Kenneth Turan celebrates the series in the Los Angeles Times.
Director Anthony Mann’s reputation is now grounded in his 1940s crime melodramas, many of them film noirs, and his 1950s Westerns (eight with Jimmy Stewart at Universal), the former in stark black and white, the later in oversaturated Technicolor. With some rare exceptions (Nicolas Ray’s Johnny Guitar comes to mind), Westerns, whether historical or modern, have seemingly shied away from any genre cohabitation with noir, possibly because the latter requires closed off, dark spaces, while the former breathes with open vistas of the western landscape. And yet, the conflicted heroes of Mann’s Westerns are cut from the same cloth as his noirish crime dramas, often attempting to outrun a past that weighs heavily on their actions, morally ambivalent, as they vacillate between individual desire and communal responsibility. Admittedly, these themes reach their most mature and complex form in Mann’s Westerns, but the seeds are visible in his early crime dramas, in heroes who, in the words of scholar Jim Kitses, are “overreachers, acting as if possessed, and at the mercy of forces within themselves.”
Anthony Mann often dismissed his early career in Hollywood’s poverty row, cranking out low budget crime features for Republic, PRC and Eagle-Lion, but a number of critics have begun to reevaluate his early work. Indeed, this series was inspired in part by the publication of The Crime Films of Anthony Mann (2013) by Max Alvarez, who will also appear as a guest on Wednesday, March 12. In pairing a crime drama here and there with a Western, we hope to inspire at least a few epiphanies.