Warlock (1959)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Western, Revisionist Western  |   Release Date - Apr 1, 1959 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 121 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

There's an undercurrent of tension that runs throughout Warlock, an exceptional Western that makes use of genre conventions in order to transcend them. Shoot-outs abound in Warlock, and there's a sense that they're building up to something, but it's only at the end, during the last one, that it becomes clear to what they've been building, and the tension is at last resolved -- almost. For even as the film ends, questions linger; the story is over, but strands of it continue to nag and question and haunt. Robert Alan Aurthur's adaptation of Oakley Hall's book is excellent: gripping, taut, exciting, and full of inevitable surprises. It plays by the rules, but bends them slightly to get at a new and deeper meaning. Edward Dmytryk's direction is superb; there's not a false note or move throughout, and his ability to move from a not-quite-placid sequence to one of near-operatic emotion is impressive. The cast is also noteworthy. Henry Fonda gets to play a morally complicated gunslinger and does so with full conviction and authority; there's a whiff of resignation wafting out from underneath him, but it's covered by a showiness that fits the character perfectly. Richard Widmark does admirably in the quieter but crucial role of the bad guy who turns good, and Anthony Quinn is aces as the loyal sidekick whose affection for Fonda seems to go beyond mere admiration.