first runs into the husband and Joey, the boy cocks the gun behind Shane and the gunslinger whirls around as fast as lightning with his hand to his gun, instantly letting the viewers know the type of past he’s had and he was good at it. Jack Palance plays the infamous gunfighter with the black hat, Wilson. Jack’s dialogue is short but his presence alone is enough to let the audience know he is not one to mess with. It’s really a shame he did not get more screen time in the film.
Then there is the boy Joey (Brandon De Wilde). The story is told through Joey’s young eyes who idolizes this mysterious stranger and, unfortunately, the kid is probably the most annoying kid I’ve seen in a film. Joey was constantly hounding Shane and everything that came from that boy’s mouth seemed to include Shane’s name. “I bet you’re good with a gun, Shane. Can you show me how to shoot, Shane? Can you shoot as good as Shane, Pa? ” In addition to the constant use of Shane’s name, the kid freakishly followed him wherever he went. The gunslinger could have ridden off to a settlement hours away and the kid would probably pop up from under his horse “Where are you going now, Shane?” I’m really surprised Shane didn’t just leave the family and that annoying kid behind and ride off into sweet serenity.
Shane is a great classic western marred only by a boy who annoyingly says “Shane” way too many times. However, Shane is not only a great western but a great film which really deserves to be seen.