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Classic Noir Western.
jpdoherty28 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Warner Bros. PURSUED was the first real NOIR western to emerge from Hollywood. Beautifully written for the screen by Niven Busch from his own story it was produced in 1947 by Milton Sperling. This was the period when the great film noir thrillers were beginning to appear on cinema screens and particularly active at producing this kind of film was the RKO studios in which their biggest star Robert Mitchum was finding great success. Warners however intended to cast their own John Garfield as the star in PURSUED except the leading lady Teresa Wright, who at the time was married to screenwriter Busch, wanted Mitchum to play the lead opposite her. So to accommodate the lady's wishes Mitchum, borrowed from RKO, moved in and took up the assignment. Stunningly photographed in Black & White by genius cameraman James Wong Howe and brilliantly scored by Max Steiner PURSUED was stylishly directed with great flair by Raoul Walsh.

Mitchum plays Jeb Rand who is haunted by disturbing childhood memories of seeing his father being shot down by the avenging Grant Callum (Dean Jagger) because of his having an illicit affair with his brother's wife and now vows to kill young Jeb as well no matter how long it takes. When his father was killed Jeb was taken in and raised by Mrs. Callum (Judith Anderson) along with her children Thor (Teresa Wright) and Adam (John Rodney). In later years Jeb falls in love with Thor but an envious Adam, encouraged by Grant Callum, tries to kill Jeb in an ambush but instead Jeb manages to kill Adam to the chagrin of Mrs. Callum and Thor who both now disown him. The picture ends with Grant Callum and his horsemen riding Jeb down and as he attempts to Lynch Jeb a forgiving Mrs. Callum shoots and kills Grant leaving Jeb and Thor to reconcile with each other and ride off to begin a new life together.

Performances are excellent from all concerned. The laconic Mitchum is especially good bringing a sardonic and morose edge to his role. His first picture for Warners allows him the opportunity to soar. Judith Anderson as usual is superb as is Dean Jagger as the obsessive villain. But the camera of James Wong Howe is the real star of the picture with his amazing use of light and shadow, his stark skies and his bracing bleakness of the barren plains (particularly effective are scenes of a rider on the crest of a hill moving against the greying sky). Also brilliant is the music of Max Steiner. This is one of his very best scores. His driving theme propelling the movie forward with great urgency. A theme that no doubt must have had an influence on composer John Williams thirty years later with his music for "Jaws" for there is a remarkable similarity with Steiner's driving rhythms and those conceived by Williams for the predatory shark. Also notable in PURSUED is a surprising vocal rendition of the traditional Irish ballad "Londonderry Air" laudably sung by Mitchum and John Rodney.

Despite a sometimes confusing narrative (It's never made very clear why Grant Callum is so obsessed for years with killing Jeb) PURSUED remains a splendid example of the noir western and looks as fresh today as it did sixty five years ago.
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Great Western Classic with a lot of tragedy.
HarryLags15 February 2017
Looking at the other reviews for "Pursued", I don't think I have to repeat the plot summary for this dark, thoughtful 1947 western, directed by Raoul Walsh. And so the stage is set for what has been called the first psychological western. You can safely throw in film noir and melodrama, as well.

Robert Mitchum and Theresa Wright are very good as the possibly doomed couple. The story told in flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks with the narration of Robert Mitchum, a relentless villain, a hidden family mystery...plus gunfights and New Mexico scenery.

Interesting camera-work is the main attribute of this late 1940s western. It plays and looks more like a film noir than a western, but there is nothing wrong with that. I enjoyed that aspect, especially the noir-like cinematography. I say the latter because of all the stark black-and-white contrasts, night scenes and facial closeups.

Conclusion - I'd call this a must-see film, I find it has lots of great moments.It's a movie I enjoy watching again and again. Robert Mitchum, Teresa Wright, Judith Anderson, Dean Jagger and company all acted well, and I appreciated their talents. Great Film..
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A different kind of "horse opera"
imogensara_smith14 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In his introduction to the video release of JOHNNY GUITAR, Martin Scorsese describes the film as "operatic," and the same term applies to PURSUED, which he also chose for the "Martin Scorsese Presents" collection. Thinking about it this way helps: who looks for logic or realistic behavior in an opera? What you look for—and get with PURSUED—is intensely aesthetic drama driven by passions both heightened and stylized. The screenplay is by Niven Busch, who also wrote DUEL IN THE SUN, and what saves PURSUED from descending into camp is not a better story but restrained acting, crisp straightforward direction, gloriously dark cinematography and an ominous yet contained mood that feels like an approaching thunderstorm. To properly appreciate the cinematic grandeur, you need to see PURSUED on the big screen, where the vast empty landscapes, looming walls of rock, and enormous close-ups provide the right context for this melodrama flavored with Greek tragedy.

