Directed by Marlon Brando
Running from the law after a bank robbery in Mexico, Dad Longworth finds an opportunity to take the stolen gold and leave his partner Rio to be captured. Years later, Rio escapes from the prison where he has been since, and hunts down Dad for revenge. Dad is now a respectable sheriff in California, and has been living in fear of Rio's return.
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★★★½ review by Cinemonster on Letterboxd
An unevenly directed and edited film, One-Eyed Jacks shows Marlon Brando at both his best and worst. A lovely unsung performance by Karl Malden and solid cinematography from Charles Lang are the highlights. Supporting cast, including Slim Pickens and Ben Johnson, are also solid. No one takes a beating onscreen like Brando. David Webb Peoples clearly saw this film before writing Unforgiven. Not too many projects can claim to have canned talent the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham and Sam Peckinpah.
★★★½ review by rischka on Letterboxd
most interesting as a sort of bridge between trad westerns and spaghetti westerns which soon came to dominate the form; production began in the late 50s but it wasn't released til '61. kubrick was fired cuz he wanted spencer tracy and brando insisted on malden (he was right). you can also see how an early draft by peckinpah made it's way into pat garrett and billy the kid. reportedly brando did not want to play the psychotic killer peckinpah had in mind. also brando's preferred ending had malden accidentally shooting his stepdaughter as she chases after brando but the studio nixed it. it's a tad overlong and the romance a little maudlin (esp the studio ending i think) but shockingly good for a first time director who never directed again? he wasn't happy with the experience apparently and complained for years it wasn't the film he intended. of course his cut was 5 hours long lol
★★★★ review by Jackass Joe on Letterboxd
Watched this on the big screen. Ironically today is also the day I finished Twin Peaks season 1. Peaks fans understand...
"Isn't that that western with Marlon Brando?"
★★★½ review by Juan Castillo on Letterboxd
Weird western atravesado por la saeta del melodrama sobre lo oneroso que puede resultar ajustar cuentas con el pasado. La huella aciaga y melancólica de Sam Peckinpah, autor del guión original, se advierte en un relato que alza el dedo acusador contra el traidor —poco menos que fratricida— aferrado a la respetabilidad y no contra el fuera de la ley, como sucederá muchos años después en su 'Pat Garrett...'
Karl Malden está, como siempre, sublime; el Brando actor, en su registro intransferible, y en cuanto al Brando director, supera la prueba holgadamente: integra elementos inéditos en el género, en especial la constante presencia de un océano que subraya el impasse en el que se hallan los personajes; maneja con soltura las secuencias multitudinarias, y hace brillar tanto los duelos verbales como los físicos.
No puede decirse lo mismo de su limitada capacidad como narrador, que da como resultado un metraje a todas luces excesivo.
One-Eyed Jacks es una rareza que hay que celebrar, aunque, ya puestos, sigo prefiriendo la de Charles Laughton.
★★★★★ review by MadZack on Letterboxd
Marlon Brando and Charles Laughton occupy a very interesting space in the history of film. Both men are championed - and rightly so - as two of the greatest actors of all time. These two men also directed - one film each. These men both produced one singular masterpiece and never again stepped behind the lens. Laughton’s film was The Night of the Hunter - a southern gothic love letter to the silent epics of D.W. Griffith - and Brando’s submission was a colossal train wreck. Brando directed and starred in a Western called One-Eyed Jacks - and it’s still one of the most misunderstood masterworks ever made.
Westerns are positively obsessed with fatalism. This cosmic pessimism can be explosively nihilistic - as Sam Peckinpah would express - or it can be remarkably subtle, like the stoically mortified males of the Hawksian morality plays. Westerns have always expressed a fatalistic psychology. Even Sergio Leone’s films were madly driven by a mystically suspicious force - by a preordained and operatic destiny. John Ford and Delmer Daves were also preoccupied with the inherent cynicism of the unequivocally American Western. Our filmmakers of today who experiment with the Western genre - like Quentin Tarantino, Andrew Dominik, and The Coen Brothers - raise their voices in some oddly disparate unison with the fatalistic standards of the past. Point is - Westerns have always wanted to kill themselves. Marlon Brando just pulled the trigger on them.
One-Eyed Jacks is the Western’s suicide note. Marlon Brando filmed the whole writhing act - the entire ungodly deed. He orchestrated the symbolic death of the American screen bandit and ultimately castrated the ultimate American film genre - and he did it all with a psychotic obsession. He did it all with a madman’s perseverance and severity. He did all of it - wonderfully.
One-Eyed Jacks is Marlon Brando’s self-psychoanalysis writ large. There is so much of Brando in this film - so much self-projection and self-degradation - that One-Eyed Jacks is more than simply a Western, it is a psychological assessment of the cinema at large and a complicated character study of the Marlon Brando persona itself.
Even at the surface levels, this is a very combative picture. The first layer of psychological skin that makes up its troubling callouses is deconstructionism - Brando halfheartedly props up easily identifiable tropes and dissects them with the same amount of classically contrived pathos. It’s a brilliantly twisted and evil game Brando plays. The man doesn’t even attempt to hold your hand. Marlon Brando’s goal was to deconstruct Western mythos to the point of absurdity and chaos - all while perpetuating his own private madness on the world.
One-Eyed Jacks is both startlingly insular and direct in highly unusual ways. This is because Brando is not a practiced filmmaker - he’s an actor, the best that ever lived, which means he understands emotions, virile trajectories, and impassioned pathology better than just about any director ever could. One-Eyed Jacks is akin to peering inside of Brando’s creative process. How he approached directing One-Eyed Jacks is how he approached his acting roles. THIS is how deep Brando swims - THIS is how positively haunted Brando was. Disturbing psychological complexes repeating as visual, stylistic motifs.
