Wednesday, May 20, 2009

5/17/09: The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

Quick! What's the Henry Fonda movie where a bunch of "angry men" must determine the guilt or innocence of another man facing lots of incriminating circumstantial evidence, but whom Fonda insists may actually be innocent? Up until today, I'd have assumed the only film to fit that description was 12 Angry Men, but it's also the exact plot of today's feature. Presumably, Ox-Bow Incident made Fonda a natural choice to play Juror #8 some 14 years later; this is kind of an 1800s Western version of the same story (based on the book by Walter Van Tilburg Clark), and it was a splendid choice to kick off a week of movies made in the 1940s.

Three men stand accused of cattle rustling and murder by a posse who are in a rush to judgment—they've even got the nooses at the ready, and most are itching to use them. Fonda and Harry "Colonel Potter" Morgan (38 and 28 at the time of this film's release, respectively) get caught up in the hunt for the killers, but refuse to give in to the "mob mentality." Despite a fairly predictable resolution, The Ox-Bow Incident is absorbing and fun to watch; I'm glad to finally know the significance of the Ox-Bow of the title—I've always wondered if it literally referred to a bow worn by an ox! Rating: 5/5.

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