Freud was trendy in the 1940s, and Hollywood turned out a number of overwrought yet simple-minded movies about characters whose twisted psyches can be explained by a single event in their childhoods (SPELLBOUND, THE LOCKET, etc.) The first thing you have to accept in PURSUED is that the hero, Jeb Rand (Robert Mitchum), has been scarred all his life by a traumatic childhood experience of violence that he can't clearly recall. We know that his whole family is dead, and he has been adopted by Ma Callum (Judith Anderson), who has a son and daughter of her own. Jeb never quite assimilates into his foster family: he fights constantly with Adam, who sees him as an interloper, while he and Thorley (Teresa Wright) develop a very un-sibling-like attachment. These undercurrents are revealed when Jeb leaves to fight in the Spanish-American war, and nothing improves when he returns as a hero. Controlled by impulses they can't understand, shadowed by the secret that only Ma and her sinister brother-in-law Grant Callum know, the three young people become puppets in a violent ritual. This is where the movie starts to strain credibility, especially when both Ma and Thorley turn implacably against Jeb after he kills Adam in self-defense. They've both known and loved this man all his life, so why can't they believe he's not at fault? "Blood is thicker than water" seems to be the only explanation. And when Thorley decides to marry Jeb and kill him on their wedding night, the film starts tipping towards the ludicrous. Her declaration, and the wedding night itself, are like a soprano's arias, while the scene in which Jeb courts Thorley has a sick, chilling quality, as they act out a polite mockery of their former innocent romance.

The role written for Teresa Wright by her husband Niven Busch is pretty much impossible to pull off credibly, since she starts as an open, gentle, loving girl and suddenly morphs into a cold, hate-filled avenger, only to change back again just as abruptly. Wright does her best, which is very good. Judith Anderson is superbly subtle in her portrait of a woman whose stubbornness and inability to admit her mistakes poisons her noble effort to make amends. Dean Jagger, a smooth-talker with an evil glint in his eye, manages to make a man insanely obsessed with vengeance believable enough to be scary. John Rodney is also excellent as Adam, whose envy and gnawing resentment destroy his decency. Where other actors might have worked harder to depict the mental torment, the waking nightmares that haunt Jeb Rand, Mitchum plays him with a numb remoteness, as an emotionally paralyzed man who has never really been able to connect with anything. His love for his foster sister is a yearning to latch onto her rooted normality, to be fully accepted, to make something good out of the wreckage of his past. But the perversity of the match, with its incestuous overtones, makes it an unlikely vehicle of salvation.

PURSUED was Mitchum's first lead in an A picture, and he not only makes the most of it, it makes the most of him. In the first scene he rises out of the shadows in a ruined stone house, his ruffled white shirt torn, long hair mussed, eyes dreamily haunted. His physical magnificence competes with the landscape, and both are monumentally flattered by James Wong Howe's camera. (Forgive me if I sound like one of the "Droolettes,"as an RKO publicist dubbed Mitchum's teenage fans.) He speaks in a hushed, weary voice sometimes barely above a whisper; as an added treat, he croons "Londonderry Air" and "The Streets of Laredo." PURSUED was also the first film to fully express Mitchum's persona as the eternal outsider, the man fundamentally alone and unable to fit into any community. "All my life I've known I didn't really belong," Jeb Rand says. Uninterested in steady work, adrift from conventional morality—though he has his own code, and a tender heart hidden away—he is distrusted, disapproved of and envied by other men. He's gambler, willing to risk whatever he has (here he loses his stake in the Callum ranch on a coin toss) because he knows in the end the best he can hope for, as he says in OUT OF THE PAST, is to "lose more slowly." A man doomed, alienated, yet strangely comfortable in that condition, relaxing into his peculiar blend of lucklessness and invincible self-assurance. In real life, Mitchum the former hobo loved to quote from Look Homeward, Angel: "Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?" Or as Ma Callum tells Jeb, "We're alone, each of us, and each in a different way."
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Startlingly Good Noir Western.
JohnWelles10 September 2010
Pursued (1947), a noir Western directed by the great Raoul Walsh and stars Robert Mitchum, Teresa Wright and Judith Anderson.

The plot is simple enough: Set in New Mexico (and shot there too) around the turn of the century and told in flashback, the film tells the story of Jeb Rand (Robert Mitchum) whose family was murdered when he was a small boy. The sight of this haunts him, which manifests itself in bad dreams, into adulthood, as he is brought up by Mrs. Callum (Judith Anderson) and her two children, including Thor (Teresa Wright), whom he falls in love with. When the killers (led by the effectively cool Dean Jagger) discover that he exists and the only Rand left, they vow to kill him too. But Rand also has other problems to sort out, especially his jealous half-brother Adam Callum (John Rodney).

