In what way is ‘The Quick and the Dead’ both a typical and untypical film from the Western Genre?
The film ‘The Quick and the Dead’ is a Western film that is mainly situated around 1 central character and their motive to get revenge. Ellen, ‘a Cowgirl’ rides into town to take part in a gun-fighting contest that is held every year. At first when asked she claims that she is simply taking part for the $123,000 prize money, however we later discover that she is taking part to avenge her feathers death. Her father was hung while Ellen was at a very young age, she was made to watch this happen and although given the chance by her fathers killers to save him, she couldn’t. The main person responsible for her fathers death was a man called Herod, he is the ‘Outlaw’ of the town where the gun-fighting contest is being held, the people of the town re extremely afraid of him and Herod knows this and takes advantage of them. For example a young boy told Ellen that Herod takes 50c of every $1 in the town.
As a young child whilst witnessing her father being hung, Ellen was given a chance to save her father. Herod gave Ellen a gun and told her she could have three shots to shoot through the rope that her father was hanging from. Ellen was extremely scared and was adamant that she would not be able to do it, but her father told her that she would be able to, she took the shot but with that she missed the rope and shot her father dead. It is apparent that she has since that day blamed herself for her fathers death, and when in the bar once again witnessed Herod hanging someone but as the chair was removed from the underneath of the person Ellen shot the rope saving their life, and at the same time silenced people from their laughing at the thought of a woman firing a gun straight.
The person Herod was hanging, The Preacher was made to enter the contest even though he refused to fire the gun. Various other characters also signed up for the contest including the Kid (Herod’s son), Ace and the Swedish champion.
The Genre of a film defines what type of film it is; for example a film containing lots of explosions, car chases, fighting scenes and killing. It would have to be given an Action Genre, such as Lethal Weapon or Die Hard. An example of a film with the Genre of Sci-Fi would be Star Trek or Terminator; these films could contain a lot of the things you would expect in an action film as well as things like Robots and space ships. Other types of Genre include Romance, Horror, Gangster, Fantasy, Comedy, Spy and Adventure.
Most people’s expectations of a Western would probably be the same. The audience would expect the film to take place between the short period of 1860 and 1890. The film would have features like Historical context- Western films were based on existing stories and plays, people could relate to how they lived.
Action- Gunfights, Rodeos, Horse Riding, Chases and Cattle Drives.
Setting- Westerns were always set in the Desert or on the plains. They were set against Industrial Progress.
Characters- You had a Hero and a Villain, these were normally Cowboys. Sheriffs and Indians were also normally involved at some point.
Themes- The main conflict was between Good and Evil.
Typical features of the Western Genre are things such as; Cowboys, Sheriffs, Desert, Frontier Town, Saloon, Gunfire, Cowboy hat/boots/spurs, Good conquers Evil, Gunfights and Revenge. A film would not have to include all of these features to be classed as ‘typical’ of the Western genre, but most of these features are included in Western films.
The film ‘The Quick and the Dead’ includes 1 feature that makes it untypical of the Western Genre, a Cowgirl. In typical Westerns the role of women would normally be to look after the house and children and to cook for their husband. They may also own a bar in the town.
The film ‘The Quick and the Dead’ includes lots of events and themes that you would expect from a Western.
Such as the Gun fighting competition, the Villain who runs the town, everyone is scared of them and no one dares to confront them. When the new Cowgirl girl (Cowboy in most other Westerns) rides into town, nobody will talk to her, nobody wants anything to do with her. In the scene in the saloon where Ellen signs up for the competion The Kid comes over and tries to talk to Ellen, he doesn’t have much lick though and she gives the impression that she wants to be left alone. Something else that you would expect from a Western is that the new person in town (Ellen) shows no fear towards Herod, even though everyone else in the town is scared of him. You know that everyone else is scared of him because in the saloon scene where they are signing up for the competition, everyone goes silent as soon as Herod walks into the bar.
As the film continues it becomes clear that Ellen tries to find out information on Herod, by becoming friendly with The Preacher, this is another thing that you would expect from a Western.
One thing that you would expect to happen in a Western that doesn’t happen in ‘The Quick and the Dead’ is for the Villain, Herod to try and kill the Hero, Ellen. This does not happen in the play, in fact it is Ellen who tries to kill Herod at their dinner date, but Herod knows what she is doing and is able to make her think twice about it by telling her that he is afraid of nothing and that dying doesn’t scare him
The Narrative in ‘The Quick and the Dead’ shows similarities to the Spaghetti western ‘Once upon a time in the west’
Both films have a revenge motive;
TQATD- To avenge her fathers death and escape the guilt of it.
OUATITW- To avenge his bothers death for which he feels responsible.
Both films have the same use of flashback
Both TQATD and OUATITW have flashbacks at the shoot out that relate to the original events that prompted revenge.
There are four main characters in ‘The quick and the Dead’ these are;
Ellen (the Hero), Herod (the Villain), The Kid (Herod’s Son), The Preacher.
Herod and The Kid are the two characters in the film that are typical of the Western genre. Ellen is not because a man would typically play the part. There is normally a kid in a western film that thinks that he knows everything and then ends up being shot. And of course the film must have a Villain, Herod who is finally beaten in the end.
People would have always thought that men would play the Good and Bad guy in a western. But now that a woman has played the Good guy they may have changed their mind. People’s stereotype of the Good guy in a Western would not be a woman, but after watching this film they may change their mind and think, why cant a woman play that role? She is capable in the film to do everything that a man could have done; for example at the start of the film she steals from a man digging for Gold in the Desert, she knocks him out and then ties him up. In the Gun fighting contest she beats every one of her opponents and then out wits Herod in the final by rigging everything to blow up as the clock chimes, she does this because she knows that if she had beaten Herod that she would have been gunned down by Herod’s men.
Herod’s character reinforces to the audience what the expectation of a Bad guy in a Western should be, he is very cunning, confident and has men to do his dirty work for him. He makes thinks public to ensure that people fear him, for example he tried to hang the Preacher in the middle of the saloon with everyone watching him.
The setting and the scenery in ‘The Quick and the Dead’ are typical of the Western Genre. The film is set in the desert where most if not all Western’s are filmed. Apart from the town there is not a lot else around, there maybe a small cattle ranch just outside of the town, but you don’t se it. In the film there is a Graveyard where Ellen’s father was buried.
The costumes and the setting in the scene where Ellen goes to dinner with Herod are different from the rest of the film, this is because they are eating in Herod’s house and he is very rich and so has a big Banquet table maid and a huge chandelier above the table. The room is lit by only a few lights so it is a very soft and romantic setting. The dim lighting could also be seen as evil though.
The two characters are also dressed very differently to how they are dressed ain the rest of the film though, Ellen is looking very posh, wearing a big elegant dress and Herod is wearing a suit, these costumes are typically what wealthy people would wear around this time. Ellen is looking a lot more ‘lady-like’ in this scene, and perhaps this is the effect she is trying to get. She is trying to show us that she is not just a travelling Cowgirl. Ellen’s dress is very revelling and could give the impression that she may be trying to seduce Herod. I do not identify this scene with the Western Genre, it seems more like a scene from a romantic film. I think that this scene was included in the film to show the audience the other side of these two characters that seemed so predictable before the dinner.