Ride the High Country is a noted 1962 American western film. It stars Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, Ron Starr, Edgar Buchanan and Mariette Hartley. It was written by N.B. Stone Jr., Robert Creighton Williams (uncredited) and Sam Peckinpah (uncredited) and directed by Peckinpah, with a score written by George Bassman. In 1992, this film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". A Region 1 DVD edition was released on January 10, 2006.
Peckinpah flipped a coin to decide whether Randolph Scott or Joel McCrea would receive top billing. McCrea's role is actually slightly larger than Scott's, but Scott was billed over McCrea. Critics occasionally point out that McCrea's role seems to have been written for Gary Cooper and that John Wayne would have been perfect for Scott's part, but Cooper and Wayne never worked together. In his autobiography In the Arena (1995), Charlton Heston wrote that he was considering remaking the film in the late 1980s, presumably with Clint Eastwood as a co-star. Heston was convinced to take the part on Peckinpah's next film, Major Dundee (1965), after viewing Ride the High Country.
The film features Scott in his final role as he had decided to retire. Initially, McCrea also had announced his intentions to retire, but he later changed his mind.
The film reunites old friends and aging ex-lawmen Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott) and Steve Judd (Joel McCrea). The two men, mainly because of their age, have been reduced by circumstance to guarding a shipment of gold from a high country mining camp. However, Westrum and his young sidekick Heck Longtree (Ron Starr) are, in fact, planning to steal the gold for themselves. Westrum attempts to subtly recruit Judd to their plan over the course of the ride.
Acquiring a young girl named Elsa Knudsen (Mariette Hartley) escaping from her domineering father as a traveling companion, the three men reach the mining camp only to discover that the girl's fiancé (James Drury) is a drunken lout who intends to prostitute her to his brothers (played by, among others, Peckinpah regulars Warren Oates and L.Q. Jones). They rescue the girl from the marriage and start off towards town with the girl and the gold. At this point, Judd realizes Westrum's plan and confronts him. Planning to put him on trial when he returns to town, Judd is forced to relent when the jilted groom and his brothers appear in hot pursuit.
The aging men shoot it out with the brothers, killing them all in a heroic, face-to-face confrontation. Judd, mortally wounded, asks to die alone. Westrum promises him that he will get the gold back to town as Judd would have wanted. Westrum also promises to do what he can for Heck and Elsa, whom both during the course of the film, became attracted to each other. The celebrated final image of the film is of the dying Judd looking off towards the high country as he falls slowly out of frame.
Full article ▸