***/**** Image A+ Sound B+
starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Jean Peters, Richard Widmark
screenplay by Richard Murphy, based on the novel by by Philip Yordan
directed by Edward Dmytryk
by Walter Chaw Released the same year as his better-known The Caine Mutiny, disgraced director Edward Dmytryk's melancholic Broken Lance completes a double-pronged apologia for naming names before the HUAC. With the former film, Dmytryk sees himself possessed by madness; with the latter, he sees himself at the mercy of a world obsessed with rituals emptied of their meaning--and all the things he loves betrayed by his dogged fidelity to an older code of ethics. Though Broken Lance is often compared to "King Lear", it's more accurate to call it a run at the kind of end-of-the-trail film that would crop up a lot more in the western genre during the 1960s (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Ride the High Country, Cimarron, and so on). But the film is the death knell for one man's--Dmytryk's--idealism, and what's fascinating is the extent to which the passing of a single man's hope registers in nearly the same key as the passing of the Old West as a genre. The saga of masculinity as it's embedded in the western clarifies itself with just this one, small, eloquent example.