From the first, with its graveyard claustrophobically hemmed in by mountains, Comes a Horseman is a misfit Western, with Pakula using Jane Fonda's uncanny resemblance to her father to set up a curious tangential relationship, respectful and rebellious, with classic Western mythology. Fonda is the rather uneasy 'banshee woman boss' of a Montana ranch in 1945, fighting off cattle baron (and former incestuous cousin) Robards, assisted only by a Walter Brennan-style old-timer and a reluctant recruit: Anzio veteran Caan. The sparring of veteran and banshee sits uneasily between conviction and irony, the set pieces - stampede, saloon fight - seem token; even the ranchers' conflicts of interest are handled too precisely, too 'politically' for genre material. Only in the later stages, with some appropriate acknowledgments - that the ranches are both mortgaged, that the film is more interested in murder than battle - does conflict come alive. Visually superb, though: a doomed attempt to make Fordian metaphors speak a language of corrupting, intimate anxiety.
Cast and crew
Alan J Pakula
Dennis Lynton Clark
Jason Robards George Grizzard Jane Fonda Jim Davis Richard Farnsworth James Caan