The photography, by the esteemed James Wong Howe is breathtaking, all harsh black-and-white vistas; the editing too, by Christian Nyby (who would later go on to take credit for directing the classic science fiction film The Thing from Another World! [1951]) is above average, and the music by Max Steiner is up to the same high standard of the of his other classic scores. The direction is brilliantly handled by Walsh and the screenplay by Niven Busch throws up more than a few surprises. Robert Mitchum is his usual laconic self (which is no bad thing!), Judith Anderson as always is excellent, Teresa Wright is good as Mitchum's half-sister and love and Dean Jagger, Alan Hale and Harry Carey Jr. all turn in memorable performances. The film itself has been influential, being homage in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West and Martin Scorsese has talked about his great admiration for it. This was also, tragically, the last movie "The Doors" singer Jim Morrison watched before he did on July 3, 1971. Pursued is an extremely good Western noir that deserves to be much more well known than it is and I strongly urge fans of either Westerns or noir's to see it.
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Mitchum's sleepy eyes make sense
TheFerryman16 March 2003
`Pursued' is ranked among Walsh's best westerns. It's inferior to `Colorado Territory' (probably Walsh's best), but forms a trilogy of underrated masterpieces with `Along the great divide' and `Gun fury'.

This peculiar film incorporates elements of the film noir, a genre frequently visited by the director. The story unfolds through a series of flashbacks in which the hero Jeb Rand (Robert Mitchum) struggles to evoke an obscure incident of his early childhood. This memory might give him the key to deal with a series of tragedies that take place one after the other with no apparent reason.

The film loses its logic early on, and we are so engaged in Walsh's storytelling, that we don't mind. Nothing makes sense here. Everything is disconnected, from Theresa Wright's progression into blind revenge (she wants to marry Jeb to shoot him on his wedding night), to Micthum's stoic acceptance of his misfortunes. All might be dictated by luck (the flipping of the coin, the casino), but that luck can be manipulated too (the wheel of fortune incident, later picked up by Lang in `Rancho Notorious').

This is not John Ford's contemporary universe ruled by tradition and heroism. In fact, the film's tone anticipates the pessimistic mood of Ford's `The Searchers'. `Pursued' is like a farewell to classicism, is turning away from an era fell down like the hero's cottage. Walsh is opening the door to a new expressionism in western, eventually taken over by Mann and Boetticher.

In this film, whose dramatic structure is as pure as a greek tragedy, even celebrations are sad, as when Mitch comes as a hero of war. Right during the welcoming there's plotting against him going on. The star here is James Wong Howe's photography. The interiors are sombre, the exteriors are wasted. The night scenes are as nocturne as any western ever portrayed. The funeral scene is pure pictorial ciaroscure. The overwhelming landscape of Gallup, New Mexico (used again in `Colorado Territory') acquire a dramatic and oppressive meaning, significant enough to match Ford's utilization of Monument Valley.

Walsh's direction turns a standard script into a sordid exploration of human misery. It could have take the form of a dream (Mitchum appears like a sleepwalker throughout the entire film), but thanks to Howe's outstanding photo and Steiner's powerful score, it developed into a nightmare.
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No dull moments in film noir set in the west
herbqedi27 September 2003
This is not so much a Western as a film noir that happens to be set in New Mexico around the turn of the century. Dame Judith Anderson steals the film as both the catalyst of all that happens and, in many ways, its hero. Dean Jagger is marvelous as the villainous lawman who cannot leave well enough alone. Harry Carey Jr. scores with a memorable portrayal of a well-meaning milquetoast manipulated by Jagger.

The photography and editing (James Wong Howe and Christian Nyby) are topnotch film noir. Alan Hale (Sr.) is perfect as the wry gambler who recognizes Mitchum's talent and woos him as a partner. Mitchum does a fine job as the emotionally paralyzed Jeb who is basically decent but with a busted emotional compass, he allows himself to be led by the fates. Although I'm not normally a fan of the sleepy-eyed and laconic Mitchum, I thought his signature traits were used to excellent effect here, and well explained by the trauma that eats him apart so much inside that he is unwilling to stand up for himself. Teresa Wright is stunning as Mitchum's foster-sister-turned-object-of-lust-turned-true-love-tuned-would-be-executioner-turned-true love again. What a woman!

