The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford, 1962)
Oh, John Ford. You and your many films with so many great qualities, but so many flawed instances. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance falls right into this category. First, and most noticeably, this film falls victim to way too many western stereotypes. The character of Liberty Valance, while portrayed very well by Lee Marvin, is as paper thin as characters come. He’s bad, and that’s about all there is to him. The same could be said about a number of the characters in this film. The most interesting character is Tom Doniphon who is very well-written, but he is portrayed by John Wayne, who gives a very ho-hum performance.
Where the film succeeds the most is in its atmosphere. This is one of the best small-town western settings I’ve ever seen. The set pieces and mise-en-scene are perfect. All the scenes that take place at night are excellent. The dark streets, the bustling saloon and restaurant, and the sounds of an alive town do wonders in placing you right in the thick of things. I really enjoyed being a part of this town. I just wish I would have felt the same about all the characters. 7.5/10