The Unforgiven (1960)

Rachel Zachary: "The moment Momma told the truth I wanted to die."
By John Huston
With Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn

I can't remember whether it was after watching Sabrina (1954), with Audrey Hepburn, or after watching White Hunter, Black Heart (1990) which is based on director John Huston, but I know they were the reason for me watching The Unforgiven. Simply put, I think Audrey Hepburn might be the most charming lady ever on screen and John Huston directed some of my favorite Humphrey Bogart movies.

The Unforgiven focuses on the Zachary family, the mother, three brothers and the young sister Rachel. They live in a vast plain and live off by trading cattle along with the neighbors family, the Rawlins. The movie starts with pictures of happiness but an old man on a horse, roaming around the house seems to bring a bad omen and soon enough things start to unravel, old feuds and mysteries shall not be left unturned.

The Unforgiven's production was plagued with incidents, the most famous being a horse riding accident in which pregnant star, Audrey Hepburn fell off and had to be hospitalized, only to lose the baby a while after. It is hard to tell how much something like that, off screen, can impact on the movie itself, it is also hard to tell if anyone involved lost their motivation in the movie because of something like that.

In the end, the movie is good, but it is not up to the standards of most people involved. It's hard for me to pinpoint a reason, but the movie didn't pull me in, the mystery was maybe not up to the action. Main star Burt Lancaster did not convince me either. The story has some interesting themes but we are left wondering which direction the movie heads in, even when the end comes, it is hard to feel like a circle is closed nor are we left with issues to reflect on.

I liked: The filming is good, the landscapes, the horses, the claustrophobic atmosphere of the house, the cattle on the roof. The music, the piano and the flutes. The use of fire.

I disliked: The Indians' motivations. The "night" scenes. Weak mystery and politics, diplomacy. The romance element felt forced.

I would recommend many movies by John Huston or many movies with Audrey Hepburn before recommending The Unforgiven, however, if you enjoy Westerns, it holds all the ingredients. Perhaps the weakness is simply in the baking process.


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