One thing that differentiates this 1947 film in my book as a noir not a western is that the two main women are anything but passive -- and even more so -- ANYTHING BUT madonnas or whores. They are unafraid to fire guns or stand up to militias. But they will fulfill what is in their hearts even when it means societal disapproval or death.

Although the plot is full of holes, the storytelling is excellent enough to overcome it. Great pacing too -- a really fun ride.
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Haunted by the Past
claudio_carvalho24 December 2010
In the turn of the Nineteenth century, the orphan Jeb Rand is raised by Mrs. Callum (Judith Anderson) with her daughter Thorley and her son Adam. Jeb has a trauma with recollections of boots and flashes of light and Adam envies him. When Jeb is shot by the one-armed Grant Callum (Dean Jagger), Ms. Callum goes to the hotel and tells his relative to stop the family feud and forget Jeb. Years later, Grant is a prosecutor and presses Jeb (Robert Mitchum) to fight in the war against the Spanish. When Jeb returns a decorated hero, he courts Thor (Teresa Wright) and proposes her. But Jeb has an argument with Adam that was poisoned by Grant and Adam snipes his step-brother while he is riding trying to kill him. However, Jeb shots him in self-defense and is declared non-guilty by the court. But Grant has not given-up to kill the last Rand.

"Pursued" is a great western by Raoul Walsh that blends western and film-noir creating an unforgettable film about a family feud with a revengeful man. The locations and the camera work are astonishing and top-notch. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Sua Única Saída" ("His Only Exit")
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Leaves you frustrated and intrigued by turns
Mankin6 February 2003
Warning: Spoilers
[Warning: this review is only for people who have seen this film. Possible spoilers] I've seen this movie at least 4 times over the years and it always leaves me scratching my head. It's a fascinating--even experimental--combination of western, film noir and psychological melodrama, with a murky and confusing story that often throws believable motivation to the winds. From the beginning it's told mostly in flashback, as Robert Mitchum recounts what he can remember of his turbulent and violent childhood to his new bride and foster sister (Teresa Wright). However, the movie often cheats by showing us scenes that he couldn't possibly have remembered because he wasn't there (e.g. the ones with Judith Anderson as his foster mother and Dean Jagger as his murderous nemesis). It all has something to do with a feud between two families that began when Mitchum's father had an affair with Anderson, the wife of Jagger's brother. During a violent shootout, which is witnessed mostly as flashing spurs by Mitchum as a boy while he's hiding, his entire family is slaughtered by Jagger and is men. Have I made myself clear? I didn't think so. At any rate, when Jagger finds out that not only did Mitchum escape, but that Anderson has adopted and raised him along with her own son and daughter, he is determined to finish the job, no matter what. He thereby spends the next 10 or 15 years harassing Mitchum with death threats and generally making his life miserable. Now why does Jagger go to all the trouble of stalking an innocent boy who had nothing to do with a situation that didn't even involve Jagger directly? How has he been able to get away with the murder of an entire family after all these years, even to the point of becoming a judge? Who knows? One of the most bizarre plot twists in the film occurs when Wright decides that she will marry Mitchum and then kill him on their wedding night because he shot her brother (in self defense, even though that doesn't seem to matter to her). Anyway, it doesn't help that the sleepily complacent Mitchum is too laid back to be convincing as someone who's tormented and haunted by bad dreams of a traumatic childhood. He never seems be suffering from anything more than a mild hangover. Paging Kirk Douglas! He would have had the right intensity and vulnerability for this part. On the plus side, James Wong Howe's photography is often stunning, and Max Steiner's boomingly symphonic score often enhances the drama. All-in-all, `Pursued' intrigues and frustrates in about equal measure.
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Pretty Good Film Noir--Western
ccthemovieman-125 December 2005
Interesting camera-work is the main attribute of this late 1940s western. It plays and looks more like a film noir than a western, but there is nothing wrong with that. I enjoyed that aspect, especially the film noir-like cinematography. I say the latter because of all the stark black-and-white contrasts, night scenes and facial closeups. At the same time, it reminded me of a John Ford western with the expansive skies and big rock formations.

I can't say the story is anything special. It's almost frustrating, seeing everyone chase after Robert Mitchum even though the man has nothing wrong! Yes, it's a paranoid viewer's delight but it got to be a little much of a downer for me. However, Mitchum, Teresa Wright, Judith Anderson, Dean Jagger and company all acted well, and I appreciated their talents.
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dark, dark west
loic charles19 April 2002
0ne of the strangest western ever, one of the very best too.

The story of a man deprived of his past, doomed with a feeling that he does not belong here. Mitchum gives one of his best performance and the other actors are also excellent. Walsh direction is as ever powerful and gives to the movie a sense of shakespearian tragedy. One of the peculiarity of this movie is the importance and complexity of women's characters: it is they that take the meaningful decision, it is they that know better than the men whether they are too stupid (Jeb Rand's brother), too sore (Mac Callum) or too foreign to their own destiny (Jeb rand).

