Monday, 24 June 2013

JUBAL - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Gorgeous Technicolor Western Shines On Criterion's Stunning DVD & BRD.

Jubal (1956) ****
Dir. Delmer Daves
Starring: Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, Rod Steiger, Charles Bronson, Valerie French, Felicia Farr, Noah Beery, Jack Elam

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Jubal is a rip-snorter of a picture - much beloved by those who've come to know it well, but also a film that kind of slipped through the cracks over the decades. It was written and directed by Delmer Daves and those movie fans who do remember his name usually associate it with his superb western 3:10 to Yuma (a film, to put it mildly, that's worth remembering to be sure). I'm so Daves-nutty these days, that it seems thoroughly appropriate to declare that he was, without argument (I'll not accept any, anyway) one of cinema's genuinely great American directors.

Other than a few well placed pockets of support, though, it feels like Daves still hasn't garnered the kind of critical adulation that even lesser directors have been afforded. In addition to helming a couple of ultra-cool film noir melodramas, the creepy Edward G. Robinson vehicle The Red House and my own personal favourite Bogart and Bacall picture Dark Passage, Daves delivered the goods on several westerns which, frankly, are all up there with the best Anthony Mann and Robert Aldrich psycho-melodrama oaters from the same period and a couple even flit, like moths to light, against the untouchable sphere of The Searchers.

He began his career as an extremely prolific screenwriter - highly adept at shifting between genres. Much of his writing prior to his directing career involved script doctoring - sometimes credited, other times not - and though many of the pictures he wrote were by-the-numbers studio programmers, he is associated as a screenwriter on two terrific pictures, The Petrified Forest and Leo McCarey's Love Affair (the much superior 1939 original version of McCarey's 50s remake with Cary Grant An Affair To Remember).

As a director, though, Daves's star shone brightly in the sky whether we recognized it or not - he made picture after picture that so many of us loved and now, more than ever seems like the perfect time for a Daves explosion of the Super-Nova variety, especially considering that the Criterion Collection is honouring his memory with two exquisite new releases from the Daves canon - the famous aforementioned 3:10 to Yuma and the not-so-famous-but-should-be Jubal.

Jubal, might actually be the best of the two. And even if it's not really better, it's sure as shootin' way more entertaining. It's a great story - a raging, exciting melodrama driven by yearning, but tempered with loyalty and friendship. Glenn Ford is the title character - a man who's searched his whole life for a sense of family and belonging. Shep Horgan (the perpetually grinning and/or grimacing Ernest Borgnine), a gregarious cattle rancher, takes Jubal under his wing and in this lusty, friendly, kind-hearted man, our hero discovers a friend, mentor and father-figure all rolled into one.

Alas, things are never this easy for men like Jubal. Shep is married to Mae (Valerie French), a gorgeous, young trophy wife (from Canada, no less) who takes an immediate interest in our handsome, mysterious hero. This annoys Pinky Pinkum (a pudgy, sweating, ham-oozing Rod Steiger) to no end. He's been porking Mae in secret, but with Jubal's arrival, she clamps her legs tighter than a vise, hoping to spread 'em for some bone de Glenn Ford. To add insult to Pinky's injury, he witnesses how close Jubal and Shep are getting - including dinner invites in the holy matrimonial hearth of the main house. Where Pinky goes completely apoplectic is when Shep offers the Cattle Foreman position.

Things get especially rip-snorting when "Jube" (how Shep affectionately addresses our hero), though tempted by the prospects of boning sultry Mae, his, uh, boner swivels in the directed of Naomi (the insanely gorgeous Felicia Farr), a Mennonite gal whose family is camped out on Shep's spread as they search for the "promised land". Naomi, it seems, is betrothed to a rather humourless and brutish Mennonite and he begins to display some rather Un-Christian attitudes when he realizes that his honey pie is getting plumb moist over "Jube".

So, let's do the math so far:

Shep loves Mae. Mae doesn't love Shep.

Pinky was boning Mae, then she stops the boning because she really would prefer to be boned by Jube.

Jube wants to bone Naomi. She is, after all, a virgin.

The Mennonite Brute wants to bone Naomi, but Naomi wants to bone Jube.

This is turning into one hootenanny of boners. In fact, there's either gonna' be a whole lotta bonin' goin' on (in more ways than one) or no boning at all if this all adds up to a pile of bodies riddled with bullets. It all adds up to this: There are some folks who might want to make things awful difficult for Jube to get back at him for being such a prime specimen of manhood and if, for some reason, one or more of them was to steer Shep to thinkin' the wrong way about Jube, the Apocalypse will be more than nigh.

In the parlance of cowpokes everywhere: "Yeeeeeeeeehhhhhaaaaaaaaaa!"

This movie oozes with sexuality and violence and as such, is one ripe tale. Daves handles the proceedings with verve, tautness and style. Add to the boiling, roiling pot of passion a stellar cast, a fine sense of humour and stunningly gorgeous Technicolor photography, and the final sum of this equation is that Jubal is one hell of a great western.

"JUBAL" is available on Blu-Ray or DVD in an absolutely stunning new transfer via the Criterion Collection.