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Tom Horn - Little Recognized Classic

Updated on March 7, 2012
Steve McQueen as Tom Horn
Steve McQueen as Tom Horn

Steve McQueen's best performance might have been in "Papillon," but "Tom Horn" (an almost unknown film for its time or thereafter) may carry the greatest punch. It gives you an idea of where McQueen might have gone if he had survived to do other films.

Like Clint Eastwood, who kind of picked up the mantel, McQueen knew what he could portray effectively. "Tom Horn" had a big impact on me when I saw it in a theater in 1980. I hadn't seen anything like it -- especially in what I expected to be a regular cowboy picture.

This film could NEVER be green-lighted by Hollywood today. In 1980, the industry still took chances ... and "Tom Horn" was a big risk, which obviously didn't pay off -- for it being just too downbeat for wide appeal.

The film impressed me because it demonstrated in a very linear fashion that the good guy doesn't always win -- that sometimes higher powers and injustice can rob us of noble men. I had seen this kind of kick in the head in "The Parallax View" from 1974, "Three Days of the Condor" in 1975, but I hadn't seen a "good old-fashioned western" film adopt the same level of insanity, which I accepted as being unique to our warped, modern world.

I recommend this to students of film, individuals interested in American history, and even those who enjoy gun-slinger films. If you are a young guy/gal, try to remember that there was indeed a time when American film was not restricted from making strictly "feel good" motion pictures. If all you have watched are late 90's -- early 21st Century films, you owe it to yourself to rent some of these older films to get a sense for what the (yes, hated baby boomers) were once exposed to and how that depiction of reality diverges from the almost universally escapist pictures offered today and how the divergence could possibly shape one's perception of the human condition.

Steve McQueen as Tom Horn
Steve McQueen as Tom Horn
Steve McQueen as Tom Horn
Steve McQueen as Tom Horn

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