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A Movie A Day: THE TIN STAR (1957)
A decent man doesn’t want to kill, but if you’re gonna shoot, shoot to kill.

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 or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] You know, I think I’m developing an infatuation with Anthony Perkins. He’s the star of one of my favorite surprises of the column so far, THE MATCHMAKER, and today’s AMAD is another one that really kind of came out of left field, hitting me dead-center. THE TIN STAR is directed by Anthony Mann, who helmed yesterday’s Ricardo Montalban extravaganza BORDER INCIDENT and is western through and through.

Henry Fonda top-lines the flick, opening it riding into a small town leading a horse with a dead body folded over the saddle. It’s a slow walk down main street as the townspeople stop and watch him pass, looking both stunned and disgusted. Bounty hunters aren’t popular around these parts, apparently. When this guy, Morg Hickman, goes to collect his bounty from the Sheriff of this little dusty-bowl town he discovers a kid wearing the tin star. Well, not literally, but it’s Anthony Perkins looking incredibly young and doing his best semi-fumbling uncomfortable performance. The heart of the movie is an Obi-Wan/Luke-like relationship… but if Obi-Wan’s personality was more like Han Solo’s… as Fonda reluctantly takes Perkins under his wing. Turns out that this bounty hunter who just wants his cash used to wear a tin star of his own, but won’t tell anyone anything more than that. It’s none of their damned business! But the dude has a heart. You can see his tough exterior crack a little bit when he’s turned out from the one hotel because he’s just a dirty lowdown murderer-for-money. He ends up shacking with a widower and her boy, a half-Indian kid, which doesn’t make him the most popular around this town. The widow is played by Betsy Palmer who later went on to gain notoriety amongst the horror community as Pamela Voorhees and boy… was Jason’s mama a hottie back in the day or what?

One of the great things about the movie is how atypical it is while following some very strong and lasting archetypes. For instance, the core mentorship between Fonda and Perkins is straight up Joseph Campbell, the reluctant hero’s journey, but the characters in the piece are all either way ahead of their time or inherently complex. Palmer’s widow character isn’t a damsel in distress, but a strong person who is the only one in the town who stands up against the intolerance of the Indians, who seemingly can be shot dead in the street with little consequence. The romantic interest she has in Fonda isn’t fueled by machismo or any particular physicality, but by her son’s adoration of him and his returned kindness. In short, Palmer and the boy are the only ones he drops his guard around… initially.

What’s particularly interesting is how Dudley Nichols (SCARLET STREET, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE) wrote the bad guys. Without a doubt the main villain of the piece is Neville Brand as Bart Bogardus… what an awesome name, huh?... and he’s not the killer of the story! No, the killer is Lee Van Cleef (!!), whose brother gets shot during (I think) a failed stagecoach robbery. The kind old doctor is pulled in to help the dude out, but Cleef rides off to kill him to make sure the buckshot pulled out of his brother’s arm isn’t reported. Even Cleef isn’t a black hat-wearing villain. He kills out of desperation and fear. The big thrust of the second half of the movie is Fonda teaching Perkins how to quick-draw, how to use his brain and how to evaluate a situation. In short, he’s teaching him how to be a man, find his confidence and be the sheriff he wants to be. Perkins has one important rite of passage and that is to defeat Bogardus, who walks all over Perkins, putting him down in front of the townspeople, who view him as only a temporary sheriff anyway. The dude abuses the law, knowing he can get away with it.

When Perkins finally stands up to him, he does it clumsily. Bogardus shoots an Indian man in the back, in broad daylight on the main street, and when Perkins finds enough backbone to arrest the man, he almost gets shot. Fonda has to step in. But if Perkins is going to “graduate” he’s gotta confront Bogardus on his own. It’s a wonderful role for Perkins. Like I said in the intro, the more of his work I see the more fascinated I am about the guy. His roles aren’t radically different in terms of execution. He’s always a stuttering, jittery “Aw, shucks” type, which is why his casting in PSYCHO is so brilliant. You get to like Norman so much that you don’t want to believe he could be a killer. But while he might not be a chameleon, he somehow makes his physicality work completely for every character and in everything I’ve seen him in I can’t look away when he’s on-screen. He could very well be one of the most openly vulnerable actors to ever appear on the silver screen. Mann’s direction is solid, his main triumph in the character work and pacing. The movie moves and never drags. But also keep an eye out for some of his framing, especially during the Perkins rite of passage scene at the end. While your eyes are busy make sure to open your ears to Elmer Bernstein’s awesome score, which has more than a hint of what would come with his incredibly iconic MAGNIFICENT SEVEN work. It’s really catchy stuff and goes a long way to helping Mann in keeping the pace up. Final Thoughts: This is a must-see if you consider yourself a western fan in the slightest. Fonda is in top form as the grizzled bounty hunter who has been chewed up and spit out by life, but still retains a true moral center hidden underneath a healthy layer of cynicism and sarcasm. It’d be fascinating to double feature this with ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, go from kind, reluctant killer to one of the coldest bastards to ever sling a gun. The character work here is fantastic, but more than anything this movie is entertaining. It’s just fun, but smart fun. I loved it.

