Monday, Sep 2020
Director: Bill Pullman
Screenwriters: Larry Gross from the 1902 Owen Wister novel
Released: 2000 TV

the virginian 2000A TNT movie version of the classic Owen Wister novel from 1902. Bill Pullman directed and stars and does both with sufficient respect for a Western classic.

The always lovely and consistently underrated Diane Lane stars as Molly, the school teacher from Vermont looking to educate the scattered youth of the new settlers of the Wyoming Territory in 1885. She first meets the quintessential cowboy hero, the Virginian, when he rescues her from a sinking stagecoach on a treacherous river crossing. This is the same manner in which they meet in the novel, bypassed in earlier movie versions. This meeting is important, as the central story of The Virginian, the book, is the love between Molly and the cowboy.

Not overlooked in this film version is that famous Western warning line which has echoed throughout the 20th century: "When you call me that, smile..." Pullman delivers this line excellently, far better than both his predecessors Joel McRae (1946) and Gary Cooper (1929). Pullman does well in his film, managing to convey both the heroism and southern manners of the title character which the novel depicts so thoroughly.

This movie features a nice Western score. The period details are well-done and both Medicine Bow and the Bear Creek Ranch are shown in much more strange and lonesome atmosphere than the earlier movies manage. There is an effective, overall gloomy aura to the movie which works well with most of its scenes and themes. The actor who plays Trampas does an admirably snide job and it is good to see Dennis Weaver, long lost from his days in "The Rifleman" and "McCloud" back on a horse and in western wear.

As a made-for-cable movie, this 2000 version of The Virginian lasts no more than 90 minutes, to allow for commercials. This film could have benefited from an extra half-hour. The novel is involved and rich, with a number of episodes and relationships. This movie, though generally well-done comes up short in portraying the book's stories. But then again, so do most movies.

I suspect that this Western was filmed on some of Ted Turner's considerable private land holdings in Montana. The scenery is beautiful, and it is a solid effort overall. This is a worthy update of the earlier movie versions. We rate it a strong Good View.

Other versions of The Virginian (1929, 1946).

--Jed

Cast:

  • Bill Pullman.... The Virginian
  • Diane Lane....Molly Stark
  • John Savage.... Steve
  • Dennis Weaver.... Sam Balaam
  • James Drury.... Rider
  • Harris Yulin.... Judge Henry
  • Gary Farmer.... Buster
  • Colm Feore....Trampas
  • Brent Stait.... Griffin
  • Mark Anderako....Mr. Odgen
  • Maureen Rooney.... Mrs. Ogden
  • Jessica Blatt.... Young Housemaid
  • Arnold Lawson.... Wiggins
  • Farron Dearden.... Farron
  • Dillinger Steele.... Shorty
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