Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

McCabe and Mrs. Miller


One of Robert Altman’s very best movies. It has to be in my Top Five, though I’ve made no such list. It’s classified as a “revisionist western,” of which there were many good ones in the ‘70s. They abandoned the standard tropes of the traditional western, and showed things in a much more believable manner. Here McCabe, when three bounty hunters come gunning for him, does not face off with them in the muddy, snowy streets of Presbyterian Church. No, he sneaks up on them and shoots them in the back! I loved him for that. It is exactly I would do. The hell with stupid macho concepts of “honor.” If they were out to kill me, I’d kill them by any means possible. Though High Noon was a damn good movie, it was bullshit. Showdowns never happened in the old West.

Everything about this movie appeals to me. There’s Altman’s trademark overlapping dialog. You’re not meant to understand it all, you’re just there in the room observing it. The movie was shot pretty much in sequence, because they had to show the big outdoor set in various stages of construction. It was shot north of Vancouver, B.C., where it rains just about all the time. When it’s not raining, it’s snowing. So most of the weather you see is real. It must have been a miserable experience to be on that crew.

Warren Beatty has never been better, and Julie Christie is wonderful as the Cockney whore. I’d say prostitute, but that’s what she calls herself. She makes no bones about it. She charges an outrageous five dollars when the girls in her stable are putting out for fifty cents or a dollar … and she gets plenty of customers, including McCabe. The writing is terrific, and Altman’s usual cast of characters all deliver realistic performances. Just one of the all-time best movies.