Jeremiah Johnson (1972) Robert Redford’s Journey Is Almost As Epic As My Waffling

I don’t manage to watch as many westerns as I’d like to. No real reason. I tend to bypass them when I’m ready for a film. Usually prefer to opt for a thriller, something dark. A drama. Saying that one of my top ten films could possibly be a western. Will one day soon do an article on that mystical western I do so love. However chatting about favourite westerns with Todd, my film buddy over at Cinema Monolith, it was raised that Jeremiah Johnson was one of his. The Sydney Pollack directed one with that Robert Redford fella. I didn’t know it. Well I’d heard of it. Never seen it. To be honest I didn’t know anything about it other than the title and Mr Redford don’s a big ass beard in it. Actually whilst watching the film I realised I’d used the GIF of beardy smiley nodding Redford in a few text messages over the years and never realised. Maybe it was Grizzly Adams! A wild Zach Galifianakis?

Me? Go off topic! Never!” Watching films and seeing famous GIFs has now happened twice in two days. Introduced Happy Gilmore (1996) to my son Kofi. Halfway through we get to Happy’s love interest, the character Virginia. She turns up in fantasy dream in sexy lingerie. BUT sexier than her in suspenders is the fact she’s carrying not one big flagon of beer but two! Oh my days! I guess whats worrying is how did I forget that sequence of events? I’d been happily forwarding that message out over the years for our Friday boys pub nights. Haha total oblivious to the fact that I really should of remembered where it came from.

Not only that! I then just learn that the girl with the lovely beverages is Julie Bowen. Otherwise known as Claire Dunphy from Modern Family. I never realised even whilst watching just a few days ago. So as you can see I rarely, if ever, go off topic! DOH! “Reel it back in Mikey. I know everyone left already but dude get back on track. What was I doing? A western? Oh yes Jeremiah Johnson, yes Mikey you back.

Lock down was here. I’m not watching as many films as I had first imagined. Kind of thought I’d be knocking numbers like 3 a day. In reality it’s about 5 a week. Pretty much no change from normal. The day still flies on by as if I was at work. Putting the death, chaos and destruction to one side I’ve been extremely humbled to have been able to spend beautiful time with my family. Eating together, walks and exercise together everyday. It’s been lovely. Then in a blink of an eye the call comes from work and it all comes to an end next week. Time to run back up the road for more beer, drown my sorrows, supplies.

“Damn it Mikey you blithering idiot! You’ve the attention span of a twitching chihuahua! Please just do the bloody film man.

Jeremiah Johnson – The Low Down

Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford), disillusioned by fighting in the Mexican War of 1846, decides to live the life of a mountain man. To live an almost hermit existence in the bleak winter months of the Rocky Mountains of Northern America. To live off the land as a trapper. Hunting for his food and becoming one with the wilderness. His first winter is arduous. He’s not adapt or skilled enough for the harshness of his new chosen home. A land designed to kill you. The story of Jeremiah Johnson is like an epic Ulysses journey. You follow him right through his learning curve voyage of survival. Fortune follows his good spirit in the beginning months as he meets a series of characters. Each helping him in differing ways. The first is the crazy, eccentric Chris Lapp (Will Geer) aka Bear Claw. He’s a friendly soul. A bonkers old codger obsessed with hunting Grizzly Bears. He helps Jeremiah learn the skills he will require to survive.

Soon his path will cross with the local Native American tribe called The Crows and the warrior Paints His Shirt Red (Joaquín Martínez). Then other tribes like the Flatheads and Blackfoot warriors. All sharing the vast lands. It’s a brutal life. The rookie Jeremiah soon learns the harshness of this terrain and what is needed for survival. Soon to be saddled with a “son” Caleb (Josh Albee) and then married to, no cooking skills, Swan (Delle Bolton). His life is changed once again. We all know when things start to look happy in these films that it can only mean one thing. And after that one thing Jeremiah don’s what looks like a pug dog’s head as a hat. Becomes a one man killing machine. As a constant barrage of warrior crows fling themselves at him in a nuts suicidal ritual of revenge.

Tim McIntire starts to sing………………………….

