Watched this wonderful film again last night, after DVR-ing off the Western Channel. Have seen it numerous times before, but not for a while. Not sure why, but I don't have it in my DVD collection; now I've got it locked in My Recordings.
I always recognized this was not only a great Western, but a great film, period. Yet watching it again last night I saw textures and layers I had never fully appreciated before. I suspect this may be because I am now doing a lot of writing in the Western genre. Or maybe it's simply because I am getting older and more appreciative of the smaller touches, the subtleties that take something good and make it better.
Apparently, the head honchos at MGM did not recognize or appreciate those same things at the time this film was released. It was basically "thrown away" as just another B-Western shoot-'em-up and placed (usually on the bottom) of drive-in movie double bills with such masterpieces as The Tartars and World in My Pocket (?). However, the New York Times (unlikely as it may seem) recognized its worth in a very positive review and, when distributed overseas, High Country was widely acclaimed and even won at the Belgium Film Festival that year, beating out Fellini's much vaunted 8-1/2 (which, in my book, could rightfully be accomplished with your basic Geico gecko TV commercial – but that's another story).
At any rate, it was only years later, after director Sam Peckinpah came into greater prominence, that Ride The High Country began to garner the wide spread acclaim it deserved right from the start. It was a beautiful swan song for its stars Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea (both retired after this film, but then McCrea returned after a few years and did three or four more Westerns of far lesser stature) and, ultimately, ranks up there with The Wild Bunch as some of Peckinpah's best work.
If you haven't watched this gem in a while, you owe it to yourself to check it out again. And if for some reason you've never seen it, by all means put it on your to-be-viewed list and don't deprive yourself any longer.
Persevere — WD