Four Faces West (1948) [DVD, Import - English audio, removable subtitles]

Four Faces West (1948) [DVD, Import - English audio, removable subtitles]

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Four Faces West has the distinction of being a western entirely devoid of gunshots, though with blazing fires and thrilling chases across rocky terrain it’s nevertheless an action-packed affair. A beautifully crafted picture that relies on characterisations, locations, and a story of redemption, it demands to be better known.

Ross McEwen (McCrea) robs the bank of Santa Maria but requests only $2,000 and issues an I.O.U. to the bank manager with the promise of paying the money back. The bank manager, aggrieved and agitated, puts a bounty of $3,000 on McEwen's head and quickly finds the law, in the form of Sheriff Pat Garrett (Bickford), ready to aid his cause. But McEwen is no ordinary thief, and as he makes his way across the lands during his escape, revelations and relationships reveal something quite extraordinary. 

The excellent cast includes McCrea’s wife, Frances Dee (they remained married until McCrea’s death in 1990), gruff character actor Charles Bickford, and one of Hollywood’s most recognisable bad guys, Joseph Calleia, cast here in a significantly ambiguous role. Look out too for the rotund figure of William Conrad, later to find fame in TV’s Cannon and Jake and the Fatman.

With first-rate black and white photography from Russell Harlan, unfussy direction by Alfred E. Green, and a quartet of great performances, Four Faces West is an exemplary western. Its one weakness is its uninspiring title, but then its alternate UK release title, They Passed This Way, really wasn’t much better.

Spanish Region 2 PAL (fully UK-compatible) DVD, Brokers Films 2009

Please note: Subtitles have been tested and confirmed removable, but it may be necessary to use player menus as well as disc menus to remove them.

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