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A Movie A Day: FIRECREEK (1968)
How could you let it happen? You were all here! HOW COULD YOU LET IT HAPPEN?!?

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] The great Henry Fonda bridges us from yesterday’s IN HARM’S WAY to this small Western, FIRECREEK, co-starring Jimmy Stewart. Let me start by saying this movie is dull, incredibly slow moving and feels forced on most levels… but goddamn is it worth slogging through to get to the final reel. Essentially what you have here is the story of a simple man pushed too far. Jimmy Stewart is a farmer in a small dustbowl of a town. He has a family and is also sheriff of the town, not that it needs one, really. He doesn’t even have a gun or a badge for that matter. His kids made him up one that he sheepishly carries around, but doesn’t wear (probably because of the misspelling “Sheraf.”) A group of assholes role into town, led by Henry Fonda, who was apparently in a dark mode as his iconic baddie turn in Sergio Leone’s amazing ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST was also released in 1968. Fonda is hurt, but we don’t know why… and never find out. It’s not important. What is important is he’s not a bad man leading a group of bad men, so he has to be cruel to keep his command.

They need to hold up for a night, Fonda needing some rest and medical attention and the rest needing to blow off some steam. The character work is outstanding in the movie, but director Vincent McEveety isn’t up to the task of keeping the film visually interesting. The whole thing is flat. McEveety had a long career directing TV in the 70s and 80s and that’s what this feels like a bit in the execution. There are also two or three plot threads that look like they’re going somewhere, but don’t really… or do, but don’t seem to warrant the time spent on them. I’m looking at you cute Native American with White Baby. But when something horrible happens at the end of the third act, when Fonda can’t control his boys and Stewart is forced to leave town to return home… Stewart goes FALLING DOWN. He goes NETWORK. That’s it. And a great final reel happens, making it worth the awkward, but watchable lead-up. Listen, when you get a movie with Henry Fonda and James Stewart, there’s always something to watch. These are two masters of their craft with more talent and charisma than 98% of the people who ever made it onto a movie screen. The script and technical direction isn’t top notch, but it’s not impossible to watch. I could go on about this, but it’s late and I’m tired… let’s get to my final thoughts. Final Thoughts: Not a classic, shot somewhere between a feature and a TV show, but filled with memorable performances from some great character actors (including crazy-eyed Jack Elam and the just crazy Gary Lockwood, who came out with a role in 2001 the year this one came out) and the two leads. The near-insane Jimmy Stewart of the last act is something to behold and suddenly the movie jumps up from mediocre to worth watching.

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Wednesday, July 30th: THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB (1970) Thursday, July 31st: THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) Friday, August 1st: THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS (1957) Saturday, August 2nd: VON RYAN’S EXPRESS (1965) Sunday, August 3rd: CAN-CAN (1960) Monday, August 4th: DESPERATE CHARACTERS (1971) Tuesday, August 5th: THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY (1972) Tomorrow we hit THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB also starring both Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart, but this time directed by Gene Kelly. See you then. -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way

Readers Talkback
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  • July 30, 2008, 3:14 a.m. CST


    by Herewereyouwish


  • July 30, 2008, 3:18 a.m. CST


    by ganymede3010


  • July 30, 2008, 3:35 a.m. CST

    I may not be first this time

    by Chumkid

    But I still find this column to be dull and self-indulgent.

  • July 30, 2008, 4:02 a.m. CST

    Was just reading earlier today...

    by Alonzo Mosely

    About the time Fonda and Stewart, who were long-time friends, had a full out fist fight over a political discussion one evening...