Here’s what we have lined up for the next week: Wednesday, November 26th: ON THE BEACH (1959)

Thursday, November 27th: TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH (1949)

Friday, November 28th: GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT (1947)

Saturday, November 29th: PANIC IN THE STREETS (1950)

Sunday, November 30th: THE HOT ROCK (1972)

Monday, December 1st: WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1966)

Tuesday, December 2nd: THE DAY OF THE DOLPHIN (1973)

See you folks tomorrow as we follow Anthony Perkins over to ON THE BEACH, about a small group of people who survive nuclear war in Australia, co-starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire. -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
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
November 11th: Ten Little Indians
November 12th: Murder On The Orient Express
November 13th: Daniel
November 14th: El Dorado
November 15th: The Gambler
November 16th: Once Upon A Time In America
November 17th: Salvador
November 18th: Best Seller
November 19th: The Holcroft Covenant
November 20th: Birdman of Alcatraz
November 21st: The Train
November 22nd: Gunfight At The O.K. Corral
November 23rd: Mystery Street
November 24th: Border Incident

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 26, 2008, 4:35 a.m. CST

    OH you want to start a thread


    fuck you too QUint

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 4:36 a.m. CST

    Ya know


    you used to write stories about new movies, what happened?

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 4:37 a.m. CST

    You just get tired of all the Hollywood dreck


    that you've decided to retire to vintage

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 4:37 a.m. CST

    Should I leave? ...

    by Shan

    ... and come back later?

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 4:40 a.m. CST

    I Think...

    by drew mcweeny

    ... Harry may have opened the Christmas absinthe a wee bit early this year, Quint.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 4:40 a.m. CST


    by Shan

    Do you feel that Anthony Perkins is typecast/disproportionately assocaited with the Psycho series? He has definitely done a lot of interesting stuff. Mind you, that film with Kathleen Turner was just weird.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 4:44 a.m. CST


    by Shan

    I think you replied (if it wasn't you, it was Hercules) when I put my foot in it and said James Caan won an Oscar on a talkback. One of you two corrected me. I was very embarrassed, it was one of the few things I was so "sure" about that I didn't even think I needed to look it up. I wonder why I thought that in the first place? Well, James Caan should have won an Oscar for something so I guess ...

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 4:49 a.m. CST


    by Quint

    What I'm coming to find by looking at some of his pre-Psycho roles is that his schoolboy nervous charm that he brought to Norman Bates was his schtick before he did Psycho. I have another one tomorrow, so we'll see if the trend keeps up.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 5:53 a.m. CST

    hey Quint!

    by The Amazing G

    this is off topic, but I just want to ask, have you ever heard of a horror author named Richard Laymon?

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 6:03 a.m. CST

    TIN STAR's a fucking awesome film

    by palimpsest

    And Perkins is on top form in it. Not seen THE HOT ROCK? I remember that as being a fun, cool little heist movie.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 7:05 a.m. CST

    Quint, AICN admin passwords hacked

    by raw_bean

    There are posts supposedly by Harry and Mori at the top of this talkback, as well as an entire talkback full of nonsense supposedly written by those two and you as well on Mori's MILK review, that I'm sure are being posted by someone who's hacked the site. It looks like they're deleting posts as well, so they have a worrying amount of admin access and are currently only using it to mess around and make you guys look bad, but they could potentially do much worse.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 7:56 a.m. CST

    Fonda is exceedingly badass in this one.

    by Uncle Stan

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 8:36 a.m. CST

    Raw Bean could be onto something

    by filmcoyote

    my post on this thread vanished in the last hour or two and had no obvious reason for admining it out of existence, i simply agreed Tin Star was great but said i didn't think much of Matchmaker.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 11:16 a.m. CST

    Anthony Perkins

    by Continentalop

    Was great in a movie called "Pretty Poison". He plays a very Norman Bates-like character, but this time he isn't the "villain" of the piece. Check it out Quint if you haven't seen it. <P>Day of the Dolphin? I ain't going to lie to you Quint, that one is going to be tough.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 11:44 a.m. CST

