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Broken Lance

Broken Lance

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Broken Lance, Cattle baron Matt Devereaux raids a copper smelter that is polluting his water, then divides his property among his sons. Son Joe takes responsibility for the raid and gets three years in prison. Matt dies from a stroke partly caused by his rebellious sons and when Joe gets out he plans revenge.

STARS: Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Jean Peters

96 min |  Adventure, Drama, Western | 1954 | Color


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Epic family drama about pride, racism, injustice and the problem of being right without getting it.
There is much symbolism here. What on earth is the meaning of that lonely dog running across the desert in the very opening scene? Don't worry. It will come back for two more appearances, once when one of the duller boys tries to shoot it, averted by Joe, and to conclude the film with a proper exit. And it's not a dog.
The other great symbolism is indicated by the title, the broken lance, which isn't explained until in the end but is actually the major theme of the film: the racism problem between whites, Indians and Mexicans.
It takes some time before Spencer Tracy makes his entry, and when he does you are well prepared. He has already been introduced on a portrait at the governor's, an imposing self-glorious portrait that boasts his mightiness, which is torn away from him shred by shred during the course of the film by his own fallibility. But what a long and grand fall, and how great it makes this character! It could really be described as a Lear of the Western. But this is not a western. It's a family drama and more like a Greek tragedy than anything else, though masked as something of regular western, but the characters go much deeper than what they show.
Richard Widmark as the oldest son who has been misused all his life by his father is actually the villain, but you must understand him and you can't really judge him, just as Joe can't either. Joe is more complex as the youngest brother, son of an Indian woman and not of the mother of the others, and he is constantly brooding and has reasons enough for it. Robert Wagner is almost as good as Richard Widmark and Spencer Tracy, while only Jean Peters falls a little behind.
The central scene, though, and what triggers the drama in the middle of the film is the tremendous settlement between Tracy and the governor, E.G.Marshall, whom Tracy made a governor and reminds him of, but that doesn't help. You can feel Tracy's explosion within although he barely shows it, which only makes it the more tremendously awesome.
His most majestic scene though is his last one. This is Spencer Tracy's film flanked by all the others at their best, which add to make this film one of the best of all westerns, although it's much more than a western.

CinemaScope Adds Power to "Broken Lance"
While Fox's May 18, 2005 DVD release of their 1954 film "Broken Lance" includes both Widescreen and Full Screen Versions (or Pan & Scan), it is the CinemaScope (2.55:1) version that brings the power and grandeur of this exceptional dramatic Western to life -- that along with the excellent 4-track Stereophonic sound track that was part of its original release. It has been 50 years since we have had the opportunity to see the film in the manner that it was first released theatrically -- and in this form it ranks as one of the finest Westerns of all-time. Rchard Murphy's Oscar winning screenplay provides some excellent dialog and story structure not usually found in the average outdoor film. The cast, all the way from Spencer Tracy to smaller roles like that of E.G. Marshall, are all we developed. Now if Fox would only give the same great release treatment to their 1955 "A Man Called Peter" (only available in Pan & Scan VHS)! It would be wonderful to see this film in CinemaScope with Stereophonic sound once again! NOTE: Fox has released "A Man Called Peter" on DVD in a beautiful print since this was original written.

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