Film Studies: Western Movies
“Western movies are really over rated, much ado about nothing. Before the 60’s
westerns were made and shown in places called picture houses, cinemas or theaters
depending on where you lived. Kids especially boys loved them. They are all the same:
good guy sheriff, bad guy outlaw, some deputies, cowboys, townsfolk and the dancing
girls at the local saloon for a bit of fun to appeal to the females. They were so simple
that today’s kids would be bored watching them. In the 60’s academics became
involved. They grouped movies into the different categories. Each category became
known as a genre. The name of this type of studies came to be known as genre studies.
Genre studies people are saying that western movies might be cheap, but there is a
common thread found in each one of them. Actually they do have a point. The
good guy wears a white hat and the bad guy wears a black hat. When the guy with the
white hat and the guy with the black hat come face to face in the street there’s going to
be a gunfight. Cattlemen are loners and misunderstood. Townsfolk depend on the
sheriff to protect them from the bad guys. There is something westerns have in
common with other films made in other countries. All sorts of films have been made
and the characters and plot are similar, but with some differences. The setting moves
to another country and the characters change according to that countries national
heroes. There are Japanese films with samurai, eastern block movies have the red
western films with the Russians involved and South African movies have Zulus in them.
The story is the same. The heroes create order out of chaos and make everything safe
for the average citizen. Who the hero is depends on which side makes the film,
because they can be the good guys in one film but the bad guys in another. If you
watch ‘dances with wolves’, you’ll remember that the Indians were good and the US
cavalry was bad. This is one of the exceptions to the rule in American movies. The
idea of the western film not only transcends geography but also transcends time.
Some shows made about the future are really based on the idea of the western. Gene
Roddenberry of the star track fame says his star track is based on the old wagon train
“I’ve never heard of wagon train. Could you tell us a bit about it?”
(Back to narrator)
“Wagon train was a really popular series located in the late 50’s and early 60’s. It
was about people who got together and formed a group to travel overland looking for
land to live and settle down on. They were opening the Wild West for Europeans in
store odds. The old Indians didn’t like it and they attacked the white people many
times. People fell ill and died. Babies were born. They got stuck in bad weather,
wheels came of wagons and the cavalry had to rush out and help them. It is fairly
light hearted compared to today’s violence”
“This doesn’t make sense. I thought that in the US everyone is supposed to get along
and there are laws against discrimination.”
(Back to narrator)
“This is movies we are talking about and not the real world. It was a different time too.
American history isn’t as perfect and as kind as the history books say.
Multi-culturalism, colonization and imperialism aren’t mentioned in the same breath
as wagon train”
“I am just wondering. I watched ‘outland’ the other night. It was kind of like ‘kind
noon’. Am I right? Is that the kind of thing you mean?”
(Back to narrator)
“Yes it is. If you know this type of show, you’ll really see patterns in films. The only
thing is once you do it, it takes the thrill out of watching them. What is interesting is
that some of the films being made in the US are actually cultural remakes of movies
from other countries. ‘The magnificent 7’ was a remake of korosawa’s ‘the 7 samurai’.
‘A fistful of dollars’ and ‘last man standing’ were copies of korosawa’s ‘ugimbo’. The
twist there is that ‘ugimbo’ was based on ‘red harvest’ -- an American detective novel
by Dashil Hammond. Sometimes it gets a bit complicated when looking for the real
origin of the movie. There is another type of movie which is based on westerns. It is
called post apocalyptic. This is when a future society is trying to rebuild after
something awful has happened. Its actually format a lot on the westerns which are
about opening the Wild West frontier. ‘The postman’ and the ‘mad max’ series are 2
examples. From the Wild West to future societies they are just different costumes and sets.”
1. What is the main topic of the lecture?
A Western movies are made in America and are always about cowboys.
B The basic form of the western movie turns up in many forms of movies today.
C American western movies come from Japan.
D Western movies are stories about past history.
2. What is the main reason that the professor does not like Western movies?
A Western movies are entertaining but immoral.
B Western movies are only for kids.
C Western movies follow the same pattern repetitively.
D Western movies do not present any stereotypes.