Friday, 5 May 2017

One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

Når mænd hader
How do you rate a movie with equal amounts of wows and groans?

“One-Eyed Jacks” falls squarely into that category and I suppose that calls for a mixed review.

Also I should mention that I have been to a noise conference all day and is completely burned out.

“One-Eyed Jacks” is a western by Marlon Brando, literally. He is both director and lead actor and apparently had a lot to do with screenplay and production as well. Brando’s character Rio and Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) are bandits in Mexico where they rob banks, conquer women and have frequent shoot-outs with the law. When the law finally catches up with them Rio is backstabbed by Dad who rides away with a lot of gold leaving Rio to rot in a penal camp.

Years later Rio escapes and wants revenge. He hooks up with some other bandits who claim to know where Dad is. Together they descend on Monterey to rob the bank and wreck havoc. Dad Longworth has in the meantime become a respectable man with a wife and a step daughter. In fact he is now the sheriff of the town. Guess who is not happy to see Rio?

“One-Eyed Jacks” has a lot working for it. The production value is very high with crisp colors, grand vistas and great sets. With actors like Marlon Brando and Karl Malden this is a movie that means business. A remarkable thing about this movie is that it is surprisingly rough. In that sense it has a lot more in common with later Sergio Leone westerns than for example Mann’s westerns of the fifties. I am not a fan of senseless violence in movies, but the grit and the brutality adds realism to the movie and it makes it look modern.

On the flip side this is an incredibly predictable movie and a very long one at that at some 140 minutes. It is not good when you can easily predict the next ten minutes and when your prediction of the ending made halfway through turns out to be quite precise with no surprises it is quite disappointing. The clichés stack up to the point where I started laughing, such as when Louisa (Pina Pellicer) announces she is pregnant (oh dear).

What in my opinion is even worse is that it is obvious that we are supposed to root for Rio. This is Marlon Brando, of course he is our hero. Problem is Rio is a dimwitted and brutal asshole without a single redeeming feature. Just because he is surrounded by even worse assholes does not make him a saint or even likeable. He is supposed to be hot with the ladies, I mean, this is Brando, but it is difficult to say what they see in him and his affair with Louisa is both predictable and completely unlikely. I spent the movie waiting for him to get his ass kicked, but fearing that I will end up watching him ride off into the sunset.

I found the character of Dad Longworth far more interesting. This is a criminal turned respectable who sees his past catching up with him. That is a character with a lot of potential and it was very interesting to watch him spin out of control as the film progressed. I cannot help feeling that this would have been a better movie had he been the center of the story rather than the bland Rio. Still, it was the scenes with Dad Longworth that made me sit up in my seat.

“One-Eyed Jacks” is a step on the way towards the awesome westerns by Leone and Peckinpah and not a step without quality. Personally I do not feel the need to dwell on this step and would much rather proceed directly to some good spaghetti westerns.  



  1. I haven't seen this yet. Just wanted to pop into say that nothing sounds so absolutely dire as a noise conference. Know that windmills create problems. Didn't know noise was one of them!

    1. Actually it was not as bad as it sounds. It was a very good conference, but four days of auditorium is draining and Thursday I was called in with short notice to give a presentation on national noise codes so I was completely exhausted. It definitely reflected on the review and the fact that by accident I posted the review on the book blog...
      Noise is usually a minor issue as neighbours are protected by a noise code, but it serves as a proxy for people who dislike the sight of them.

  2. One of the issues they raise a lot here is birds. I love my birds and don't want to see them die but it seems to me that windmill kills have to be nothing compared to the number of birds that die flying into glass windows. (We have had casualties at our house). Cars too.

    It's amazing how tiring just sitting and paying attention can be. Fortunately, I don't have to do that any more! It's good to have you back. Or are you?

    1. Yes, I am back. A week in New Delhi and a week in Rotterdam takes its toll and I am happy to be back in normal mode. Hopefully I can pick up on the movie watching and get to the movies that you have already covered in 61.
      Wind turbines and birds is a controversial topic. Usually there are no problems at all and we see practically no bird kills in Denmark with our 5000+ turbines. In fact the problem has been that the artificial reefs around offshore turbines have attracted so many birds that they have replaced the original population and that is actually a problem. Big predator birds are an issue though, but there are now deterrent systems that makes the birds turn away. Still, I would not like to be a migrating bird going down the Altamont pass and have to negotiate the hundreds of turbines placed there. That is not very well thought through.

  3. I liked this script a lot more than I ultimately liked the movie. Part of that stems from the fact that I watched a terrible copy of the film. I should probably track it down and watch it again some day.

    Honestly, I think the giant windmills look cool. There are other opinions, though:

    1. Me too, I think they are pretty awesome.

      With a good copy you cannot fault the technique, it is very well made. I just cannot shake the feeling that I am cheated from an more interesting story.