In a word, don't miss it!
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Soap Opera Not Noir
psych-shawn5 June 2018
Pursued is a soap opera in Western clothing -- it is NOT a film noir. The plot is choppy, slow and has major holes. If you don't like the characters attitudes, just wait five minutes -- they'll change...and change again and again...

I'm a big fan of Robert Mitchum, but this was not his best performance. He has no chemistry with Teresa Wright. Dean Jagger plays a thoroughly hateful villain, though.

The cinematography and the beautiful desert rock formations were worth two extra stars...
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Outstanding Noir Western
eric-5720 August 1999
Outstanding music and cinematography create a mood of brooding suspense which slowly builds throughout the movie. Dean Jagger is great as the sinister presence haunting Robert Mitchum. You don't have to be a western fan to enjoy this film - it is more of a suspense film than a western. Highly recommended.
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Noir? Western? really?
Spikeopath1 March 2009
Pursued is a very decent picture, very nicely shot, darkly imaginative, and dripping with Noir style, but if it's actually a Noir film then that really is up for debate, as is, if this film really is a Western? It wasn't quite what I was hoping for, and in truth it was a little too offbeat for the frame of mind I was in, but it's definitely one I'll go back to at some point to re-evaluate prepared with the awareness of what type of film it actually is. Robert Mitchum {excellent} is Jeb Rand, who is constantly pursued by assailants all his life. The film is told in flashback from his childhood tragedy when his family were all murdered, with him being the only survivor. Upon learning that there was indeed a survivor, the killers set about erasing Jeb from the planet, thus Jeb spends all his life trying to find out what the hell is going on, and just why did his adoptive mother raise him in the first place?

An oddity of sorts because Pursued is thinly embracing a number of genres, stretching the elements of each strand to create a film that once viewed, leaves one very intrigued as to its purpose......... 7/10
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Brilliant story, good acting, great scenery, innovative camera-work - see it!
MFrank18 July 1999
Truly a "film noir" - there are essentially no humorous scenes in this movie with the possible exception of the jury deliberation scene. The main story line revolves around repressed memories that gradually emerge, everything in this movie is dark from the story to the camera work... a classic.
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The plot that ruined a good western
emdragon11 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I gave this movie 5 stars, it may deserve even less than that. Here is a film of grand cinematography, wonderful camera-work, fine direction, and decent acting, though somewhat melodramatic. But it operates on a threadbare premise following a completely improbable plot line to a ridiculously contrived ending. I was shocked to see that 238 people gave this film an average rating of 7.8. Set in New Mexico at the turn of the century, Jeb Rand, as a young boy (later played by Robert Mitchum) witnesses his father's brutal murder at the hands of an angry mob by the name of Callum, spurred by the brother of Rand's father's lover's husband, Grant Callum (Dean Jagger). Callum's motive is that Jeb's father was his dead brother's widow's lover. It's all quite tangled with unresolved innuendo. Grant Callum loses his brother and his own arm in the fight and vows revenge on the name of Rand. He takes occasional pot shots at Rand during his youth, after young widow Callum has decided to raise the boy as one of her own. She has a son and daughter of her own as well, and a long strangely twisting love affair begins between Jeb and Mrs Callum's daughter Thorley (played by Theresa Wright) over the next 20+ years. But how does Grant Callum convince 6 other grown men to just blindly follow him throughout the film as he pursues his revenge over 2 decades or more against the offspring of the man responsible? And WHY do his followers just stop their own pursuit after Callum is suddenly killed by the aggrieved widow Callum in the film's final climax, with Jeb about to hang by the neck? It makes absolutely no sense, and could not happen in a million lifetimes, but the audience is expected to swallow it. Which just goes to show how much most folks care about the darned plot, I suppose.
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It lacks fire and originality...
moonspinner5524 February 2008
Moody film noir from director Raoul Walsh has young boy left orphaned by a bloodthirsty band of killers, who dog the boy's trail even after he grows up into Robert Mitchum (seems to me that's the point where they might have given up stalking him). Mitchum smolders, as usual, though his character here is just a thumbnail sketch, and the melodrama inherent in this scenario is far beneath him. Judith Anderson fares a bit better playing the boy's elderly but wise guardian (a clichéd part, but invested with a salty kick by the actress). Lackluster film co-starring Teresa Wright and Dean Jagger just doesn't hold much interest, despite good cinematography by James Wong Howe and an atmospheric score by Max Steiner, top talents all around. *1/2 from ****
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Mitchum lifeless
bombersflyup26 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Pursued encapsulates story telling, but the characters struggle to give the story vibrant life.

