The Shooting / Ride in the Whirlwind – Monte Hellman (1966)

“Acid westerns are not easily defined. They are said to have evolved out of the 1960’s counter-culture’s admiration for spaghetti westerns, which effectively subverted a classic genre through the use of violence. Those who took up this new subgenre did away with (and sometimes even inverted) the formulaic structure of classic westerns – where the good guy rides into town, kills the bad guy and gets the girl – and turned the desert into a place of hallucinatory death and destruction rather than redemption. They kept the deserts, amped up the violence and mixed in surrealism and twists. Each film in the genre is unique, although certain themes can be seen in many of the films: anti-heroes, elevated minorities, dangerous women, psychological instability, twisted religious symbolism, political commentary and open endings. They were made by the counter-culture for the counter-culture and as such represented the insecurity the generation was feeling, dealing with characters in a solipsistic fashion – telling stories in which the experiences of the characters was the most important thing and truth could be done away with for the sake of individual realities. These films are not so much stories as they are portraits of damaged minds. Both made and released in 1966, Monte Hellman’s The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind are widely considered the trailblazers of the genre. They are no less unique than any other acid western, and are just as concerned with the internal realities of the characters they follow. The Shooting, which was written by Carole Eastman and stars Warren Oates, Will Hutchins, Millie Perkins and Jack Nicholson, is a brilliantly paranoid hunt through the desert; all three men are hired by a young woman (Perkins) to help her hunt down a man. From the start, the film blurs the lines between the hunter and the hunted, beginning with Coley (Hutchins) explaining to Gashade (Oates) that one of their camp-mates was killed by an unseen entity and that he thinks they are next. … The similarly minimalist Ride in the Whirlwind also deals with a manhunt, but it is less about paranoia, more about a man in the process of losing himself. It was written by and stars Nicholson along with Cameron Mitchell and Tom Filer as cowboys mistaken for members of a gang who have supposedly lynched a stagecoach driver, led by Blind Dick (Harry Dean Stanton). The vigilantes who suspect them proceed to hunt them down to execute them. …”
Monte Hellman and the birth of the acid western
W – The Shooting, W – Ride in the Whirlwind, W – Monte Hellman
MUBI: Ride in the Whirlwind, The Shooting

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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