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by Mark Burger

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DVD Pick of the week: Monte Walsh

(CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment)

Based on a novel by Jack Schaefer (of Shane renown), this 1970 Western marked the first and best film directed by noted cinematographer William A. Fraker.

Lee Marvin gives one of his best performances in the title role, a veteran cow-puncher who can’t quite resign himself to the fact that the West he knows is fast fading. His best friend Chet Rollins (Jack Palance) has settled for a life of domesticity, marrying a local widow (Allyn Ann McLerie), but although he loves the prostitute Martine (Jeanne Moreau), Monte knows he can’t change his ways. So does Martine, for that matter, lending their relationship poignancy.

The acting is first-rate, with Palance (warm and wonderful) and Moreau (luminous and touching) in top form. Adding to the Western flavor are such familiar faces as Mitchell Ryan (in his screen debut), Jim Davis, Bo Hopkins, Michael Conrad, Matt Clark, GD Spradlin, John McLiam, Charles Tyner and Billy Green Bush.

By turns exciting, dramatic, humorous, romantic and even poetic, the film is further enhanced by David M. Walsh’s cinematography and John Barry’s score. Monte Walsh is a treasure.

Rated PG-13.

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