Posse (1975)

Posse (1975)
  • 1803
  • PG
  • Genre: Western
  • Release year: 1975 ()
  • Running time: 92 min
  • Original Title: Posse
  • Voted: 1803

A tough marshal with political ambitions leads an elite posse to capture a notorious criminal. He succeeds, but instead of cheering him, the public turns against him.

1Kirk DouglasHoward Nightingale
2Bruce DernJack Strawhorn
3Bo HopkinsWesley
4James StacyHarold Hellman
  • Not particularly interesting or inspired by 5

    I agree with inspectors71's review in that Kirk Douglas was probably a much better actor than director. This, and his previous film, help prove this.

    Other than a unique chance to see Kirk directing (and producing), this film is only memorable for being a 1970s "anti-Western"--with bad guys seeming pretty nice and good guys as hypocritical jerks. Once again, inspectors71's feeling that this was all inspired by Watergate seemed pretty astute. During this time period, flawed heroes abounded in film--such as Dirty Harry Popeye Doyle--a product of the times indeed. As an "anti-Western", the film didn't seem to go anywhere and left me feeling rather uninterested.

    In fact, the entire story never felt particularly involving and the "anti-ending" seemed amazingly far-fetched and silly. Still, there were enough interesting moments to make it worth watching if nothing better is on TV--but that's about all.

  • By-the-numbers western (forget about any deep meanings)... by 3

    Kirk Douglas' second stab at film directing garnered him some favorable reviews, however this western with political flourishes is full of hot air rather than excitement. A US Marshal, beloved by the residents of a small dirt town, plans the ambush of a gang of bank robbers; their leader (Bruce Dern), who gets away, would be the feather in his cap for the Marshal, who is also running for State Senator. Though this is probably the only time in movie history a crook escaped from prison using a broomstick (!), this screenplay from Christopher Knopf and William Roberts is loaded down with the usual western clichés (mostly visual, though we are not spared the muttering old coot who works the printing press). With an extremely weak cast and unattractive locales, Douglas has only himself as an actor and the picture's marginal technical merits to fall back on. Some saw this as a political allegory; if so, it isn't a very incisive one, nor an entertaining or important one. *1/2 from ****

  • The good, the bad, and the stupid by 6

    Not a bad western, but not a real winner either. Most of the acting was good, but some of the performers need to go back to drama class and bone up a bit. Douglas and Dern kept the show going with their give and take, although I don't think the real lawmen and desperados actually carried on in this fashion. I think Strawhorn was more of a realist than a truly bad person; he saw the reality of life and became practical because of his vision. Dealing with 2 faced con men like Nightingale merely solidified his outlook on life.

  • What if the "good guys" are as bad as the bad guys? by 7

    Released in 1975, "Posse" is a Western starring Kirk Douglas and Bruce Dern. Douglas plays, Nightingale, a marshal campaigning for the Senate in West Texas while Dern plays Strawhorn, a notorious outlaw leader whom Nightingale wants to bring in to increase his chances of winning the election. Bo Hopkins is on hand as one of the marshal's deputies while James Stacy plays a newspaper editor who opposes the marshal's campaign.

    The movie debuted a year after Nixon resignation due to the Watergate scandal and "Posse" takes advantage of the public's loss of trust in politicians. Nightingale (Douglas) and his deputies are subtly juxtaposed with Strawhorn (Dern) and his losers. There's no overt message, however, until the last 20 minutes. Speaking of which, the twist of the climax initially turned me off and filled me with disgust. But, after reflecting on it, I saw what the movie was getting across and respected it. It's just that the way the message is conveyed is awkwardly implemented. It could've been done more smoothly.