Marlon Brando as the humiliated King. It’s almost as if Brando attempted to expose filmmaking as a terrible way to waste your talent and time. It’s as if he tried to sabotage his own film. I refuse to believe that a man as intelligent and artistically deliberate as Brando failed to see the ironic dichotomy that he made manifest between the film itself and the filmmaking process. One-Eyed Jacks is littered with Freudian symbolism and a visually psychoanalytical film grammar. The fact that the film’s compulsively tortured production seems - largely- to be on account of Brando’s own bipolar id, his world famous ego, and his carefully curated and implosive superego makes for gallows enough humor to compel Freud himself to bust a gut laughing. Brando was so absolutely possessed by acting that I believe he turned not only the production of One-Eyed Jacks into an absurdly Freudian fireworks display, but he transformed the rest of his life into something resembling performance art hereafter.
Brando’s opus is part postmodern symphony, part visual fugue, and largely defeatist - pessimistic in the most beautifully philosophical ways. One-Eyed Jacks is a treasure trove of extremely challenging ideas. Where someone like Kubrick dealt deftly with PHYSICALLY spatial impossibilities - Brando’s film explores PSYCHOLOGICALLY impossible frameworks.
The Freudian concepts are syrupy-thick and just as sweet. It’s The Good, The Bad, and the OEDIPAL. Long-time Brando acting partner Karl Malden operated as the perfect fatherly foil to Brando’s psycho-sexual bandit and symbolically castrated killer Rio. Both actors commit to One-Eyed Jacks some of their finest work - and certainly their most sophisticated character portrayals. In Brando’s film, romance assumes dangerously pessimistic features and perverse contour lines.
Forget everything you think you know about the American Western. In Brando’s film, public male punishment and grotesque patriarchal humiliation is more pscyho-sexually erotic, classically masculine, and deplorably impassioned than anything else in the universe.
Westerns are nothing without their implied mythos. I love mythology. As an Absurdist, I'm quite partial to the power of archetypes - considering it took the retelling of a myth to express the Absurd. I basically feel that human experience and meaning is simply too much to be stored inside of us, so we ingratiate the entirety of the human condition in icons, archetypes, and creations. Lately though - I have been attempting to incorporate more 'out there' elements. The God archetype of the Sefirot/ Merkabah and Jungian collective unconsciousness - that sort of thing. I've been toying around with the possibility of a psychic spatial reality that these myths and symbols occupy. I've been experimenting with tarot and rune divination to see if there's some sort of psychic or emotionally palpable power I can harness from these symbols. I'm achingly self-aware of what I'm saying. I'm playing around with the concept of group actualization. If enough people believe in the same God archetype (or things of that caliber, like onscreen Cowboys for instance), I think it might be possible that these believed-in constructs can become nearly psychically sentient.
One-Eyed Jacks shows me the Freudian consequences of this psycho-mystical line of thinking. Brando’s retort to my archetypal reasoning is harsh, genuinely articulate, and crushing. One-Eyed Jacks FORCES me to watch my theory come to macabre life.
Brando is telling me, “THIS is what happens when you breathe life into icons”. He’s saying, “THIS is what happens when the corpses of dead Gods fill your brain.”
He’s practically screaming at me - “THIS is what happens when archetypes become real. THIS is what happens when titans live: THEY DIE - and they die EMBARRASSINGLY SLOW for SHALLOW REASONS. They are predictable by definition and cardboard by default.”
Brando yawps, “I’ll SHOW YOU your ‘living’ Gods. I’ll film their faces and I’ll totally annihilate their inanimate compositions by deconstructing them ALL into indiscernible scribbles.”
He hollers at me - “These are your symbols! This is your artistic iconography! It’s all hollow. It’s all illusory. They can’t withstand psychoanalysis. They’re too weak to be real - unconsciously or otherwise. You can share them, sure - but you can NEVER conjure them.”
He bellows about sentimentality and how it’s gross - roars about how I’ve terribly misunderstood the concept of romanticism. His voice tremors and the earth quakes as he berates me for my misuse of melodrama - for how I’ve wrongly imbibed mythos, mistaking fables for human tenderness.
”Your Gods have failed you.”, Marlon says to me with eyes of knowing embers.
He tells me that the Western is dead, that all film does is lie to me, that Joseph Campbell was a prick, that Jung was a crackpot, that mythologies do not possess a shared psychosis, and that there is nothing at all animate or lifelike about the symbols of Man. He tells me all of this and I listen - I watch.
One-Eyed Jacks not only defeated its maker - Brando - but it cruelly disemboweled me as well.
Me and all my dead Gods.
I’d like to note how capable Brando was a visual stylist. I think One-Eyed Jacks is a remarkably good-looking film - one that speaks with an erudite cinematic grammar that catapults its psychology into serenely kinetic dimensions. Every frame of this film is perfectly composed and I’m extremely in awe of its dynamically meaningful scope and reach. Brando obviously knew how to capture moments, express fully realized and developed ideas, and forge his own uniquely pessimistic human character into poetic film languages.
One-Eyed Jacks is fast-becoming one of my favorite films. It’s so confrontational and life-altering because it’s supernally quarrelsome with everything around it. The film is like antimatter and it’s deeply antagonistic - all things it comes in contact with, it psychologically destroys.
There are so many beautiful qualities to be found in Brando’s Western contempt. It’s simply one of the most gorgeously rendered philosophies I have ever had the pleasure of being positively defeated by.
Marlon Brando was defeated by it too - make no mistake about that. He made a film that was too powerful to be appreciated, too complex to be understood, and too tyrannical to let anything survive in its wake.
Marlon Brando may have directed the most mighty film of all time.
It was called One-Eyed Jacks.
You will know it by the sound of the wounded ones.
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