8 January 2011

SILVER LODE (Dir. Allan Dwan, 1954, US) - Politics of Shame

Pioneering American film maker Allan Dwan’s filmography as a director on IMDB lists 428 films. With a career beginning in 1911 and lasting until 1961, Dwan made every kind of film imaginable. Whilst much of his work in the silent era is now either lost or simply unavailable, Dwan’s reputation as a director of poverty row cinema, similarly in the trajectory of Edgar Ulmer and Raoul Walsh, respectively demonstrates his position as a consummate ‘metteur en scene’. Perhaps such a Bazinian label can be somewhat disingenuous given the ideological strengths of the western Dwan made in 1954, titled imaginatively Silver Lode, and today celebrated by the rigour of cine-phile culture including most notably Martin Scorsese. Sharing a plot similar to its predecessor High Noon, Silver Lode elevates itself out from beyond genre limitations, angrily shaping the idea of an innocent man accused of murder by a U.S. Marshall and the town folk into a distinctively political allegory on the machinations of McCarthyism. As a study of mob law mentality it is unforgiving and vitriolic as Lang’s Fury, representing a strain of demagoguery that poisons both morality and democratic principles. Dwan succeeds in creating and sustaining an atmosphere of paranoia through the camerawork which like High Noon makes creative and daring use of the long take. Interestingly, by morphing from a western into allegory, Dwan constructs an ardent plea for a social and political tolerance which was somewhat absent from the America mainstream during a period of strong anti communist sentiment.

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