When the Legends Die
Time Out saysA fine contemporary Western, about a young Indian (Forrest) whose strange affinity for horses attracts the attention of an ageing rodeo rider (Widmark), who buys his freedom from the reservation by becoming his guardian, teaches him the trade, and builds him into a minor star. Simultaneously exploited by Widmark, who drinks away their winnings and tries to double them by rigging bets, Forrest determines to break away, convinced he can make the grade honestly. He finally manages his escape (although Widmark 'owns' him until he is 21), only to find himself still imprisoned, this time by the American dream of success. Elegiacally framed as an allegory (noble savage vs ignoble civilisation), the film is saved from pretension by the fact that its real flesh is the superbly detailed world of grubby towns and back street bars, of endless days and nights on the road or in faceless hotels, which forms a laconic background to the rough, tumbling, touchingly funny relationship in which Widmark simultaneously tears Forrest to pieces and becomes his only friend. Widmark's performance is absolutely magnificent.