Beautifully photographed in black and white, this marks visually Mann's thematic transition from the claustrophobic alleys of RAW DEAL (1948) to the expansive, vacant frontiers of THE NAKED SPUR (1953). The key to Mann's brand of genre revisionism lies in his pragmatic modesty: the self-conscious arrogance that plagued fashionably PC westerns like BROKEN ARROW (1950) is completely absent.
Bent horizons, tight yet volatile compositions. The genre’s old gallantry turns obsolete in a West as astringent as Anthony Mann’s, his cowboys are modern brooders negotiating the impending collapse of terrain, body, and mind.
In Winchester ’73, Mann is a director of visual extremes and heroic compositions and framing: riders, whether alone or in groups, Indians or cowboys, ride along the crests of the endless dry hills... The little townships all seem freshly thrown up, and you can almost smell the turpentine and sawdust. The rich tonal palette of black-and-white film (so soon to largely vanish), and classic compositions by that early master William H. Daniels, make the film never less than impressive to watch.