Robert Mitchum as the main character Jeb, is bland and completely lifeless, I really couldn't care less about him. Someone in a review said his character is just a thumbnail sketch, spot on I say. While Teresa Wright, the best actor in the film, is too restrained in her role and takes a back seat. I have no problem with the Adam character, I don't think you need more depth in this character, his actions are understandable. I liked when Thor revealed to her mother her intentions of killing Jeb, that was a bit of a shock, but then it all turned back rather quickly. The characters mindsets change rather haphazardly throughout the film.
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Waste of great talent
roger-12129 March 2007
This movie neither succeeds as a film noir nor a western. The story is sporadic and doesn't have any drive -- it didn't make me want to keep watching after I was well into it. The acting is hammy and stagy. The characterizations are not consistent throughout the movie -- it's like any character can change his or her mindset at any time. The big "secret" that is revealed at the end was easily guessed a long time before the big revelation. James Wong Howe's photography is the only redeeming factor in this oater. I was truly disappointed after reading so many good reviews on this web page. Oh well, I guess I can trade this at the used DVD store for films that show Robert Mitchum, Teresa Wright and Dame Judith Anderson in better roles. If you like film noir and these stars, I highly recommend Night of the Hunter - 1955 (Mitchum), The Little Foxes - 1941 (Wright), and Rebecca - 1940 (Anderson).
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Hates Him Boy And Man
bkoganbing6 September 2008
Watching Pursued tonight I was struck by the fact of how much Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound seems to have influenced this film. In the VHS copy I have, Martin Scorsese does a brief prologue and says this was a film that influenced him and he calls it a noir western. I think it's more of a psychological western in which Robert Mitchum works out his own salvation rather than get the help of a doctor like Ingrid Bergman who wouldn't have been available back then because Dr. Freud was just starting to develop his theories around the time this was made.

Mitchum's earliest recollections and something he dreams constantly was him being in a cellar and peering from a trap door as a lad and seeing and hearing a gunfight. He's rescued from that cellar by Judith Anderson who takes him in and treats him as an equal to her own children who grow up to be Teresa Wright and John Rodney. But Mitchum still experiences the nightmares and never quite seems to fit in. And he can't get the answers anywhere.

Mitchum was the third candidate for the role at Warner Brothers for the role of Jeb Rand. Jack Warner tested and rejected first Montgomery Clift yet to make his screen debut and Kirk Douglas according to Lee Server's biography. I think both those actors would have imprinted their own personalities on the part as surely as Mitchum does.

Playing a malevolent and unseen hand in the whole proceedings which run over several years is Dean Jagger who as a villain seems to be a combination of Inspector Javert and Iago. Jagger on screen is equally good in both good guy and bad guy parts and except maybe for his role in Alan Ladd's The Proud Rebel, this just might be the worst he's ever been on screen.

Jagger hates Mitchum boy and man and the reason for that hate is not revealed until almost the end of the film. It's a lot to do with the family name.

Niven Busch wrote the script for this unusual western and he was married to Teresa Wright at the time so apparently Warner Brothers bought them as a package. She's first billed in this picture even though the film is really about Mitchum. As for him, he was lent from RKO where in fact he had worked with a Niven Busch screenplay and got great acclaim for it in Till The End Of Time.

The film bills John Rodney who plays Wright's brother as introducing John Rodney. His next film was Key Largo where he played the luckless deputy sheriff killed by Edward G. Robinson. He never quite made it, but Harry Carey, Jr. in only his second film before he was 'introduced' in Three Godfathers, certainly has had one long and successful career. Carey plays a luckless storekeeper influenced by the cunning Jagger to go after Mitchum and does well with the part.

Raoul Walsh known primarily for more straight forward action films does all right with his cast in what had to be unfamiliar territory for him. Pursued is a good western, but definitely not one for the Saturday afternoon Roy Rogers crowd.
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Nothing is as it seems
jeromec-211 February 2008
Before tonight, I'd never seen this underrated western. It is a complex morality play as well as being a film noir. The film begins with a young boy (Jeb Rand) being rescued from a house destroyed.

He becomes part of the family, sort of headed by Ma Callum (wonderfully maternal by the skilled Judith Anderson). He is well loved by this woman, and should have grown up a normal hard working individual if she'd had her way, much like his stepbrother Adam (John Rodney). To all outward appearances, he did. He universally accepts his fate when he loses a coin toss. As the loser, he goes to a war he has neither interest in or understanding of. He comes back a hero. The ranch has been very profitable and the girl he left behind loves him and wants to marry him.

