RARA-AVIS: Re: hardboiled settings

Kevin Smith (kvnsmith@colba.net)
Tue, 9 Feb 1999 11:59:07 -0500 How's this for an exotic setting? Call it frontier noir, or maybe
hardboiled buckskin. Just caught Jeremiah Johnson on PBS, and I figure it's
a pretty hardboiled tale, despite the fact it takes place in the Rockies
about 150 years ago or so. It's about this guy, ex-soldier (played by
Robert Redford, who actually does a decent job), disgusted with what he
sees as a failed society, who decides to chuck it all and become a mountain
man, only to find that violence and killing isn't that easy to escape from.
There's a matter a factness about life and death, and violence, and a whirl
of revenge and murder that just drags the Johnson down into a personal
hell, like something out of Woolrich, maybe. Hell, there's even voice-over
narration and an ambiguous ending, like a zillion B noirs. It's not a
perfect film, but parts of it have such powerful echoes of stuff we've been
discussing, that I thought I'd mention it. The opening goes:

"Story goes that he was a man of proper wit and adventurous spirit...nobody
knows from whereabout he come from, but it don't seem to matter much. He
was a young man and ghostly stories about the tall hills didn't scare him

He was looking for a Hawking gun, .50 caliber or better. He settled for a
.30, but damn, it was a genuine Hawking, you couldn't go no better.

He bought him a good horse, traps and all the other truck that goes with
being a mountain man, and said goodbye to whatever life was down below..."

Colloquial as hell, a sort of backwood version of Chandler's "Down these
mean streets" rap, doncha think?

Another film I can sorta see as frontier noir is the adaptation of Brian
Moore's Black Robe. And I still think someone should do a nasty, dark
version of Last of the Mohicans.

And I know these aren't really crime flicks, but then, it's only because
there wasn't enough law around back then to make anything a crime. There's
certainly enoughmurder and treachery and revenge and all that good stuff
like to keep the things moving....

Kevin Smith
The Thrilling Detective Web Site

The February issue has the results of The 1998 Cheap Thrills Awards.
Plus thrilling detective fiction from Robert Iles and Leigh Brackett. And a
contest! Yippy!

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