Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

ride in the whirlwind poster 1966 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Nice looking, good cast

Story feels underdeveloped

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Ride in the Whirlwind

Studio:   Proteus Films

Genre(s):   Western/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):   October 23, 1966

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

ride in the whirlwind jack nicholson cameron mitchell

I hate it when my house guests take me hostage

A band of outlaws hit a bank transport and kill the people onboard. When a vigilante posse forms, the bandits find they are being hunted. Vern (Cameron Mitchell), Otis (Tom Filer), and Wes (Jack Nicholson) are cowboys travelling across the country. When they bed outside of the outlaws’ cabin, the posse thinks they are part of the robbery. Fleeing to the countryside, Wes and Vern find themselves fighting for survival and on the run…and fighting to escape a vengeful justice that they don’t deserve.

Directed by Monte Hellman, Ride in the Whirlwind is a western adventure drama. The movie was written by Jack Nicholson and shot back-to-back with The Shooting in Utah. Receiving some international screenings, the film was sold in a group bought by television. The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #735).

Westerns are always tricky to me. Though I generally like the scope and vision of westerns, I don’t always like the story and acting. The more fringe westerns (aka non-John Wayne westerns) are often better to me. I liked The Shooting and found this film good, but slightly less compelling.

ride in the whirlwind harry dean stanton

My daughter looks pretty in pink…

The story for the film falls under the category of acid western. The movie takes a rather bleak look at the West and doesn’t romanticize it as earlier western films do. The killers are killer and the heroes are slightly less defined. There is much more “gray” to the characters including Nicholson’s character who will kill innocents to protect himself in the long run (turning him into a true killer). You can tell watching Ride in the Whirlwind that the movie isn’t going to end happy.

The cast is strong. I really like early Nicholson before the real Jack took over. Though he generally receives top billing, he really shares the screen with Cameron Mitchell who seems to be more regretful about the situation (even when he slows the posse he doesn’t shoot at them). Harry Dean Stanton has a part as Blind Dick in one of his first major roles. Millie Perkins (who also starred with Nicholson in The Shooting) plays part of the stoic hostage trio that gets caught in the middle of the mistaken identity crisis.

ride in the whirlwind jack nicholson cameron mitchell

This is just like the end of Midnight Cowboy…minus the bus

Visually the movie is strong. Many of the shots of riding and mountains really highlight the land (and manage to look visually different from The Shooting despite the similar location). The solid look of the film combines with a decent cast to help elevate the story.

Ride in the Whirlwind is a short and sweet movie. It falls under an hour and a half and has enough depth to the story that it is worth watching more than once. While I feel that overall it is a solid film, it isn’t my favorite western and it feels like there is room for improvement. It is one of those rare cases where a longer film would maybe flesh out the story and add depth to the characters…but combine it with The Shooting for a nice night of dark western storytelling.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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