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The Shooting

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A SLOW RIDE TO DESTINY (Left to right) Jack Nicholson, Millie Perkins, and Warren Oates star in The Shooting, an obscure cult classic from 1966 on HBO Max. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PROTEUS FILMS AND SANTA CLARA PRODUCTIONS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Proteus Films And Santa Clara Productions
  • A SLOW RIDE TO DESTINY (Left to right) Jack Nicholson, Millie Perkins, and Warren Oates star in The Shooting, an obscure cult classic from 1966 on HBO Max.

What's it rated? G

When? 1966

Where's it showing? HBO Max

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This largely forgotten gem from 1966 recently found its way to HBO Max, and for any serious cinephile, it's essential viewing—an existentialist Western with a minimalist style filmed in the Utah desert in 1965 by director Monte Hellman at the same time as Ride the Whirlwind, which shared stars Jack Nicholson and Millie Perkins.

The story, written by Carole Eastman under the nom de plume Adrien Joyce, revolves around Willet Gashade (Warren Oates), a former bounty hunter trying his hand at gold mining. After some time away from his mine, he returns to find one of his mining partners, Coley (Will Hutchin), in a panic. It seems their other two partners came back from a night on the town and in their drunkenness trampled "a little person." One was shot in camp by an unseen sharpshooter, and the other had run off.

A while later, they hear a gunshot, and soon a woman (Perkins) walks into camp saying her horse broke its leg, so she shot it. She hires Gashade to help her across the desert to a far town, and he agrees as long as Coley comes along. It soon becomes clear they're being tailed by a mysterious figure (Nicholson), and that he and the woman have some kind of plan hatched, perhaps to catch their mining partner and punish him for trampling what may have been a child.

Psychologically tense, the film is a slow build to a perplexing yet provocative conclusion. Hellman went on to direct other classics like Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) and Cockfighter (1974), both featuring Oates, and though this film never saw a theatrical release, as Nicholson's star grew brighter, it was saved from obscurity. (82 min.) Δ

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