Thursday, December 22, 2005

TV: Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That

It would be hard to make a dull documentary about director Budd Boetticher. He was the kind of larger-than-life character you don’t see much anymore, heading to Mexico to learn bullfighting, threatening to knock Harry Cohn on his ass in front of two hundred extras.

This Turner Classic Movies film, executive produced by Clint Eastwood and written by critic and blogger Dave Kehr, does justice to the man and his work. The westerns he made with Randolph Scott in the 1950s are among the genre’s finest, taut films in which heroes and villains have more in common than they’d care to admit. They also mark one of the most sustained collaborations between a filmmaker and an actor in modern movie history.

TCM aired their first film, 1956’s Seven Men From Now, which debuted on DVD this week. It’s a typically lean, engrossing movie that showcases Boetticher’s eye for talent; a young Lee Marvin dazzles as a quick-witted gunman.

The documentary also offers the engaging spectacle of Eastwood talking with fellow Boetticher fan Quentin Tarantino. My favorite Eastwood observation isn’t in the film but in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly:

What I particularly liked about Boetticher was the way he knew how to make the horse an important part of the picture ... The way Scott always dismounts, waters the horse, inspects the animal for any injuries – real cowboy stuff I appreciate. Boetticher realized how central a horse was to a man’s sense of himself – an extension of himself, without getting too Freudian about it.

SEVEN MEN FROM NOW is a great title. So is ALIAS MIKE HERCULES, a TV show Boetticher worked on. It does what any good title should do: it makes me want to know more. Who would think Mike Hercules was a suitable alias? Mike’s not actually Hercules, is he? Sadly, no reference I’ve consulted tells me anything more about the show. If it’s familiar to anyone out there, speak up.

UPDATE: GreenCine has a new article by Sean Axmaker based on interviews with Boetticher.

Miscellaneous: Link

Let another Budd – Schulberg – tell you what’s wrong with the picture business.