Although I obviously love them, Westerns aren’t the only films I watch. It’s just that they were a huge part of the movie landscape while I was growing up. And because my first memories are of living on a farm, I generally feel right at home while watching those rugged men (and, sometimes, women!) on horseback as they gallop across the big screen.

Despite their long and glorious filmic history, by the time Silverado was made in 1984 and 1985, conventional Hollywood wisdom had it that the Western as a film genre was dead. Yes, there was Clint Eastwood with his spaghetti westerns and ultimate paean to the breed, Unforgiven. But Clint Eastwood was and is, well, Clint Eastwood — Rawhide’s Rowdy Yates of 1950s and ’60s TV fame — and his films were just the exception that proved the rule. After the disco ’70s and in the midst of the greedy ’80s, making a Western, even with a high-powered cast, was a gamble.

However, many of those slated for Silverado‘s cast had been part of Lawrence Kasdan’s remarkable success with The Big Chill, and Columbia Pictures was willing to take a chance on this relatively new writer-director, who had also scored big with Body Heat. As Kasdan says in the liner notes to the Collector’s Edition DVD of Silverado, “[Columbia] didn’t think it was a surefire thing that was going to make a lot of money. They simply believed it was a very good picture that should be made and that had a chance to be successful.” Their gamble paid off in spades and resulted in two Academy Award nominations (Best Sound, Best Music).

The film itself is smart, funny, “high-spirited,” and full of enough tension and serious story-telling to keep you engaged. You’ll see one of Kevin Costner’s early break-out performances as the young gunfighter who can’t sit still, as well as sly and witty turns from Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, and Linda Hunt. Add in the commanding presence of Brian Dennehy’s corrupt sheriff and you’ve got yourself a rip-roaring good-guys-bad-guys showdown. Can you imagine John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) and Jeff Goldblum (sci-fi villain and iMovie pitchman extraordinaire) in a horse opera? Whether you can or not, you’ll find even more to like about this tribute to the Old West.

The Silverado Collector’s Edition DVD contains a previously unreleased “Making of…” documentary, as well as production notes and the theatrical trailer. Audio and video have been digitally remastered for the DVD’s anamorphic widescreen presentation.

Saddle up!

Cast: Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, Kevin Costner,
with Brian Dennehy, Jeff Goldblum, Linda Hunt, John Cleese, Rosanna Arquette
Writers: Lawrence and Mark Kasdan
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Theatrical release: July 1985; available on DVD/Collector’s Edition DVD

Copyright ©2013 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos