Movie Review: The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

The Ox-Box Incident (1943)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Another highly acclaimed western which had the misfortune of releasing the same year as Casablanca.  Not your typical western either.

I spend Sunday afternoons reviewing the upcoming schedule on TCM for likely recordable prospects for the DVR.  I also review their website and send e-mail alerts to myself if the movie I want to watch happens to be scheduled more than two weeks out (the DVR only has fourteen days with of programming at any given time).  The guide on the DVR showed a 94% approval rating and close to a five star rating for The Ox-Bow Incident, so I made sure I got it recorded.

I thought the film very well done.  All the performance appeared to be above par and it was interesting to see Harry Morgan and Anthony Quinn.  The only time I struggled to believe the character came when the letter contents were revealed to the audience.  I could not connect the dots between the man I saw protrayed and the writer of that letter.  No man about to die would write these words to his wife.  Some of them yes, but he would not philosophize to the extent presented in the movie.

Contents of letter from one victim (Martin) to his wife:

“My dear Wife, Mr. Davies will tell you what’s happening here tonight. He’s a good man and has done everything he can for me. I suppose there are some other good men here, too, only they don’t seem to realize what they’re doing. They’re the ones I feel sorry for. ‘Cause it’ll be over for me in a little while, but they’ll have to go on remembering for the rest of their lives. A man just naturally can’t take the law into his own hands and hang people without hurtin’ everybody in the world, ’cause then he’s just not breaking one law but all laws. Law is a lot more than words you put in a book, or judges or lawyers or sheriffs you hire to carry it out. It’s everything people ever have found out about justice and what’s right and wrong. It’s the very conscience of humanity. There can’t be any such thing as civilization unless people have a conscience, because if people touch God anywhere, where is it except through their conscience? And what is anybody’s conscience except a little piece of the conscience of all men that ever lived? I guess that’s all I’ve got to say except kiss the babies for me and God bless you. Your husband, Donald.”

I would have found it much more believable had everything from ‘A man just naturally can’t take the law’ to ‘that ever lived?’ had been deleted.  That whole middle section screams philosophy, not undying love for your spouse.  I’m not saying I don’t agree with the contents, I just don’t believe a dying (about to be murdered) man would write it to his wife.