The Last Sunset: 50 Furious Westerns Series
The Last Sunset (1961) – imdb, Director: Robert Aldrich. Starring: Kirk Douglas, Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone, Joseph Cotten. Release title in Germany: “El Perdido”
“Are you a Killer?” she asks him. A question so innocent and yet, in the middle of the desert, almost a banality. In savage places, the innocent are little flowers among the barren landscapes. The Wild West it is said, is no place for a precious little girl. In The Last Sunset, the girls are the crucial ingredient however, the one that drives men mad and yet holds them together among the lawlessness and grittiness of the merciless desert. It has been described as quite a subversive and provocative movie about suppressed desires and – forbidden love (don’t want to give too much away here). When I received this movie in the mail, I knew absolutely nothing about it, and watched it with a relatively open mind. I was positively surprised, to say the least.
What is it about? Brendan (Douglas) is a wanted man, he is crossing the desert looking for work. Finding the rancher John (Cotten) and getting hired for getting his cattle to Kansas, is a welcome opportunity. When Sheriff Dana (Hudson) shows up, things get complicated. The Sheriff knows there is not much he can do now, so they both join the cattle treck. Meanwhile, the rancher’s women turn the boys’ minds upside down….
At one moment in the film, but actually in several more, the characters seem to have especially lucid moments. “God has a special love for drunks and fools” he exclaims, and one may wonder, since they all are drunks and fools, what is the point of the saying? The Last Sunset could be an especially transcendent and psychological film, were it not made like a mainstream movie – with exceptional writing however. There are cowboys, drunks, bad guys, sheriffs and desert flowers, even Indians, but all that is merely the backdrop for an almost tragic love story. It is a rebellious movie of sorts. Kirk’s character is a wanted man, but in the old west, being wanted didn’t mean much far away from the grip of civilization, where a lawman’s badge was only worth as much as his capabilities and will power.
Kirk Douglas shines in the movie, he plays his character with an easy and a clarity for words, it almost seems like he knows he is the absolute star. Rock Hudson is almost non-existent in this flick even though he head-lines it. He is missing the charme, the on-screen presence, the great lines and the third dimension of his character. That was disappointing, but Kirk makes up for that. His lines are razor sharp, and in one scene he even sings in Spanish, quite a funny moment. Then there are the girls. All sassy, all pretty, yet tragically misplaced in their wild environment – where not even love or marriage are things to hold on to.
The Last Sunset delivers its western roots, a high degree of artistic nuance and some great acting in parts. It is one of those classic American westerns that you can appreciate even if you got bored by the sheer bulk of clean, mediocre prairie romances, it is quite the gem.