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One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

American Western film directed by and starring Marlon Brando.

[It’s] either an enormously ambitious but uneven work at worst, or one of the greatest Westerns ever filmed, as well as one of the most fascinating one-and-done directorial efforts in Hollywood history.

Peter Sobczynski – The Spool

Story: After robbing a Mexican bank, Dad Longworth takes the loot and leaves his partner Rio to be captured, but Rio escapes and searches for Dad in California. (IMDb)

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One-Eyed Jacks (1961): Marlon Brando’s Western Epic Explored

– Retrospective & Movie Review –

One-Eyed Jacks (1961): Marlon Brando's Western Epic Explored, Movie Review

“One-Eyed Jacks” is a film that bears the indelible mark of its star and director, the enigmatic Marlon Brando. Released in 1961, it’s a sprawling, unconventional Western that is as much a reflection of Brando‘s tumultuous career as it is a cinematic exploration of the genre.

While it certainly has its moments of brilliance, it’s not without its flaws, earning a respectable but somewhat restrained FrameClass of 3/5 stars aka “Worth a Watch”.

Directed by Brando himself, “One-Eyed Jacks” is a peculiar entry into the Western genre. The film opens with a heist-gone-wrong and introduces us to Rio, played by Brando, and his partner Dad Longworth, portrayed by Karl Malden. This sets the stage for a tale of betrayal, vengeance, and moral ambiguity.

The film’s most notable strength is its performances. Marlon Brando, in his only directorial effort, delivers a captivating portrayal of Rio, a complex and morally conflicted outlaw. Brando‘s signature brooding intensity is on full display, and he brings a depth to the character that transcends the traditional Western archetype.

As the duplicitous Dad Longworth, Karl Malden also impresses with his ability to convey both sympathy and reprehension. The chemistry between Brando and Malden is the heart of the film, and their scenes together crackle with tension and emotion.

One-Eyed Jacks (1961), Marlon Brando, Retrospective

The supporting cast, including Pina Pellicer as Rio’s love interest and Ben Johnson as the local sheriff, provides solid performances that help to flesh out the film’s intricate web of relationships. However, some secondary characters lack the development needed to make their motives and actions fully resonant, which is one of the film’s weaker points.

“One-Eyed Jacks” boasts stunning visuals that capture the rugged beauty of the Monterey Peninsula where it was filmed. The cinematography by Charles Lang is top-notch, and the film’s use of natural landscapes and vivid colors is reminiscent of classic Westerns, enhancing the visual allure of the film.

The scenery, combined with Hugo Friedhofer‘s evocative score, adds a layer of grandeur and atmosphere that elevates the film beyond a mere genre piece.

Despite its many positive attributes, “One-Eyed Jacks” suffers from its uneven pacing. The film, with its nearly three-hour runtime, tends to meander in places, diluting the intensity of the central conflict.

It’s clear that Brando was striving for a more contemplative and character-driven experience, but at times, the film’s leisurely pace feels like a hurdle rather than an asset.

The narrative’s moral ambiguity and complex character dynamics are both a strength and a weakness. On one hand, they breathe fresh life into the familiar Western formula, delving into themes of redemption and revenge.

One-Eyed Jacks (1961), Marlon Brando, Movie review

On the other hand, the film’s labyrinthine plot may lose some viewers along the way, and the lack of a clear hero or villain can be frustrating for those who prefer more traditional Western storytelling.

“One-Eyed Jacks” is a cinematic oddity that bears the unmistakable stamp of Marlon Brando‘s ambition and artistry. It’s a Western that defies convention, offering a meditation on the nature of justice and revenge.

While the film is not without its flaws, it remains a testament to Brando‘s unique cinematic vision and his willingness to challenge the boundaries of genre filmmaking.

In conclusion, “One-Eyed Jacks” is a film worth watching for its remarkable performances, striking visuals, and unconventional take on the Western genre. It may not be a flawless masterpiece, but it is a thought-provoking and intriguing entry in the world of Western cinema.

With a running time that requires patience and an appetite for complex character studies, it may not be for everyone, but for those willing to explore the rugged terrain of Marlon Brando‘s artistic vision, “One-Eyed Jacks” offers a rewarding journey into the wild west of the human soul.

Stephen Galen Estevan

A cinephile whose love for the Silver Screen transcends eras and genres. Armed with a deep passion for films, from classic masterpieces to contemporary gems, I’m on a quest to explore all of Cinema one Frame at a time.

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IMDb | Wikipedia | Rotten Tomatoes | Letterboxd

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