James Stewart's first Western with director Anthony Mann introduced the disturbed Stewart/Mann Western hero and became a hit, helping to re-ignite the genre. Departing from Stewart's nice-guy persona, his Lin McAdam already seems slightly off during the opening Dodge City shooting competition for the title rifle. As the Winchester passes from Stewart to nemesis Stephen McNally and psychotic Dan Duryea, Mann touches on such Western archetypes as Wyatt Earp, the cavalry, Indians (including Rock Hudson), and gold-hearted women, before moving on to the elemental conflict between Stewart and McNally. In this era of genre revision, Stewart's rage against McNally becomes the film's central subject; the final shootout on a treacherous mountainside reveals the insanity masked by civilization. Though the film was not quite as influenced by film noir as Mann's first Western (Devil's Doorway (1950)), the sharp, rugged, black-and-white terrain matches Stewart's inner tumult as he avenges a death in the least honorable way. Winchester '73's popular success resulted in four more Stewart/Mann Westerns, including The Naked Spur (1953), and re-energized the genre; Stewart's unprecedented deal for a profit percentage instead of salary also forever altered the business of stardom.
by Lucia Bozzola review