One of the best of Altman's early movies, using classic themes - the ill-fated love of gambler and whore, the gunman who dies by the gun, the contest between little man and big business - to produce a non-heroic Western. McCabe (Beatty) hasn't the grand dimensions of a Ford, Fuller or Leone hero; he is an amiable braggart, a bungling lover, a third-rate entrepreneur with chronic indigestion and a penchant for bad jokes. Mrs Miller (Christie) is a whorehouse madame who prefers her opium pipe to McCabe's amorous overtures. Their relationship is to a large extent a mournful background to Altman's central concern of chronicling the harsh conditions of life in a rawly developing mining town in the Northwest. His vision of the role of the individual represents another removal from genre tradition. Confronted with the primitive character of social organisation and the brutality of nature, Altman's Westerner is insignificant, isolated and vulnerable; his survival is chancy, a question of luck rather than skill. JdeG.