Breed of Violence
The theme of a wayward daughter and an excessively strict father recurs in Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country with significant consequences. Add to this a musical sequence derived from Bartok’s The Miraculous Mandarin for the flavor of the work, with a secondary theme of a wolf pack killing Ponderosa steers.
A gang robs the bank in Mormon Flats and kills a cashier. The leader is a “drunk and thief” thrown off the Ponderosa but loved by the sheriff’s daughter, who is wooed unsuccessfully by Little Joe because “you Cartwrights” are too lofty. The girl is almost persuaded by her father that she is bad, after all.
She’s romantically carried away by her beau, who’s simply joining his gang for a getaway. Hoss and Little Joe stumble into the picture and are held hostage, even by the girl toppling over into the gang’s perspective with a .45 in her hand. But her father intervenes and is wounded, she gives the pistol to Little Joe.
A taut, tense snap of a thing led by John Ericson and Myrna Fahey, with Val Avery as the sheriff.
The brother of Ben’s late wife Inger, Hoss’s mother, rides onto the Ponderosa. At supper, Ben displays his extraordinary insight with a single question, have Gunnar and his compadres in the mountains ever chanced upon some “renegade buffalo hunters, comancheros who raid white settlements to trade with the Comanches”? That’s precisely who they are.
This is an exhibition of gritty and fluid acting, respectively, by Neville Brand as Gunnar Borgstrom and Al Ruscio as his lieutenant Vaca. There is a good deal of hand-to-hand fighting, as befits these customers.
Gunnar has an odd reverie, a pursuit of peace and stillness inextricably attached in his mind to a small boat just ahead of him. He dies unapologetic for his life, but asking Hoss to forgive him anyway.
Along the way, Little Joe and a girl are taken captive by the gang, Vaca sets a rattlesnake to them that is shot by Gunnar, who beats Vaca to a crawling mess and asks the men if there are any more snakes among them.
A very significant link, much in the manner of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, between Zinnemann’s High Noon (which is cited at the end) and Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter.
Here is the ghost town evidently hallucinated by Little Joe after being knocked unconscious and robbed in the desert, a town he sees peopled with timorous victims of a local brigand against whom he’s called upon to defend them after the recent death of their sheriff by dint of their own cowardice.
Florea masterfully reaches all the degrees of verisimilitude, and accomplishes sharp transitions as well as smooth with perfect art.
The lady dictator-in-waiting (Ruth Roman) has a face that is her fortune, nothing could persuade her even to alter her makeup for the television cameras that transmit it to the people who know it so well and love it. Cinnamon, however, knows a secret thing or two about beauty, she’s part of the TV crew, Barney and Willy trade comments on her Broadway career thirty years before.
This piques the lady’s interest, she’s preparing a broadcast speech in which she intends to announce her personal rule in the name of her late husband.
Barney edits the pre-recorded speech to get her to a nunnery, and a plastic surgeon alters her appearance into that of another person entirely.
Florea, photog extraordinaire of beauties and cuties, among other things.