Hud

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Along with Hombre, one of Ritt's best films, less abrasive than it thinks but still a remarkably clear-eyed account of growing up in Texas to mourn the old free-ranging ways of the frontier days. Its focus is the antagonism between a sternly moralising, patriarchal ranch-owner (Douglas) and his free-drinking, free-whoring 'no account' son (Newman); the conflict between them, ambivalently observed by the two other members of the household, both emotionally involved with Newman - the ranch housekeeper (Neal) and a hero-worshipping nephew (de Wilde) - boils to a head over a government order to slaughter the ranch's entire herd as a precaution against foot-and-mouth, with Newman urging outlaw defiance and Douglas siding with the law. The film sometimes seems to be busting its britches to attain the status of Greek tragedy in delineating the disintegration of a heritage, with dialogue haunted by images of death and decay. But pretensions are kept nicely damped down by the performances (all four principals are great) and by Wong Howe's magnificent camerawork.

By: TM

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