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Shane (George Stevens, 1953)

A former gunfighter on his search for peace has to defend a family of farmers from the gang trying to take their land.

The interesting part of this movie is that the 'bad' guys have quite a strong motive for acting their way. They see their hard-earned paradise endangered by the growing influence from the outside modern world, symbolized by such things as 'the new laws'.

In certain ways their 'nation-building' is a doomed enterprise. The interests of the locals are too different, their backgrounds too diverse as they could form a united party to defend their little piece of heaven.

Even our protagonist is reluctant to pull the trigger. It is only when he adopts the moral values of family life and is threatened – by him as a potential lover for Marian - he starts to take some initiative.

I am reluctant to draw a conclusion about Stevens' (AB Guthrie, the screenwriter) motives behind the story, but couldn't shake the feeling that the film hides a subversive message somewhere.

Time Action Comments
0:00 A glimpse on paradise and Shane arriving.

0:01 Boy aims at a deer when he sees Shane arriving. The farmers live in, but not in harmony with, paradise.
0:03 Shane talks to the kid. Sees the calfs. Meets father, still is quick pull.

0:05 The Ryker's are arriving and the father sends him away.

0:06 Ryker boys are coming. They want to use Joe Starret's land for their cattle. They Shane didn't leave – he seems to have known what's coming.
0:08 Shane is invited in. Joe explains his world view. Starret is opting for more effective production of meat and self-sufficiency.
0:10 Shane talks about him being a drifter. Joe convolutely offers him a job. Marian seems nervous about something. They are served apple pie, and there is an amusing remark about having new plates.
0:12 Shane takes the job – by starting to work immediately.

0:13 Joe and Shane manage to take out the stump.

0:14 The deer are feeding on the vegetables in the morning. Joey the boy bonds with Shane. Marian is not too happy about that.

0:17 Shane and Joe depart for the town store. Shane doesn't take his gun. Shane has found peace and seems happy.
0:18 A neighbor comes to complain about the Rykers having raided his land. He seems powerless.

0:20 Shane arrives in the shop. The Ryker gang hangs arround in the shop. Joe offers that they should get together to organize some form of resistance. But the neighbor seems reluctant.
0:22 When Shane orders a soda-pop in the bar, he is violently attacked by one of the Ryker's guys. But Shane doesn't fall for the provocation. Shane can stand his man. But chooses to back off.
0:25 The meeting between the farmer is ambiguous. One man standing out is Stonewall. He is quite clear about not being pushed off his claim. Joey and the others assume that he is not much of a fighter.
0:30 Marian still doesn't want Joey to bond with Shane. She can feel the violence from his past.

0:30 All the farmers decide to go to town together to get their supplies. The Ryker's await them.

0:35 Shane goes into the bar again, to get another soda-pop for Joey. Calloway threatens him again. But this time Shane fights. And wins easily. Ryker offers him a job but Shane refuses. Shane's clear stand on his moral principles.
0:42 The brawl goes on, it's Shane against many. Finally, Joe comes to help him and the two beat the gang. Ryker decides to hire a gunman.

0:45 Marian takes care of the two men at home. Shane overhears Joey confessing his love of Shane to Marian. Shane has become an equal to Joe in the household. Actually, Marian feels quite unsettled about her feelings towards him.
0:48 A new man rides into town and asks for Ryker. The dog walks away when he enters the saloon.
0:49 Ernie (one of the farmers) has decided to leave and give his land up for Ryker. Torrey Stonewall won't stand for it when he sees Ryker's cattle running through Ernie's plowed earth.

0:51 Shane fixes the fence that Ryker's boy damaged in the night. Joey admires Shane – also for the gun – which makes Shane uneasy.

0:54 Shane teaches Joey to shoot, when Marian surprises them. She is very upset and sends Joey away. “A gun is a tool.” There is an interesting statement. Basically, the chainsaw in the kitchen. Just a tool.
0:56 4th of July celebrations next to Grafton's. The bad guy in the saloon is mostly shown from behind.
1:00 Torrey comes into the saloon, gets drunk and provokes Ryker's men. They don't budge.

1:01 Celebration with dancing by the farmers. They celebrate Starrett and his wife's 10th anniversary. She dances with Shane. Stressing Joe's connection to his family and Shane's reaction to it.
1:05 Torrey tells about the new man in town – Shane identifies him as Wilson.

1:06 Riding home at night, they realize that Ryker's men wait for him on the farm. Ryker makes an offer. Starrett turns him down. Shane and Wilson size each other up. We learn about Ryker's backstory. He feels alienated by the new laws which go agains everything he fought for.
Beautiful day for night shots.
1:12 Torrey and the Swede arrive at town, where Ryker's boys are sitting quite impatiently. Wilson provokes Torrey until he agrees to a gun fight and is shot. Amazing location. The road is muddy, the 'town' looks quite shabby.
1:18 The Swede brings the body to Starrett's farm. Joe is ready to go to Grafton's to confront Wilson.

1:21 When Joe goes to the other farmers he realizes that they're packing up. He convinces them to stay for Torrey's funeral.

1:22 A long and quiet funeral – the Swede plays the harmonica.But the men at Grafton's are waiting. Gorgeous photography all the way through!
1:26 Joe with the help of Shane tries to convince the farmers to fight against Ryker. Meanwhile, the gangs burn Lewis' home. This pushes Lewis over the edge: he will stay and fight. Joe promises to take care of Ryker – even maybe kill him.

1:32 On Joe's farm, Shane stays with the boy – while the father has decided to go into town to confront Ryker. Shane refuses to interfere. Shane seems to stretch his reluctance to assist – as an audience we know he will clear things up later.
1:33 Ryker's gang arrives on the farm. They invite Grafton to the saloon to talk it out with Ryker. Calloway who's had a change of heart warns Shane.

1:37 Joe is dead set on leaving for town. Marian tries to stop him, but he is too proud (and quite stupid). But Shane has dressed up as a gun man. He won't let Joe leave and they fight. This also seems to be a talk about matrimonal faith.
1:44 Shane knocks out Joe and parts for town. Joey runs after him. There's a goodbye scene- the romantic moment is 'spoiled' by Joey calling 'Mother'
1:46 Shane rides through the night, while Joey tries to catch up. Nothing happens for a full 3-4 minutes!
1:49 Shane enters the saloon: Ryker and Wilson are the only guests. Ryker doesn't want to do business with Shane. Quickly, Wilson gets into the quarrel and Shane and Wilson are ready to duel. Old vs. new (and the dog leaves again – which is funny)
1:53 Shane shoots Wilson and Ryker. Joey warns him of the third, hidden man and he also shoots him.

1:55 Shane says good-bye to Joey. He then rides out of the valley at night, as he rode in by daylight. No going back from a killing.

The other very impressive thing is the absolutely gorgeous photography by Loyal Griggs who deservedly won the Oscar for it – the day for night shots are beautiful and the colors of the landscapes are beautifully rendered – even when shot in the studio. Jean Arthur being photographed through a screen to make her look younger was a bit distracting, but it might be a sign of the times.

Also the editing of the film deserves a closer look. Many of the scenes are really long, others are surprisingly short. The fights are always told through the reaction of the viewers, mainly Joey's who witnesses all the fights in the movie. His (not very appealing) reactions are edited into the action constantly, sometimes to the point of annoyance. It's interesting that so much emphasis was placed on the boy. Maybe this gives the film a slightly more moralistic touch, or the target audience was supposed to include children.


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