Again, everything seems good.

The tranquility is only on the surface, held together by the love of the mother matriarch. The natural son is insanely jealous of the adopted son. We never really find out why, nor does it matter. All the courtesy and soft-spoken talk is all veneer. Everyone has twisted emotions except Jeb (Robert Michum), who has problems, which he never denies, nor does he easily relate his problems.

After two very ugly killings, Thor (Teresa Wright) hatches a plot. She consents to being courted and married.

There is revenge in her heart. She is not the naive girl who wants the three of them to live together guided her mother's love and powerful moral upbringing. Thor is consumed by a Gothic kind of hatred. The hatred is so deeply ingrained that the mother, herself filled with a disappointed and mourning hatred, cannot stand to watch what the Thor has planned: she wants to kill Michum just as he thinks he has everything.

Michum persists, but not stupidly. He confronts her hatred. Incredible as it may seem, he forces her to back away from killing him and to let her love surface in its place, which he knows is there.

That is the complex characterization of the first half of the movie. The second part has to do with the Callum gang (headed by Grant – played by an amazingly sinister Dean Jagger) that tries to kill Michum on his wedding night at the old Rand ranch.

The rest of the movie is all gun shooting and melodrama, which I won't reveal more about.

The photography is astonishing with its shadows and light, which is like choreography. Wright is like a salad with ingredients that don't look they should go together but do. She is an underrated actress who must convey complex emotions, which not only contradict one another, but also are sometimes also false. It is to her credit that she does this easily. She is as Michum says, quite beautiful from a small distance. Close ups reveal how consumed she is in her depravity. If you don't believe this, watch her in the pride the Yankees. Close ups or shots taken from a distance show the same thing: a radiant vibrant woman transparently in love. This movie shows quite different side.

I can't quite bring myself to give this a 10, because the plot suffers the same way all morality plays do. Let us say it is an interesting eight with subtleties that make it very engaging.

An interesting 8 (out of 10).
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Let down by the happy ending
justincward16 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The theme of 'Pursued' is violent revenge. Don't forget that this was made shortly after WWII ended, so that the theme of men returning from combat, and the constant threat of death, was something everyone was conscious of; it's almost as if Jeb has PTSD (the 'black dog riding his back'), and death follows him, through no fault of his own, throughout the movie. The premise isn't complicated at all: a man brought up to love the daughter of his adopted family kills her brother - the fact that her family killed his is a bit irrelevant; see below. When Thorley reveals her intention to murder Jeb on their wedding night, I have to concede that it's a little unconvincing, but this is a limitation of Teresa Wright's performance, which is too wholesome - if she'd played it a bit sexier, more hot-blooded, she'd be much more believable. In terms of the 'operatic' plot, it's completely logical; two men have had a go at Jeb, now it's a woman's turn, and the stakes are even higher. Jeb phlegmatically welcomes death each time, and each time it turns out that he's the only one with the true killer instinct. The posse coming for Jeb is his real nemesis, and it's here that the happy (happy? Your mother-in-law shoots the guy who shot your father just as they're about to string you up?) ending lets the movie down; Thorley should have sacrificed herself to save Jeb and redeem herself and the Callums, but presumably this was thought too depressing for 1947. This would have dispensed with all the desperate last-minute exposition, too. The camera work is sublime, and Judith Anderson does a great Ma-in-law from Hell. I wonder what Elvis Presley would have made of the role...Mitchum shows just how far ahead of the 1950's beefcake field he was.
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Pursuit of excellence
Lejink6 August 2010
Described in my TV film guide as a noir Western, I'm not about to argue. Unlike more typical director Raoul Walsh fare this western is far less about rollicking action than psychological drama and is thus a refreshing change from the norm.

That said, Robert Mitchum's about the last person you'd think of being traumatised by childhood nightmares that dog him into adulthood, but elsewhere we get all his usual "ics" - laconic, sardonic, ironic and of course ultimately iconic. The story probably has too many twists and turns for its own good, with Bob's on-off again romance with Teresa Wright, she less convincing in her star-crossed lover role, hard to believe at the best of times. I also couldn't quite swallow badman Cullan's all-powering motive to wipe out every member of Mitchum's family, himself being the last survivor, while the reveal-all conclusion is over and done with too quickly and doesn't really deserve its build up.

I've always been a sucker, mind you, for the then in-vogue use of dollar-book Freud stuff as Orson Welles once described it and other noir conventions like the use of flashback sequences and the persistence of fate are present and correct enhanced by a moodily effective Max Steiner score. No one else in the cast has Mitchum's charisma, but the debut turn by Mitchum's brother is well done and an effective counterweight to Bob's work. Best of all though is James Wong Howe's marvellous photography with wonderful deep perspective interiors and some exceptional night work, particularly the scene where Mitchum is drawn into the fatal gun-fight with his "brother".

