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The Last Sunset – 1961 Aldrich
- This was a bigger production, a western shot in Mexico featuring Kirk Douglas and Rock Hudson- both massive stars at the time.
- Douglas plays Bren O’Malley, a man with a checkered past who has come back for a former lover (Dorothy Malone’s character) while being chased by the law (Rock Hudson). Carol Lynley plays Malone’s daughter. This reteams Malone and Hudson from 1956’s Written on the Wind by Douglas Sirk.
- There is a great throwaway line about Douglas’ character and how he “has a hole in his chin” (referring to the actor’s famous dimple chin).
- At the 14-minute mark Aldrich uses an exaggerated luminous color glow coming from the lamp behind Douglas in the barn
- At the 43-minute mark the two leads are in a bar, both in profile. Hudson is foreground right and Douglas in the background middle of the frame. This is a strong composition (above).
- At the 53-minute mark Aldrich repeats this shot (in variation) with the three heads of the villains this time (if you weren’t getting Lee Van Cleef or Strother Martin… could you do better than Jack Elam and Neville Brand to play your heavies like Aldrich does here?- I doubt it- these two actors are amazing). Scorsese would use a similar shot in both The Color of Money (1986) and Casino (1995).
- Not to give it all away but the story here is really about the Electra complex (apparently Lauren Bacall thought it was a bit too scandalous and turned down the Malone part). O’Malley (Douglas) has a nostalgic love for Malone that ends up being placed in the 15-year-old daughter (Carol Lynley is 19 here at least) who wears her mother’s old yellow dress that O’Malley remembers.
- The inevitable showdown between the two stars happens at the end of the film after the titular sunset. It is said that Sergio Leone was influenced by the film (he worked as second unit director on Aldrich’s film the following year in 1962). Aldrich cuts rapidly during the gunfight after using a wider shot at the 108-minute mark to set the scene. You can see the influence on Leone.
- The sand storm chase scene is very well executed.
- Near the finale Aldrich cuts to two loyal cowboys that have been a part of the crew. Aldrich cuts up the fence obstructing them perfectly to make for a great frame.
- There is yet another fine shot directly after with Lynley’s character ending to Douglas in the foreground and Malone and Hudson’s character embracing in the background
- If you study the history of the HUAC trials and Hollywood blacklist this is an early, credited, mention for Dalton Trumbo
- Recommend- but not in the top 10 of 1961