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The Tall T

Screening on Film
Directed by Budd Boetticher.
With Randolph Scott, Richard Boone, Maureen O’Sullivan.
US, 1957, 35mm, color, 78 min.
Print source: Sony Pictures

The Tall T may be the most unsettling of Budd Boetticher’s Westerns. We wonder what we are looking at when we see that thugs have summarily dumped the bodies of the old man and the child they have murdered into an arid well; when we watch with disgust how the gang, under the aegis of Frank Usher – played by Richard Boone, then known as heroic “Paladin” in the TV series Have Gun Will Travel – lusts after out-of-place heiress Doretta Mims (Maureen O'Sullivan); and then behold prisoner Pat Brennan (Randolph Scott) contemplating destiny as he dresses the bloody flesh of a quartered deer.  The sheer contrast of sequences in the dark of a cave – where desire throttles – and the light of day on a mesa – where sadism reigns – makes this short film a masterpiece. 

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