The Halliday Brand
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Time Out saysIf ever a movie justified the once-modish tag of 'psychological Western', it's this one. Lewis' film has been unforgiveably neglected, for it matches his unique visual intelligence to a remarkably explicit critique of patriarchal law. Ward Bond's tyrannical authority, exerted over both family and community (of which he is 'founding father' and sheriff) is classically grounded in an obsessive fear of otherness. His brutal defence of race purity (against the Indians whose fathers he 'tamed' and dispossessed) sparks off the conflict with his own son (Cotten) which gives the film its headlong impetus and its characteristic violence. The psychological - and political - resonances are specified in the clarity of Lewis' visual metaphors (the gun in the foreground; dead wood littering the frame), which gloriously transcend the minor irritants of miscasting and underbudgeting. Impressive.