Benton's first film, a Western good enough to make everything he has done since seem disappointing by comparison. Set in 1863, with Union troops scouring the countryside for reluctant recruits who scurry about dressed as girls, it offers Vietnam parallels for the asking, but is really more concerned with the old mythologies as the innocent young hero sets off in best Horatio Alger fashion to seek safety, fame and fortune out West. Wandering through a land of russet melancholy (superb camerawork by Gordon Willis), he and the ragtail gang of youths he falls in with find themselves light years away from the myth of the heroic West. A few inhabitants scratch a miserable existence on chicken farms. The gunfighters are sordid, petty crooks who hit and run. Everybody else seems to be coming or going, cursing the ill luck which brought them to this wilderness. And virtue, as the young man discovers to his cost, is the first thing to go west. Elegantly and engagingly funny, it is filmed with a loving care for period detail which gives the images the feel of animated tintypes.
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||Robert Benton, David Newman|