Stars generate the box office while directors garner the scrutiny of serious film devotees, but the truth is that movies are, in the vast majority, collaborative efforts. The Films of Budd Boetticher affirms the satisfying results when a team of creative artists unites behind a collective vision. Not that the five superb westerns gathered in the collection fail to salute the prodigious talents of the director whose name adorns the title. Boetticher was a true Hollywood maverick whose fascinating career — recounted in the bonus documentary A Man Can Do That — is testament to his unyielding personal vision: he made the films he wanted to make the way he wanted to make them. But he had considerable support. From 1957 to 1960, Boetticher directed a consecutive series of taut westerns including The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone, Ride Lonesome, and Comanche Station (the indispensible Seven Men from Now can be found separately), each produced by Harry Joe Brown and starring Randolph Scott. This fertile troika pays off by way of the unmistakable unity of these brisk yet deeply affecting films. Such no-nonsense masterpieces as The Tall T and Ride Lonesome are so stripped of unnecessary rhetoric and self-conscious visual ornament that they can make even the monumental westerns of, say, Ford or Hawks seem overblown. With his sinewy build, ramrod posture, and lived-in visage that suggests the intensity of the West itself, Scott, who could say multitudes with few words, embodies the edgy one-man-against-the-odds theme that Boetticher keeps brewing throughout the series. If Scott’s collective character rides alone, Boetticher was lucky to find his greatest strengths in the company of others.
About the Author
Steve Futterman writes the "Jazz and Standards" listings for The New Yorker.