The Devil's Doorway

Anthony Mann's best known films are the now-classic auteur Westerns Winchester 73, Bend of the River, The Naked Spur, The Far Country, The Man from Laramie, and The Last Frontier - all of which were celebrated in the pages of Cahiers Du Cinema by Jean-Luc Godard and others in the 1950s, and rediscovered in this country in the 1960s by Andrew Sarris and numerous auteur-theory partisans. By now, in the 1970s, Anthony Mann's westerns form the basis for University courses and published theses. This program unearths an extremely rare, and very interesting/offbeat essay in the genre, The Devil's Doorway, noted by Jim Kitses in his book “Horizons West”:

“Thus in the sadly overlooked and surprisingly tough Indian picture, Devil's Doorway, Robert Taylor's Broken Lance, the Shoshone chief who as a Union soldier had won a Congressional Medal of Honour, now finds that under the Homesteading Act Indians cannot own land. ‘Civilization's a great thing.' Attempts to petition the government fail, and Lance is driven to lead his few braves in a pathetic defence of their home against a local posse bolstered by Union Cavalry. His dream of a model community shattered, the idealistic Lance dons his old uniform and moves out into the wreckage to take a bullet and walk, more dead than alive, to the officer opposite who salutes him before he dies. Here Mann had a character of great purity and elemental drive. Society cannot contain such a man, and accordingly the hero is deified, becoming a kind of mythic spirit. As in El Cid ten years later, the film ends on a strange note of dark exaltation - victory through death - and celebrates the uncompromising quality of the character.”

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