Things I’ve Learnt Along The Way

  • The superb director Sydney Pollack has the film in safe hands. Three of his films have been featured on my Wolfman Cult Film site. The Yakuza (1974), Castle Keep (1969) and The Slender Thread (1965).
  • Joint screenplays duties go to Edward Anhalt (The Sniper 1952 and Panic In The Streets 1950) and the larger than life John Milius (Dillinger 1973, Apocalypse Now 1979, Extreme Prejudice 1987)
  • The screenplay is based on two sources. One a 1965 novel by Vardis Fisher called Mountain Man and the other, the real life trails and tribulations of the real mountain man John Jeremiah Johnson. Which his life story was retold by Raymond Thorp and Robert Bunker in the biographical book Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson.
  • Now as the title of that last book says, the real life Jeremiah Johnson was a whole fiercer than our film Jeremiah Johnson. Where he certainly fights and kills may attacking Crows we don’t get to see him eating human livers!! Whether those Hannibal Lecter tales are true or a mythical retelling of the many tales spun together over time? I guess no one will really know.
  • A fact I learnt from our Todd was that the studio producers wished for the film to be made on the studio lot! Which when you see the movie you just can’t even imagine that they would of even dreamt of such an idea. The pure beauty of the film is the vast landscapes. The mountains, the cold and the trees and of course the bleakness. Luckily Sidney Pollack and Robert Redford were having none of this silly idea. It’s says that art director Ted Haworth drove over 26000 miles to find filming locations! Wow that is sure dedication. With the filming taking place in nearly 100 different locations across Utah. A truly incredible feat!
  • Jeremiah Johnson was a huge success. From a budget of 3 million dollars it is said to have made nearly 45 million dollars at the box office.
  • I didn’t realise it was Will Geer as Bear Claw. Known to everyone as Grandfather Walton under all those furs and giant beard. HA I should of known. Also Stefan Gierasch plays the equally bonkers bald headed loony Del Gue.

Closing Thoughts.

The photography is stunning. Purely sublime. It really takes your breathe away. It’s hard to fathom what it would of looked like if it was studio based and filmed on a studio lot! It certainly would not have been the epic film that I just watched! Just to sit there for two hours watching the journey of Jeremiah Johnson unfold was deeply rewarding. The visuals, the scenery, the bleakness and beauty. There’s a few lighter moments that make you smile alongside, the inevitable, unsettling sadness. At the end you really feel you’ve been on a journey. Totally knackered. Yeah I was late to the game but I got there in the end.

Next up on the western watch list in the coming weeks I will be watching two other Todd recommendations. Anthony Mann’s film Winchester ’73 (1950) that stars James Stewart and Shelley Winters. And the Howard Hawks movie Red River (1948) with John Wayne and Montgomery Clift.

Thanks Todd and thanks to anyone who got through the top waffling at the beginning. Please except my apologises. I assume everyone has seen Jeremiah Johnson? What’s your memories on that one and what is your favorite western’s may I ask?

Keep watching the screens. All the best… Mikey Wolf

PS Check this awesome Polish film poster

31 thoughts on “Jeremiah Johnson (1972) Robert Redford’s Journey Is Almost As Epic As My Waffling

  1. Brilliant review, Mikey. Very out of the box. I love that. The only thing missing was the wolfie-meter. For me, it’s is a 10 out of 10. I am very enamored with the young Robert Redford. (He hasn’t aged very well, but he’s still a great actor.) If I wasn’t so enamored it would be a 9.
    All that said, as much as I love the movie, I have only watched it 3 times–unusual for me with a movie I love. (I’ve watched Blade Runner at least a dozen times.) Jeremiah Johnson devastates me with sadness. It’s the same thing with another Redford movie–The Way We were. It’s one of only 4 or 5 romance’s that I like. The ending BREAKS ME DOWN to mush.
    Anyway, favorite western? McCabe & Mrs. Miller. It’s my all time favorite movie too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He’s done so many amazing films but somehow he slips off my go to actor when asked favorite actor. Maybe it was because he was some what on the pretty boy spectrum! A man thing possibly. Didn’t have that rugged alpha like Eastwood, McQueen etc. On the same level for me as Warren Beatty. Amazing films, actors etc but somehow dropped of my manly hero love.
      Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, All the President’s Men and my fav Three Days Of The Condor. I really like Sneakers too 🙂 oh and Barefoot In The Park but that’s for Miss Fonda. I’ve never seen seen The Way We Were. I should.

      Now I really want to watch McCabe & Mrs. Miller again. Real soon. Probably been 20 years. Loved it then sure to love it even more now.
      I did watch Two Mules For Sister Sara last week. Loved that! Wasn’t quite as good as I remembered but I do love Shirley MacLaine. Hey I watched The Apartment for the first time this week too. Oh my that was so great.

      So what was the Wolfie Meter for JJ? 8.5/10 (I tend not to add the wolfie meter to the random reviews. Just the two, dare I say, more structured review templates I use.
      I really very much enjoyed it for my first watch. Sure to be seeing it again.

      Thank you Pam, as always, for the nice comments.
      PS me toon Blade Runner though I might double those views 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hehe it’s not meant to mean a mystical western but what western has mystically made in it into my top ten films list! And I totally understand that sentence makes no sense, just like the one in the article. Haha
      That western I do so love is…… drum roll please….. A Fistful of………. Dynamite as us Brits know it or Duck You Sucker everywhere else apart from Italy where it’s known as Giù la testa.
      I adore that film so much and will be doing an article in the following few weeks to say why. 🙂