There's much to savour then, even if the weakest element is probably the story itself which is really just a typical noir plot backdated to the turn of the century.
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It's not always logical, but it surely is emotional.
FISHCAKE24 November 1999
A correspondent suggested that PURSUED might be the first western "film noir". Intrigued, I pulled it off my shelves and ran the tape through the VCR. It surely is a "film noir" right enough, first or not. Crime from out of the past haunts the present and messes up a lot of lives. Does that sound like a Ross MacDonald plot? The mystery of what sparks Jagger's unrelenting hatred of Bob continues to the last, and enhanced with fine acting and Wong Howe's inspired photo work, makes for a fine film. The ending is not the most satisfying for my taste, seeming to negate what has gone before, but logic is not of the essence here. Emotion is.
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Truly original with a tough yet poetic style. A must-see for all Mitchum fans.
barhound7826 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Released in the same year as the seminal double whammy of "Crossfire" and "Out Of The Past", Mitchum cemented his burgeoning reputation with his tortured performance in this brooding psychological western directed by Raoul Walsh.

Jed Rand (Mitchum) is a man tormented by a childhood memory of traumatic violence that he can never fully grasp. Orphaned as a young boy, he is discovered cowering in a cellar by a strong minded cattle woman, "Ma" Callum (Judith Anderson), who flee's her homestead with young Jed and her own two children in tow. She brings him up as part of her own family, intent on harbouring him from the horrors of his past. Yet as years go by, Jed's restlessness and constant sense that the shadowy figures from the recesses of his mind are doggedly reaching after him slowly begin to consume their relationship. Indeed, "Ma" may hold the key to unlocking his dark secret.

Jed has a strong effect on the Callum family as they grow together. A deep love slowly blossoms between him and his step-sister, Thorley (Teresa Wright), but his step-brother Adam (John Rodney) gradually begins to deeply resent his presence; something that is twisted into something even darker and more hateful when Jed returns home a war hero. Similarly, the sinister one-armed figure of Callum kinsman, Grant (Dean Jagger), constantly lingers on the periphery of Jed's life, seemingly orchestrating his enemies against him. As the secrets and lies begin to chafe away at the bonds between them, only the inevitable violence and conflict will bring the truth crashing down upon them.

Told mostly in flashback, "Pursued" offers a twisted, noiresque vision of the west. The family turmoil plays out like a dust choked Greek tragedy; full of tragic unspoken truths, deep-rooted jealousy and hatred, sibling rivalry and an almost incestuous love between the three children. The death and violence that chases Jed throughout his life until his moment of revelation does not confront him head-on but instead through unseen rifle fire, unexpected pot-shots and shadowy figures that come to kill him in the dead of night. Even Jed's fractured memories are conveyed with flashes of light, incoherent background noise and a pair of clattering spurs seemingly dancing before the terrified childs face.

Mitchum's performance is excellent. Brooding and manly, only occasionally hinting at the vulnerability beneath. It's almost impossible to take your eyes off him at times. Judith Anderson and Teresa Wright both match him in their key scenes too whilst the ever-watchable Dean Jagger is on fine form; playing it mean to the bone throughout. In fact, of the central players, only newcomer John Rodney really struggles to hit the right notes throughout.

"Pursued" is a fine, fine film. Truly original with a tough yet poetic style, it is beautifully photographed, erotically charged and masterfully directed by the great Raoul Walsh. This is a must-see for all Mitchum fans.
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An unjustly neglected western.
MOscarbradley21 November 2019
Raoul Walsh's strange, noirish Western isn't much seen these days but "Pursued" is still something of a classic. It was an original screenplay by the novelist Niven Busch and is told in flashback by Robert Mitchum who is the pursued of the title. He's the adopted son of Judith Anderson who took him in after his family is killed. The thing is, it was Anderson's brother-in-law, Dean Jagger, who was responsible for the family's murder to begin with. Subsequently, Mitchum is haunted by memories of his past as he finds himself falling in love with his adoptive sister, Teresa Wright.

You might say, then, that this is far from being a conventional western yarn. I mean, in how many other westerns do you find a romantic relationship developing between a brother and sister, even if they are not blood relatives, or where a brother-in-law and sister-in-law can be so diametrically opposed in what is a family feud. The performances are mostly fine but the real star of the picture is James Wong Howe's stunning black-and-white cinematography. This film may not be as well-known as it should be but it has certainly built up a considerable cult reputation.
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