A Time for Killing (English)

Released in 1967, in Europe this film was washed away by the flood of Italian westerns, while at home it was dismissed by critics for both its shortcomings (which are obvious) and its brutalities. A Time for Killing is part of a series of westerns concentrating on the conflicts of Union troops and their Confederate prisoners in the dying moments of the Civil War. It’s quite unique in the sense that no real possibility of reconciliation is suggested.
In the opening scene a Confederate prisoner, still a teenager, is sentenced to death for having killed a guard during an unsuccessful attempt to escape. Because he has insulted the commanding officer, the firing squad is replaced by a group of orderlies. No trained marksmen, they only manage to wound the young man, so it’s up to major Wolcott (Ford) to give him the coup de grace. It’s a cruel and grotesque scene, reflecting the bleak and pessimistic vision on war (and mankind) that will be unfolded in the remainder of the film.

Knowing that the war is about to end, major Wollcott, an honourable man, promises the prisoners that similar things won’t happen again when they give up any possible  escape attempts. The vindictive Confederate officer Bentley (Hamilton) won’t listen to any reason and organizes a mass escape. Wolcott is ordered to lead the pursuit party, and things get more personal for him when Bentley takes hostage his bride to be, the missionary woman Emily (Stevens). After several attempts to shake off Wolcott, Bentley rapes Emily in the desert and flies to Mexico. At this point things have gone too far, for all persons concerned: it’s Emily who asks Wollcott to illegally cross the border and hunt down the maniac who scandalized her …
With a Confederate officer who refuses to give up the fight and a bleak, downbeat ending, we’re not far removed from the insane world of Corbucci’s The Hellbenders, made one year earlier. We’re also close to Peckinpah’s depiction of the post-civil war society in Major Dundee: a world torn apart, inhabited by frustrated people who may descend into violence and madness at any minute. The difference with Major Dundee is that this is is a small movie (even if it has a powerhouse cast).
The flaws of A Time for Killing are many: the editing is choppy and the film often feels jumpy, as if scenes are missing. Karlson reportedly took over midway through shooting, after Corman had clashed with Hamilton over the rape scene. There’s some ‘Fordian’ comic relief which seems even more out of place here than in Ford’s own movies, and there’s also too much Hollywood sentimentality of men deploring their situation and expressing their wish to return home (referring to the film’s alternative title, A Long Ride Home). Even Ford is far removed from his very best, but the scene in which he loses his control over himself and is no longer capable of hiding his disgust and anger, is brilliant in its simplicity. A very young Harrison Ford also makes a brief appearance, but you’ll have to be very attentive or you’ll miss him: he’s the heavily side-burned Union soldier who give some assistance during the execution scene. 
Brutally violent (although not as sadistic as The Hunting Party, which it most probably inspired), A Time for Killing was made a few years too soon to be rated at its true value by contemporary critics. It’s not great, but I found it more rewarding than many American westerns of same period. Western fans should give it a try.

FX Acteren Sfeer Originaliteit Totaal
6 7 7 8 7

Aanraders in overeenkomstige genres, volgens Boobytrap:
- The man who shot Liberty Valence (western / drama : 8)
- Colorado Territory (western : 8)
- True Grit (2010) (western / drama : 8)
- Stagecoach (western / drama : 8)
- A Time for Killing (western : 7)

Hoe beoordeelt Boobytrap categorie western eigenlijk?

Hoe beoordelen bezoekers deze recensie?

A Time for Killing (English)
A Time for Killing (English)
A Time for Killing (English)
A Time for Killing (English)

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