Sunday, May 23, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Quantez (1957) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

QUANTEZ (1957) is a brand-new Western Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber.

Fred MacMurray and Dorothy Malone head the cast in this story of a group of outlaws on the run from a posse.

Gentry (MacMurray), Teach (John Gavin), Gato (Sydney Chaplin), and Heller (John Larch) have just robbed a bank, during which the nasty Heller killed a man, to the dismay of the more gentlemanly Gentry and Teach.

The group heads for the Mexican border along with Heller's girl Chaney (Malone), but when they arrive at a village where they expect to exchange their horses, they instead find it's been recently abandoned.

With one of their horses already dead, the group's escape plans are suddenly in jeopardy, and rising tensions between the men -- particularly regarding Chaney -- means that none of the men is certain whether he might receive a bullet in the back.

Gentry, the smartest of the gang, tries to keep things calm among the increasingly fractious bunch, but it's a tall job even for him -- especially with resentful Gato, who was raised by Indians, sneaking off to plot with a local tribe.

I first saw this film in 2014, and while I liked it pretty well, I also found the middle act quite talky, feeling more like a stage play than a Western.

However, QUANTEZ is the type of film which I sometimes like better on second acquaintance, when I know what to expect, and that was the case here. The movie is an interesting study in group dynamics under pressure, as some of the men struggle with guilt, fear, anger, and/or desire for Chaney.

Instead of feeling impatient, this time I settled in to enjoy the beautifully lit night scenes as the characters wrestle with both inner demons and physical threats, especially appreciating MacMurray's charismatic performance as the mysterious Gentry.

MacMurray is at his best as the assured man with a past; his line readings have shadings which make the viewer eager to understand more regarding his past. Dropping a traveling minstrel (James Barton) into the story is a unique, if somewhat obvious, way to shed further light on Gentry's background.

Malone is also excellent as a woman who's hooked up with Larch as a meal ticket but regrets her current circumstances, though she almost seems to feel she deserves her fate; even so, there's a part of her which can't help hoping that she might end up in a better situation with Gentry or Teach.

Over at Riding the High Country, Colin recently wrote that Malone's character reminded him a bit of Claire Trevor in KEY LARGO (1948), and I definitely saw that comparison myself this time around, as she's repeatedly brutalized and mocked by Larch.

All in all, it's a satisfying and well-paced 81-minute film with good action scenes bookending the film at beginning and end. As I noted when I first reviewed the movie, the ending is almost too abrupt, but otherwise it's a well-structured story.

The screenplay was by R. Wright Campbell, based on a story he wrote with Anne Edwards. Edwards' name rang a bell, and apparently it's the same woman who later wrote biographies on my shelves such as ROAD TO TARA: THE LIFE OF MARGARET MITCHELL and VIVIEN LEIGH: A BIOGRAPHY, among other works.

This film was directed by Harry Keller. The Eastmancolor filming by Carl E. Guthrie is pure visual pleasure, with rusty orange, blues, and reds seen by lamplight.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray includes the trailer, three additional trailers for other Westerns available from Kino Lorber, and a commentary track by Westerns historian Toby Roan.

I'll be reviewing another MacMurray Western, GUN FOR A COWARD (1956), which was released by Kino Lorber just a few weeks ago in the Western Classics II Collection. Other Kino Lorber Western reviews in the works are PILLARS OF THE SKY (1956), which is also in the Western Classics II Collection, and HORIZONS WEST (1952), which was just released. Stay tuned!

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Anonymous Colin McGuigan said...

I can see how the movie could be disappointing if one were to go in expecting an action-packed effort as it's not at all that type of story. It's an essentially theatrical experience, with the restricted setting, the careful lighting and the measured interaction working towards gradual revelation. It's Gentry's, and perhaps Chaney's too, journey from darkness to light , and it works perfectly for me.

Thanks for the link, by the way.

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Toby Roan said...

This ones grows with repeat viewings for sure, and while putting the commentary together and watching it over and over, I kept coming across more and more things to talk about.

MacMurray is just perfect in movies like this.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Despite the knowledge that we supposedly had that MacMurray did westerns at a point his career had dipped, and perhaps he resented it, he was nonetheless very good in almost all of them. He came across as a natural in them. As that saying goes, 'he wore the hat'!

11:28 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Your thoughtful review reminded me of a burgeoning interest in this title.

I have a theory that MacMurray's musician's training informed his acting. He knew to play "the notes on the page" plus how to improvise for shading and colour. It was engrained to give the job his all.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all very much for your comments!

Colin, glad to link to you, I enjoyed reading your take after writing mine. You describe the film well. It's interesting that it's not unusual for me to respond more positively to a film on the second viewing, when I have different expectations.

Toby, that's interesting about discovering more and more to discuss regarding the film -- I'm looking forward to this commentary, along with PILLARS OF THE SKY, as soon as I can fit them in. I know they will each add to my appreciation. MacMurray is so good...getting to know his film career over the last decade or more has completely changed my understanding of his work.

Jerry, that's a good description, MacMurray is very natural. He also has such excellent line deliveries, really gets your attention.

Caftan Woman, what you say about MacMurray being a musician ties in to what I just wrote about his line deliveries being so excellent. I think that's some good insight!

Best wishes,

11:05 AM  

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