McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) was directed by Robert Altman. Set in wet, foggy, and snowy British Columbia, the film tells a poetic tale about the rise of capitalism and the demise of the values of the old West, underscored by the music of Leonard Cohen.
In the midst of heavy autumn rains, a mysterious stranger comes riding into a small frontier mining town in the woodsy mountains. John McCabe is a drifter and opportunist who knows how to impress the simple-minded locals with dirty jokes, poker play, the habit of drinking whiskey mixed with a raw egg, and a (probably baseless) reputation as the man that shot Bill Roundtree¯. Sensing the opportunity, McCabe decides to settle down and open up a saloon and brothel in the young settlement.
Life at the frontier is rough and only the toughest, savviest, and most pragmatic individuals survive. Soon after construction begins and McCabe has purchasedā his first three whores from a nearby town, he receives a visitor: Mrs. Miller, a tough business woman who offers her experience as a whore and brothel madam to help McCabe run his business, while sharing in the profits and supplementing the brothel with a bathhouse, a group of classy young whores from the city, and a comfortable and luxurious interior. Though McCabe is generally averse to entering into business partnerships, he is incapable of refusing the charming and professionally competent Mrs. Miller, who soon takes over all management functions and literally runs the place.
Under Mrs. Miller's auspices the whorehouse thrives, and McCabe soon is the wealthiest resident in town. However, while McCabe becomes romantically infatuated with Mrs. Miller, she never forgets about profit and requests to be paid even for their nights together. At the same time, the flourishing of the town attracts the attention of a major corporation who sends out two agents to buy out McCabe. While Mrs. Miller knows about corporate mentality and urges McCabe to accept their offer, McCabe overestimates his negotiating power. After refusing two offers, he no longer gets a chance for a third but is subjected to three hired killers.
John McCabe (Beatty) rides into town, plays some poker, and starts construction of a saloon and gaming club, with three "chippies" in tents to service the men. Later, a professional named Constance Miller (Christie) arrives and makes a deal with McCabe: finance the building of a proper brothel with a bathhouse, and she'll manage it and split the profits with him. Of course McCabe gets sweet on her but doesn't know how to tell her. Then a big mining corporation wants to buy up all his property for the zinc deposits underneath, and when he bargains too hard, sends three killers to get rid of him. Like his anti-war war movie "MASH" from a few years before, in 1971 Robert Altman turned the cliches of the Western on their head. A stranger rides into town, builds up the place, is challenged by big money interests and hired guns, and there's a final showdown . . . but the town is in British Columbia, the hero may not be a real gunslinger (despite his reputation), and the big gunfight at the end is a fumbling hide-and-seek in a driving snowstorm. Not only that, but the townspeople not only don't acknowledge their debt to our hero, or help him out, but simply deny there's anything wrong and are totally unaware that killers are stalking him when the fight occurs! In addition, his beloved is an opium addict. Beatty is magnificent in this beautifully shot, depressing film. Watch for Shelly Duvall as a widow who learns the brothel trade, and Keith Carradine as a jovial young cowboy who gets viciously cut down. The soundtrack features the mournful songs of Leonard Cohen.
The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus