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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

‘They call him sodie pop.’


Plot Overview

To some stirring music, the screen displays an endless western vista with some­where on it a lone speck of a horse­man. Then we see a deer drinking water and an 8- or 9-year-old boy Joey Starrett (Brandon De Wilde) stalking it with a diminutive rifle. Framed in the deer's antlers, the cow­boy rides in. “Some­body's comin', Pa,” the lad announces. “Well, let him come,” replies father/husband Joe Starrett (Van Heflin). In the window of their cabin we catch his wife Marian (Jean Arthur) lilting away at, “Seeing Nellie Home.” The newly arrived stranger “Call me Shane” (Alan Ladd) explains, “I'm heading north; didn't expect to find any fences around here.” He's given permission to ride through.

Joey playfully cocks his (unloaded) rifle and Shane spins around with a quick draw. Hmm. Seven or eight new riders arrive led by cattle baron Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer). “Your friends are late,” Joe tells Shane in disgust and asks him to vamoose. Ryker launches into his diatribe against home­steaders, then pauses to ask who the new guy is. He replies, “I'm a friend of Starrett.” Joe is not intimidated. He tells Ryker, “Now you get off my claim.” When they're gone, he apologizes to Shane. At his wife's suggestion he invites Shane to dinner (“Shane's on our side.”)

Before long he's hired on as help (“I wish you'd stay here”) with the caution, “You be care­ful. I wouldn't want my troubles to be some of yours.” Next day Shane rides into town to purchase some work clothes at GRAFTON'S GENERAL MERCANTILE, Sundries & Saloon. After buying some precut pants and some shirts, he asks Grafton, “Got any soda pop?” Grafton replies, “Sure do wish more men around here would drink it,” and he sends him to the bar. There one of Ryker's boys buys the “sodbuster” a whiskey and douses him it with.

Back at the ranch, Joey is fascinated by him, but his mother cautions him, “Joey, don't get to liking Shane too much. He'll be moving on one day.” Perhaps She's cautioning her­self as well. As she dolls her­self up for a store run with the men, Joe remarks, “One thing a married man's got to get used to is waiting for women.” Shane replies, “You've got a woman worth waiting for.” In town Shane is mocked (“They call him sodie pop.”) A rumble ensues and, “There ain't a marshal within a hundred mile ride.” Ryker didn't like it and they gang up on Shane (“You had your chance, boy. Nobody messes up one of my boys and gets away with it.”) Joey cries out in alarm, “There's too many, Shane!” Joe teams up with Shane in the brawl, but the result it unsettled.

Ryker sends for a hired killer from Cheyenne, Jack Wilson (Jack Palance) who has a deadly draw (“He sent for me”) and from then on he tries to provoke a confron­tation with Joe knowing the outcome. Eventually Joe will be goaded into taking him up on it knowing that Marian will be well looked after once he's gone. It's a classic narrative with an inter­esting twist.


Joey is presented to us as “a [boy] who watches things go on around [him]. It means he'll make his mark some­day.” He's encouraged to “grow up to be strong and straight.” He's a poor son of a sod­buster, having to return a pop bottle for its deposit to get a treat at the store. He is a poor but wise child.

Ryker the cattle baron is full of himself having “made a safe range out of this” when Starrett was but a tyke hardly bigger than his son Joey is now. He doesn't get it that, “Running cattle on an open range can't go on forever.” He is not “a reasonable man.” He's an old and foolish baron not subject correction.

Actually, Solomon had a thing to say about these two in: (Eccl. 4:13-14) “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished. For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.” Ryker broke through the old frontier to establish his reign on the range. Now he's ravaging the poor young home­steaders' claims at night, wrecking their crops, making them poorer. That earns him a couple verses in the Bible and is worth some commentary from Archi­man­drite Zacharias: (219)

Father Sophrony would sometimes use the image of a pyramid. At the peak of this pyramid are the princes of the nations who, according to the Lord, ‘exercises lord­ship and authority’. At the base of the pyramid is the lowest class which is made up of the masses, the poor and the down­trod­den. Although the powerful of the world are called ‘bene­factors’, their power rests upon injustice and inequality.

Once there's a killing in town, we see the victim buried on Cemetery Hill with a service that includes the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) recited in full, not just in token, in the beautiful King James Version (KJV)—that's all they had in the 1860s. In 1873 the English Revised Version for the British would be made, and in 1901 the American Standard Version (ASV) its American counter­part. Then came the Revised Standard Version (RSV) in 1952—when this film was made—followed by a whole plethora of modernized English versions. Perhaps we should look at the broader application of those two verses of Solomon.

The reason we have so many translations is that old manuscripts were discovered moldering away in some monastery or library, and they came out of their “prison” to dominate the new trans­lations. That and some of the good native English words, born among English speakers to enter the KJV, became poorly represented in contem­porary speech. So voilà, a lot of new versions. People who stick to the oldest manuscripts simply because of their age, irrespective of any foolishness that may have crept in to that particular cluster of them, and who can't change their mind, why, they are worse off than the people who stick to the wisely worded KJV, though its good words aren't as current as they used to be.

The book we quoted from ends: (Eccl. 12:12-13) “of the making of many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” There is no end to all the (English) trans­lations that are being made of the Bible. When I complain of them saying different things, I'm told to go back to the Greek, but its study would be a weariness to the flesh. But I know the (KJV) command­ments (Rom. 10:8), so my whole duty is fulfilled in following them. At least as this movie demonstrates for praying the Lord's prayer.

Production Values

Shane” (1953) was directed by George Stevens. It was written by A.B. Guthrie Jr. (screen­play) and Jack Sher (additional dialogue). It was based on the 1949 novel Shane by Jack Schaefer. It stars Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, and Van Heflin who were great. Also starring were Ben Johnson, Edgar Buchanan, Douglas Spencer, and Ellen Corby. They and the other supporting cast perform admirably.

We'll give it a suggested MPAA rating of PG for western violence. It was filmed at Big Bear Lake, Big Bear Valley, San Bernar­dino National Forest, California, and in Grand Teton National Park, Moose, Wyoming, USA. Its aspect ratio of 1.66 : 1 makes it fit a TV screen nicely. Victor Young's well crafted score put some oomph in the picture. The editing was superb. The Sound Department went all out, capturing back­ground noises to flesh out the western ambiance. The fight scenes were memorable. It was shot in CinemaScope by Loyal Griggs who won hands down Oscar for Best Cinema­tog­raphy.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“Shane” is a classic western as good as they come. The western sodbusters were sympathetic and the villain not. The boy shone with promise in a progressing west. The old guy was best left behind. This one has my unreserved recommendation.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability for children: Suitable for children ages 9-12 who don't mind fight scenes. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Builds to finale. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, print.

Zacharias, Archimandrite. Remember Thy First Love (Revelation 2:4-5): The Three Stages of the Spiritual Life In the Theology of Elder Sophrony. Dalton, PA: Mount Tabor Pub, 2010. Print.