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The Devil and Daniel Webster Review


Extraordinary
It's the 1840s, and times are tough for New Hampshire farmer Jabez Stone, just as they are for other New Englanders. He's a hard-working, God-fearing man, but he's prone to cursing ("consarn it" is his favorite), and he doesn't always find time to attend church on Sundays. He has a good wife (named Mary, of course) and a Bible-reading Ma, but when he can't make his mortgage payments, that just doesn't seem like enough. In Washington, a heroic Massachusetts senator named Daniel Webster is introducing legislation that will ease his plight. But in the meantime, what's a working man to do?

In this folklore New England, the devil is a real thing, like a fox that steals hens or a dog that barks at nights, and if you want to make a deal with him, it's not too hard to do. One rainy day Jabez curses in the barn, and a little man named Scratch (Walter Huston) appears out of nowhere with a bargain to make: Jabez will have seven years' worth of prosperity and everything that goes with it, and at the end of the seven years, Scratch will get his soul. Jabez signs the contract, and Scratch kicks at the floor of the barn, where a pile of gold rises up from a loose plank. The devil is in the details though, and anyone who's ever seen a movie knows there's going to be Hell to pay.

Continue reading: The Devil and Daniel Webster Review

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Review


Good
James Stewart and Lee Marvin square off in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the Citizen Kane of westerns -- about a Senator (Stewart) from the old west who returns who for the funeral of an old cowboy friend (the inimitable John Wayne), whereupon he is quizzed about his rise to power as a politician, thanks to his slaying of the evil highwayman Liberty Valance (Marvin). What follows is an unraveling of the legend behind the infamous shootout, when Stewart's pantywaist lawyer somehow outdid the rough-and-tumble villain.

A classic John Ford film (and one of the last black and white westerns to be made), Wayne and Stewart make a great Odd Couple in the podunk town of Shinbone. Unfortunately, the middle of the film sags under the overly patriotic history lessons we are given when Stewart takes it upon himself to teach the locals how to read and write. The ensuing fight for statehood isn't much better, except when Valance comes a-knockin'.

Continue reading: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Review

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