‘The mythology of the Frontier had given way to greed, vengeance and sadistic violence’ - Martin Scorsese

From the beginning, the western offered audiences the guarantee of dramatic action and valiant heroes. But the postwar years saw a new pessimism creep into American cinema, and in this age of film noir, McCarthyite paranoia and popular Freudianism the western turned its gaze inward – from the sweeping plains of old to the landscapes of the mind. Whether in a ‘psychological epic’ like John Ford’s The Searchers, or in the taut B-westerns of Budd Boetticher, these films of the 1940s and 50s saw heroes become anti-heroes, and aging gunfighters confront the true consequences of their violent pasts. This Sight & Sound Deep Focus programme explores this fascinating period, and takes a ride down the West’s lonesome trails.