    Some critics mistake the film's message as comparing a (supposedly) corrupt politician with a (supposedly) honest lawbreaker, but this is inaccurate. For one thing, "honest lawbreaker" is an oxymoron, particularly where Strawhorn is concerned. Right out of the gate the movie plainly shows him to be a murderous thug and, while a smooth-talker, he's never made out to be the good guy. He's a scumbag criminal worthy of hanging, impure and simple. Nor is Nightingale shown to be wickedly corrupt. He's a commanding marshal of the territory, which is a good thing; he has political aspirations and ties to the railroad, so what? Even when tempted by the blond hottie Mrs. Ross (Beth Brickell) he charmingly turns her down on the grounds that it wouldn't be advantageous to his political goals. Isn't that what wisdom is—having the scruples to recognize and deny foolish, immoral or destructive desires/behaviors? For more insights on the message of the movie remember that the film's called "Posse." See below for details.

    Beyond the movie's message, "Posse" is a competent, entertaining Western with interesting characters, a quality cast and quite a bit of action.

    The film runs 92 minutes and was shot in Sabino Canyon, Florence, Sonoita, Aravaipa Canyon and Old Tucson, Arizona.

    GRADE: B+

    ***SPOILER ALERT*** (Don't read further if you haven't seen the movie)

    I didn't find the deputies' sudden shift to the life of outlawry to be believable. True, they would each have $6000, which would've taken three years for them to make doing honest work, but it wasn't like this was enough moolah to radically change their lives, not to mention they'd lose the prestige that came with being deputies; and the possibility of becoming marshals or sheriffs one day. No matter how you slice it this was an awkwardly implemented twist.

    That said, there were signs that the 'posse' were already bad (with the exception of one deputy who refused to betray Nightingale and turn to crime). For instance, at least three of them are shown secretly bedding some babes from the town in a conveniently available boxcar. These nubile ladies were obviously attracted to the "bad boys," which just so happen to be 'upstanding deputies,' members of the brave posse. What else is new?

    So what's the movie saying? The line between respectable profession and outlawry can be very thin. People can be in an honest occupation and be corrupt; they're essentially just masquerading. It happens everywhere all the time. One critic lambasted the film for it's "tortuous confusion of good and evil." Actually, the movie just sheds light on the existence of evil in places where people naively pull the wool over the eyes not to see it. Look no further than HiLIARy.

    What about Nightingale? Was he shady or just his men? I personally don't think he was. He struck me as an ambitious justice-seeking marshal with political aspirations and he refused to even consider an illicit sexual liaison. But it's not a good reflection on his character that the majority of his men were corrupt, so maybe he was too, at least a little; and it would overtly manifest down the line in office.

    Any movie that can spur such questions is a good one.

  • Worth a Watch for Fans and Non-Fans of the Western by 8

    The Anti-Western had been Around for a while so Producer, Director, Star Kirk Douglas was Bandwagoning a bit and Chronologically it was Not as Unexpected as Moderns might Think.

    The Difference here is the Political Story-Line not often Used in the Genre. Western Fans are more Comfortable with the Traditional. Kirk Douglas was never known for His Restraint as an Actor relying on Bombasticity most of the Time to Literally Jump off the Screen.

    That Less than subtle Approach was Transferred to the Director's Chair. It's Clear from the Opening Who the Villain is here. But still, it is Fascinating to Watch "White Hat vs Black Hat" Characters Exchange Roles in this Solid Telling of an Ambitious and Selfish Marshall with Senatorial Ambitions.

    Bruce Dern is Perfectly Cast as the Smart and somewhat Charming Outlaw. Basically His Ability to be Insightful and Pragmatic in His chosen Profession and is much More Likable than the Duplicitous Douglas.

    Overall, Above Average Watergate Western with enough Good Character Actors in Support and Good Professionals behind the Script and Cinematography that make this one a Must See for Fans of the Genre and Might even Impress Viewers Not Usually Drawn to Tales of the Old West.

1Fred J. Koenekampcinematographer
2Maurice Jarrecomposer
3John W. Wheelereditor
4William Robertswriter
5Christopher Knopfwriter
6Larry Cohenwriter