Reviews - November 23
From start to the memorable finish, it’s great storytelling, set against amagnificent backdrop
If you skipped the opening credits of the 1962 Western “Ride the High Country,” you might not guess it was directed by Sam Peckinpah, the auteur behind the violence and nihilism of films like “The Wild Bunch” and “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.” That’s not to say it’s free of violence (it’s a Western, after all) but a surprisingly poignant love story is at its center.
Joel McCrea stars as an ex-lawman hired to transport gold through the mountains; he’s joined by an old partner (Randolph Scott, in his final film) and his protégé, played by Ron Starr. The journey becomes complicated when they are joined by a woman (Mariette Hartley in her breakthrough role), who is betrothed to one of the gold miners and decides she can’t go through with it.
The familiar Peckinpah themes are here — the demise of the old West, honor, loyalty, etc. — but “Ride the High Country” is Peckinpah before he’d made a name for himself. From start to the memorable finish, it’s great storytelling, set against the magnificent backdrop of the Inyo National Forest. And it’s a vastly more pleasant experience than “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.”
“Ride the High Country” (1962) Directed by Sam Peckinpah. Starring Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Ron Starr, Mariette Hartley. Also look for Peckinpah favorite Warren Oates. 94 minutes. Unrated, but the violence is well within PG territory.
Think British style “cozy” mystery — or not. Set during the 1920s or ’30s, the early pages of this interesting novel are very much in the Agatha Christie style: the up-tight mother, father off to business, ne’er-do-well son, odd child and practical daughter. They live in a home in the country with faithful retainers standing ready to answer every need. But there is a storm brewing, and word comes that there has been a dreadful accident. Now the familiar Christie themes take on a skewed appearance.
There is no murder, no observant village spinster, no fussy detective. The railroad authority calls to say the family must take in a motley group of passengers from a train wrecked in the storm, and then the phones are out. The passengers’ spokesman gives off a somewhat sinister aura. In the midst of the storm, the family continues its preparations for a traditional birthday dinner for the practical daughter, but the odd child is working on an “important project,” which we feel sure will end in disaster. We are right.
“The Uninvited Guests” is Sadie Jones’ third novel. Her style is very readable, and the plot moves along briskly. Earnestness and slapstick successfully take the story from point to point. Her characters — including an individual who favors red in his wardrobe — are believable. There is an interesting demonstration of mob behavior during the dinner party. Events from the past contribute nicely to the resolution of the storyline.
If you enjoy tales from the English countryside, I think you will enjoy this book. The spot of spookiness adds a dark touch to the genteel atmosphere without turning it black.
“The Uninvited Guests,” Sadie Jones, HarperCollins, 2012.
Berniece M. Owen
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