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John Carpenter names his favourite American western of all time

John Carpenter has been one of the most interesting figures in the landscape of American cinema for a while now, having created many masterpieces that were misunderstood when they first came out. Through gems such as The Thing and They Live, Carpenter immortalised himself as a pioneer of the horror genre.

Carpenter was mesmerised by the magic of cinema when he was a child, an obsession that would shape his artistic sensibilities in the future. Drawing inspiration from low-budget horror flicks as well as sci-fi productions like Forbidden Planet, he was inspired to film horror films on 8mm film during his school years.

Alongside horror and sci-fi, there was one other genre which influenced Carpenter more than any other – American westerns. After being introduced to the films of John Ford and Howard Hawks, Carpenter related to many of their themes but he clearly had a favourite when it came to those two pioneers.

Carpenter explained: “Hawks was a visionary filmmaker who lasted from the silents to 1970. When I was in film school, the big director everyone talked about was John Ford. But I always thought Ford, who was Irish, was more of an immigrant director. Many of his themes were very European, as were his views of women, the family, and motherhood.”

According to Carpenter, John Ford’s vision of cinema was distant from his own experiences which is why he fell in love with the films of Howard Hawks. He claimed: “Hawks was a modern director. His women were strong and modern and put up with no bullshit. I really responded to that because it felt real and American.”

When asked about his favourite films of all time, Carpenter answered that it had to be one of Howard Hawks’ works which included his westerns like Red River. However, during a Rotten Tomatoes segment, the American auteur cited Rio Bravo as the one American western that would always remain close to his heart.

Talking about Hawks’ social sensibilities, Carpenter commented: “In Hawks’ world, Only Angels Have Wings and Rio Bravo are his visions of adventure stories with male groups, and men and women’s relationships, and life and death and danger. He’s developed that idea throughout his career. Those are just his beliefs.”

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