  • July 30, 2008, 5:24 a.m. CST

    still reading every day

    by Napoleon Park

    though commenting less frequently.<p>Chumkid, why do you bother being so wrong? If it's dull to you don't read it - but the self indulgence is on the part of the cinemaphiles who devour this column like fine swiss chocolate. That nearly sounded obscene, sorry. Devour the column, heh-heh.<p>I understand that human weakness and time constraints keep some reviews shorter, but no mention of the beautiful Inger Stevens? She must not have had a good role to be overlooked like that.<p>And the man pushed to his breaking point comparisons were spot on - I loved Falling down - but how about Hoffman in "Straw Dogs"? Based on the description, this sounds like a bad "High Noon meets Straw Dogs" pastiche. Though, as you said, with Stewart and Fonda, how bad could it be?<p>Maybe it's just because of when I grew up but I read EW and TV Guide and online entertainment news - including AICN of course - and todays "stars" just feel like tabloid fodder compared to the real Movie Stars" in most of the movies written about here.<p>All the best AICN talkbacks eventually get their own pet trolls, even the Heroes and Lost TBs. Just consider Chumpy a mascot and ignore him. this is not a democracy, but my vote is, keep at it until you've seen your entire DVD collection, have to quit due to health of family obligations or until you get absolutely no comments for a month and Harry asks you to stop.<p>So when you write for AICN do they get reprint rights or can you repost these to a blog or collect them in eventual book form? This shear volume of effort and info deserves to be archived (in a form that kids with ADD who think it's dull can easily avoid.)<p>If it's the one I think it is, looking forward to the Cheyenne Social Club review. Is that the movie where Fonda has trouble trying to roll a cigarette as a running gag that pays off in the end?

  • July 30, 2008, 6:08 a.m. CST


    by Chumkid

    I don't know why people keep telling me to stop reading this column. It's pretty stupid, since I wouldn't ever bother reading something so trite and uninteresting.

  • July 30, 2008, 6:25 a.m. CST

    Not as stupid as quoting something you claim not to have bothere

    by palimpsest

  • July 30, 2008, 6:25 a.m. CST

    d reading

    by palimpsest

  • July 30, 2008, 6:27 a.m. CST

    And Harry, get this site fixed for post editing

    by palimpsest

    else we'll come round to your house and give you a shave and a haircut.

  • July 30, 2008, 6:37 a.m. CST

    If he goes Falling Down, then I need to see it.

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    Michael Douglas was one bad ass geek in that flick. "you missed."

  • July 30, 2008, 7:59 a.m. CST

    Another great column

    by Lone_Wolf_McQuaalude

    Quint, 'Firecreek' is a favorite western of mine. Complete agreement; the last reel and Jimmy Stewart are both great. Continue to really love this column. Went out and bought 'In Harm's Way' yesterday based on your recommendation. Keep it up Quint.

  • July 30, 2008, 9:18 a.m. CST

    the double-feature DVD

    by ArcadianDS

    looks like they used the same wardrobe. Was one a sequel, and if so, is it based in a universe where people don't change clothes?<p> Also, Fonda is an over-rated bit-part character actor, and nothing more. I continue to fail to see what people are talking about when they fawn over his movies and throw laurels at his tomb. Meh, he's another guy in a huge auditorium full of character actors. He's no James Stewart.

  • July 30, 2008, 4:04 p.m. CST

    Reverence for older stars is simply a generational thing

    by JackRabbitSlim

    Jack Nicholson has (I'm guessing here) met every single movie star who has lived over the past 50 years. Think about it - that's a pretty fucking impressive list - but when he was asked what star left him speechless his response was Fred Astaire. Makes sense - Astaire's height of popularity would have been when Jack was a child.

  • July 30, 2008, 5:01 p.m. CST

    James Stewart on that poster...

    by Prossor

    looks like he's in the middle of taking the biggest shit in the history of mankind. that or he has some clamps around his testicles.

  • July 30, 2008, 5:07 p.m. CST

    Now see The Man From Laramie

    by Mgmax

    That's basically the movie this wants to be. Stewart gets his ass kicked for no good reason, spends the movie figuring out how he's going to kick some royal ass in return. The whole string of westerns Stewart and Anthony Mann made in the 50s-- Winchester '73, The Naked Spur, The Far Country, etc.-- are top notch, mean and dark in tone and visually interesting (all location shot).

  • July 30, 2008, 8:34 p.m. CST


    by Horned One

    Just brilliant. I can almost see Sir Laurence Olivier speaking the words: "you sir are a liar and I can see your pants are on fire."

  • July 31, 2008, 4:03 a.m. CST

    Peter O'Toole delivering lines that are below him

    by palimpsest watch?v=FaxjpQARxWo - I couldn't find any Larry Olivier, but this is just as splendid. The guy with him is English character actor Ronnie Fraser, btw....