Many of history's greatest films investigate the complicated moral consequences of a collective mob mentality. There is of course Fritz Lang's masterwork M, where Peter Lorres is faced by a frothing-mad mob by reciting what we now know as one of the most iconic film monologues of all time. There is also Spike Lee's timeless Do The Right Thing, where a racially divided borough erupts into a cacophony, pitting neighbors and
The Ox-Bow Incident is one of the finest American westerns of the 1943 season. Among other qualities, Wellman's film is as light and efficient as it was ever made in Hollywood's golden age. However, the film's insights into the human tendency toward tribalism are still quite profound today. In spite of what many scholars today refer to as the outdated cultural depiction of indigenous people and its curious refusal to investigate the more serious psychological features of John Waynes, the Ox-Bow Incident is a
Wellman is one of the more culturally significant directors of the Old Hollywood era. For one, the $2 million dollar budget set a new standard for aviation photography in flyboy images. The film even features the cinema's first ever same-sex on-screen kiss, though its admittedly rather chaste when compared to what we might expect today.
The Ox-Bow Incident is one of Wellman's most historically significant films, while the film's first-ever adaptation, directed by David O. Selznick, has two noteworthy films: the one starring James Cagney and the other featuring Janet Gaynor and Frederic March, and the first-ever adaptation of A Star Is Born, which is based on a terrifyingly contemporary cautionary tale about humans' inadequacy.
The Ox-Bow Incident begins, as so many westerns do, with a pair of strangers visiting a local saloon. One of the men, Gil Carter, is played by screen legend Henry Fonda, who was often cast as a voice of reason and intelligence in mob films like Young Mr. Lincoln and 12 Angry Men, which have long remained unreported.
The Ox-Bow Incident begins in full as the townspeople form a vigilante posse and declare that they will discover the evil scoundrels that murdered their friend before killing him in turn. One of the more terrifyingly convincing narrative components of The Ox-Bow Incident is how quickly the mob mentality can take over a group of otherwise rational individuals.
The Ox-Bow Incident is a slow-moving drama that continues to tighten the noose around the viewer's neck, until we discover ourselves gasping for breath in the midst of a complete moral cesspool. Three weary travelers (that we believe would be the perpetrators of the initial murder) are revealed to be desperately, even pathetically human in what we believe to be their final moments on earth, though Wellmans film does conclude on a positive note.
Another classic western that feels so modern today, is ultimately a study of man's ugly impulses. No daring escape maneuvers where the heroes flee their foes and get the girl before the credits roll. Only the cruel inevitability of man's death is conveyed in this film. On the contrary, it only results in more suffering, more suffering, and more loss.
"Law is a lot more than words you put in a book, or judges or lawyers or sheriffs you hire to execute it." This is a brief, but powerful, excerpt from a beautifully composed monologue that expands on the film's main thesis: that anyone, no matter how just and upright he fancies himself to be, has the right to enforce the law. No man, in other words, has the right to play God.