Posse (1975)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Revisionist Western  |   Release Date - Jun 4, 1975 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Karl Williams

Released a year after the Watergate scandal forced President Nixon to resign, this Wild West adventure was a thinly veiled message movie as concerned with commenting on this tumultuous political situation as with depicting traditional Western gunplay. In his second outing behind the camera after Scalawag (1973), director/star Kirk Douglas did not work too hard to bury the film's liberal sentiments: Posse opened and closed with a title card featuring an image of an eagle and the legend, "To the polls, ye sons of freedom." Douglas' villain, Sheriff Nightingale, is a corporate sell-out, doing the bidding of a railroad against the interests of the citizens who elected him. In zealously seeking a deranged bandit (well played by Bruce Dern, already becoming typecast in this kind of role), Nightingale seems to be seeking traditional frontier justice, but in fact he abandons his principles for federal office. The film's obvious message was a warning to the American populace to beware politicians who would bow to the military-industrial complex and seek power for its own sake. Douglas cast James Stacy as a crippled and cynical Civil War veteran, an obvious reference to returning Vietnam vets who protested the war; Stacy had been an up-and-coming star who lost an arm and a leg in a motorcycle accident. Most people thought his career was over, but Posse gave him a well-received comeback. To the film's benefit, Douglas eschewed the staginess of the maligned Scalawag and kept the action buzzing along briskly. On its surface, Posse has a somewhat dated quality, due largely to such signatures of the era as over-exposures and freeze-frames. However, the fast pace, all-star cast, and surprisingly universal relevance of its political statement have given it a long shelf life as an effective Western.