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  From Noon Till Three Their Precious TimeBuy this film here.
Year: 1976
Director: Frank D. Gilroy
Stars: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Douglas Fowley, Stan Haze, Damon Douglas, Hector Morales, Bert Williams, Davis Roberts, Betty Cole, William Lanteau, Larry French, Michael LeClair, Anne Ramsey, Howard Brunner, Don 'Red' Barry
Genre: Western, Comedy, Romance
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: The gang that Graham Dorsey (Charles Bronson) belongs to rides into a small town to find that there is nobody about; they can't think why, but are delighted when they burst into the bank to discover that there's nobody in there either. From then it's a simple matter of going in the back room and helping themselves to all the cash they can carry, stuffing it into a bag and their clothes. Yet once they leave the bank, they ride down the main street when a collection of rifles are trained on them. One member tries to make a break for it and the unseen townsfolk open fire...

This striking opening is only a dream, but sets up From Noon Till Three as not your usual western. It was adapted from his own novel by Frank D. Gilroy, here not only acting as scriptwriter but director as well, so I suppose he did not want to trust anyone else with the material, but there were plenty who considered this just too quirky and awkward to be successful as a western or, as some have described it, as a comedy. Certainly it seems bizarre casting for Bronson to play romance, and in truth it wasn't all that funny either, but over the years since its initial failure, a cult following has sprung up for this film.

Dorsey sees that nightmare he has had as a bad omen, and even worse is that when the next day the gang of five are making their way to the town to rob the bank, his horse becomes lame and he has to shoot it to put it out of its misery. Now he needs another horse, and as it happens along the way they see a house on the outskirts of the town which has a barn nearby - perhaps they could borrow the horse inside? Yet when they knock on the door and the widow who lives there, Amanda (Jill Ireland) relcutantly answers she denies that there is any horse in there and tells them the noises they hear is a cow.

Here is where the whole plot hinges, because Dorsey goes to investigate, but with that nightmare playing on his mind he decides to tell his partners that there is no horse even thought there is, thereby freeing him to stay with the widow while they go off and commit the crime. It is now noon, and they will return in three hours, which turn out to be three magical hours for Dorsey and Amanda as the romance blossoms in this short time, taking them from conniving outlaw and frightened but uptight lady to a couple who are relaxed in each other's company and very much in love. Dorsey doesn't know it, but he has sowed the seeds of his own downfall.

For once Ireland doesn't seem to have been cast simply because her husband requested it, and they make a truly captivating pair, with Bronson especially shining in an out of character role. He was never the greatest actor, but seeing him attempting something outside his usual range definitely pays off, even if it was not something many of his fans were keen to see - dare I say this is the film for those who don't think they like Bronson movies much of the time? Without spoiling what is full of surprises, From Noon Till Three transforms from a charming love story to a steely study of how myths are made and built up in the public eye, so much so that the actual people involved don't have control over their own personailties anymore because that public thinks they know them better than they know themselves. It becomes increasingly nightmarish by that last half hour, not really a comedy at all, and the ending turns what was bittersweet into a tragedy that packs a punch. It is different, but if your taste runs to the idiosyncratic, this was very underrated. Music by Elmer Bernstein, including the memorable song "Hello and Goodbye".
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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