      I do love Pale Rider and High Plains Drifter very much also.
      Cheers Jay

      Liked by 1 person

        • The Italian translation for Giù la testa comes out as “Down the head” which I guess is the closest to Duck?
          But the guy literally carries dynamite around with him, in his fist! And it fits in well with the fistful of… films. Like part of the same universe.
          I adore it, so emotional. Leone filming with close ups is off the chart and the soundtrack is incredible as always from Morricone.
          His “My Name Is Nobody” is an oddity and really very good I remember so need to watch that again one day soon.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Was there a review of JEREMIAH JOHNSON?
    Sorry but I got permanently (and I think understandably) stuck on the gif of Julie Bowen.
    May I humbly suggest Mikey, that in future you insert those type of delightful honeytraps towards the end of your reviews rather than at the beginning?
    Otherwise I’m gonna miss out on a whole lot of film buffery in the weeks and months ahead.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You got me thinking it’s time for a revisit. I haven’t seen this in over 100 years. Or so I seems. Multiple viewings as a youngster but key images have remained. Like “you fish poorly.” And keeping that rifle with the kick back away from your nose. Great pick. On westerns I guess I can contribute since they’re my favorite genre. There are always the obvious like The Wild Bunch ,Leone or The Searchers but let’s suggest The Professionals if you haven’t seen it. One look at the cast and it rockets to the top of the list. On Mann and Stewart try The Naked Spur as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Mikey, thanks for watching, and so glad you enjoyed it. I really liked the review…but like Glen above, I was woefully sidetracked by that GIF…and I don’t mean the first one! My Dad took me to see this in the early-70s (the movie, not Julie Bowen in her undies), probably when it was in re-release, and I remember being mesmerized even then, as a youngster. And I just love that music…so sad and haunting.

    And yes, now you know what I was talking about with the location filming. How could it ever be done in a studio, and how could the studio be brainless enough to even suggest it? Like having The Revenant or Fury Road shot entirely in a sound stage!

    I can’t remember if we’ve discussed my favorite Western, but The Outlaw Josey Wales would rank right up there at the top, along with The Gunfighter and Winchester ’73…and of course, Jeremiah Johnson. And I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on those other two…Winchester ’73 and Red River. AND on Fistful of Dynamite, which I just found on-line (in HD Cinemascope, no less!) and will be watching soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Gunfighter and that John Wayne swan song one The Shootist were two fantastic westerns I learnt from you movie going friends over the years. Damn those two movie were amazing.

      The Outlaw Josey Wales yep I second that right up there with you bro. Now that is one classy film. Old Clint certainly knew how to direct himself in a incredible western or two.

      Yeah the sidetracked wolfman lunacy at the beginning did go off the rails. Next time I turn and start writing I had better remember to take my meds!

      What a cool memory to have of your Dad. I see the young mighty proud Todd mesmerized by the landscapes and swaying to the music as you sat there in the movie theater riding an imaginary horse. It was so great to have watched. I’m sure the day will come soon that I will be following JJ again on his epic journey. Thanks for the recommendation.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Believe it or not, I saw ‘The Shootist’ with my Dad at the theater, too, and I don’t think I’ve seen it since! Time to track that one down…I don’t remember much about it, but I keep hearing so much good about it. And ‘Fistful of Dynamite’ looks quite small in Cinemascope on my laptop, so I’ll have to ‘get’ it and watch it on TV. And if I review it…I’m going to have to go with its US title, ‘Duck, You Sucker!’.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The Italian translation for Giù la testa comes out as “Down the head” which I guess is the closest to Duck? The character does indeed say “Duck, you sucker”.
            The guy literally carries dynamite around with him, in his fist! And it fits in well with the fistful of… films. Like part of the same universe. If you can try and watch it on the big home screen if you can in good quality. I’m sure you will love it. Hope so.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. In my opinion, Jeremiah Johnson is much better than similar-themed The Revenant. I tend to like movies about people fighting the elements. The White Dawn, The Mountain Men, Man in the Wilderness, etc. I’m not an outdoorsy person (I hate camping!), so I’m in awe of people who choose to do this. Anyhow, Jeremiah is surprisingly great considering the fact that it was made by Urbane Pollack and WASP Redford.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha I had to look up WASP. hehe I now know exactly what you saying. Yeah they did well together under those circumstances.
      Against popular opinion I wasn’t that into The Revenant. Liked it but didn’t go overboard for it. Can’t see myself watching it again but with Jeremiah Johnson I know I will.
      Yeah I’m not a fan of camping anymore either. Loved it as a young man but now, oh my gosh. So uncomfortable. Don’t sleep, ache for days. I need a porcelain throne to sit on.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. “I’ve never seen seen The Way We Were. I should.”

    That one should be studied as one of the most powerful chick flicks ever created. In the car when it was over, my girlfriend was all broken down crying over it. Evoked feelings of unbearable loss for her. I found it sort of diverting but was not moved at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha that made me smile donquixote. I haven’t seen it yet but if I do and I feel my emotions break down I had better keep it to myself! Hehe I’m pretty sure I will be in the same camp as you. What was all the fuss about! Then Bette starts belting out “Wind Beneath My Wings” and my secret is out as the tears begin to flow!
      Thank for the great comment. All the best.. Mikey


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