    The problem I have with so many of these westerns

    by ArcadianDS

    Tin Star was one of the first westerns where the hero was kinda bad and the villains were kinda sympathetic. In the end, you're left with bad good guys and good bad guys and the scales sort of balance out. I never cared for films like this - they just seemed pointless.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 12:55 p.m. CST

    Dude, You Haven't Seen HALF of the Genius of Anthony Mann

    by grungies

    Man of the West, Man from Laramie, Winchester 73...this guy knew storytelling.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 1:33 p.m. CST

    This is one of my favorite westerns

    by Mavra Chang

    Seriously underrated. Fantastic cast and a really good side plot with the racial tensions. Quint, did you mention about the widow's son, Kip, being half Native American? I thought that was a rather important part of the film as well. <p> One of the coolest moments of the film is Ben thinking he can talk the McGaffeys into surrendering. His "He shot me!" line had the perfect amount of suprise in it, followed by Morg's reply, "Lucky it bounced off that hard head of your's!" Classic!

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2 p.m. CST

    Pretty Poison

    by Quint

    Is indeed great. And my God... Tuesday Weld in that movie would make Harvey Fierstein straight.<BR><BR>Nothings been hacked, raw_bean. Harry just got into a "mood" and wanted us to black out some talkbacks for some damn reason. He claims insanity over how jaw-droppingly beautiful Dark Knight was on Blu-Ray, but I think that's just his excuse to ba Trickster God.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:03 p.m. CST

    Hacked to death you salty ol crust!



  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:03 p.m. CST

    Hacked like a camper


    by Vorhees

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:04 p.m. CST

    Hacked like the last


    Brett Ratner movie

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:04 p.m. CST

    Aw, fuck it..


    Every Brett Ratner movie

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:05 p.m. CST

    Hack hack hack


    excuse my cough

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:06 p.m. CST

    problem with hacking


    coughs are all the phlegm you cough up

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:06 p.m. CST

    that's a hacking


    by-product btw

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:10 p.m. CST


    by Quint

    chill out... I almost got them believing there's nothing wrong!

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:11 p.m. CST


    by greigy just wanted to say

    Go and sober up... take a long hard look at your own output big guy.... and stop jerking off over blueray... start reviewing films actual quality not how many hairs you can count on Michael Caines head......

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:19 p.m. CST


    by greigy just wanted to say

    Any way readers of this column can use it to campaign for films not even released on DVD (therefore logically not a chance in hell on Blueray)... if there's a vocal enough audience some studio might relent... I mean GAMBIT, FREEBIE & THE BEAN, SUSAN SLEPT HERE.... and so on and so on....

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:19 p.m. CST



    is the number of hairs on Michael Caine's head in DARK KNIGHT. Blu-Ray has a special feature on the desk where you can count the human head hairs with a touch of a button. Excellent game for the house and a brilliant special feature. GREIGY - you don't feel so smart now, do ya?

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:30 p.m. CST

    If this is not a hack, and it's just fatfuck playing...

    by ricarleite

    Then AICN has reached a new low. A new low. Even if it IS a hack, it is a new low. I wonder why the fuck Stallone and Bruce Willis still talk to this loser. Massa, please, save us from Harry and take over the site.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:42 p.m. CST

    And a big FUCK YOU to whoever deleted my post.

    by MasterShake

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 2:50 p.m. CST

    Who deleted my post?

    by SingingHatchet


  • Nov. 26, 2008, 3:06 p.m. CST

    HEADGEEK or Doppleganger

    by greigy just wanted to say

    Is that at the start of the movie or at the end...? And is a Caine census on nose hair at all possible?

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 3:08 p.m. CST


    by greigy just wanted to say

    It beats working for a living

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 5 p.m. CST

    No mention of Naked Spur??

    by Flip63Hole

    In an article about Stewart and Mann? What the hell?

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 7:34 p.m. CST

    Quint wasn't doing a reverse chrono-whatever

    by Continentalop

    As much as I am sick of hearing about Star Wars and think it is referred way to often on this site, I can see why Quint brought it up. He wasn’t trying to do some sort of reverse chronological film criticism, he was bringing up a fair comparison that many of the people on this sight could relate to. Its not like he could compare the relationship of Anthony Perkins and Henry Fonda to say the Arthur Honnicutt and Kirk Douglas relationship in The Big Sky, since there is a very good chance most people on this site wouldn’t be familiar with this movie. If I was trying to explain the talent level and type of player Elgin Baylor was to a younger fan only familiar with nowadays players, it would be very apt for me to compare him to someone like Kevin Garnett. Its not like I can say “I guess you’d have to compare him to Clyde Lovette and expect the kid to know who the hell I am talking about.