Stagecoach (1939) – So, So

Rating (3 out of 5)

Summary: I had had not watched this John Ford (director) classic previously. This week I found “Stagecoach” available on the Criterion Channel. Prior to watching the film, I played an inteview with Peter Bogdanvich covering his review of the film. Maybe Peter’s discussion elevated my expectations to high because I was dissapointed in the movie. “Stagecoach” is a decent enough movie, but there was nothing earth shattering about the film.

It is important to provide context about me as a viewer for you to understand my review. I like John Wayne movies. “Quiet Man” is an annual watch. I am predisposed to provide a favorable rating to this John Wayne film. I enjoy a good western. “Johnny Guitar”, “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”, “Shane”, the list goes on and on. Again, I am predisposed to enjoying this film and issuing a favorable rating. I provide this context, for you to understand, with the variables in place, this movie should have been a 4 for me. But even with my favored disposition for this film, it is only a 3.

I wanted to like this movie. I found myself annoyed at little items throughout the film. Shots felt sloppy and jagged at times. The fragmented shots were more noticeable because the story telling was uninspired. While this is a decent film, this is not a masterpiece.

Plot: Six people ride a stagecoach to Lordsburg, and add Ringo (John Wayne) along the way. During their epic coach ride, they discover, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Details: The movie was probably a monumental shift at the time for making the cover of the character the opposite of their true nature. Dallas (Claire Trevor), the town whore, is kind and considerate. The uptight banker is a thief. The character development wasn’t subtle in delivery nor was it presented with sufficient character background, to really engage me.

Let’s examine the banker. He stole the payroll while the telegraph was down. Why did he risk the theft and leave? From the onset he is sketched as mean heartless banker. Even if he was an honest banker rather than a theif, you didn’t like him. The banker needed to be kind and helpful to all. Portraying his eagerness to arrive in Lordsburg as concern for the woman on the coach. This would then have allowed the arrest at the end of the film to be surpising.

Each character had an underdeveloped back story. We required a mere 10 extra minutes of film. That smidgen of background to understand the characters more. Additionally, the “Don’t judge a book by its cover” delivery was too black and white. You weren’t really surprised when a character displayed their true self.

The chase scene with the Indians at the end of the movie was back to your more classic Western and was an enjoyable scene. I enjoyed the uneasiness at the bar when the bad guy prepares for Ringo’s appearance. But then was let down by final shootout.