Arlecchino Cinema > 18:40


Anthony Mann
Introduced by

Wim Wenders


Sunday 23/06/2024


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Anthony Mann debuted as a director of westerns in the year 1950 with no less than three movies, in a frenzy that demonstrated that he had found his favourite genre. The most characteristic feature in Mann’s westerns is violence, as essential as it is in classical tragedy. He had exceptional talent in dramatising action to the boiling point, but also portraying everyday life in the West. About Devil’s Doorway Mann stated that he had never seen a better screenplay. Its absolute originality is more obvious now. A new kind of protagonist is born: more like an ordinary person than a mythological hero, neither outlaw nor lawman, not the somehow superhuman figure of the past nor the antihero of the 1960s.
Devil’s Doorway is different from Mann’s other westerns. It is his last collaboration with the ingenious cinematographer John Alton known for his sense of atmosphere, heavy shadows and striking contrasts. The philosophical landscape of film noir blends with the moral landscape of the western, resulting in expressionism rejuvenated. The subject is new: the indigenous American who has fought for the Union in the Civil War, naturally expecting that he and his people will now be treated with respect. That fails to happen. It turns out that he is not even an American citizen. Reluctantly, he becomes an outcast, a rebel (“if we lose now we might all as well be dead”), an atavistic force of such magnitude that by attacking him society turns self-destructive.
Devil’s Doorway is the best of the liberal westerns because it rejects whitewashing and creates an edgy character who is aware of the complexity of the situation. Robert Taylor plays the leading role with renewed authority. Twoshots with the female attorney (Paula Raymond) evoke the accusing presence of the law and the dimensions of an unrequited relationship. “Don’t worry. A hundred years from now this might have worked.”

Peter von Bagh, from notes for TV3, Ennen elokuvaa [Before the Film], 20 September 1987. Edited in English by Antti Alanen

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Guy Trosper. F.: John Alton. M.: Conrad A. Nervig. Scgf.: Cedric Gibbons, Leonid Vasian. Mus.: Daniele Amfitheatrof. Int.: Robert Taylor (Lance Poole), Louis Calhern (Verne Coolan), Paula Raymond (Orrie Masters), Marshall Thompson (Rod MacDougall), James Mitchell (Red Rock), Edgar Buchanan (Zeke Cormody), Rhys Williams (Scotty MacDougall), Spring Byington (signora Masters), James Millican (Ike Stapleton), Bruce Cowling (tenente Grimes). Prod.: Nicholas Nayfack per Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. DCP. D.: 84’. Bn.