The Shooting (1966)

shooting poster 1966 movie jack nicholson
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Solid western with a good cast and location

Story feels like it could be developed more

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Shooting

Studio:   Santa Clara Productions

Genre(s):   Western/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):   June 2, 1966 (Pesaro Film Festival)/October 23, 1966) (San Francisco Film Festival)

MPAA Rating:   G

shooting woman millie perkins

I shoot what I want!

Willet Gashade (Warren Oates) and Coley (Will Hutchins) have been hired by a mysterious woman (Millie Perkins) for an undefined job.  Discovering they are tracking someone, Willet and Coley learn that they too are being tracked by a hired gun Billy Spear (Jack Nicholson).  Spear and the woman have a plan and Willet and Coley discover they are caught in the middle of it.  The desert is dangerous, but the woman and Spear could be even more deadly!

Directed by Monte Hellman, The Shooting is a low-budget Western thriller.  The movie was shot with Ride in the Whirlwind (1966).  While well-received at some film festivals, the movies ended up being sold directly for television distribution.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #734).

Jack Nicholson had a lot of small, early films.  He was a Roger Corman graduate and met Monte Hellman through Corman.  I always like looking back on old Jack Nicholson because it is fun to see him as an “actor” instead of just playing the “Jack Nicholson” role.  There is a lot of the Jack Nicholson role in this movie and it isn’t a bad thing.  A ******spoiler alert******* goes into effect for the rest of the review.

shooting 1966 billy spears jack nicholson western

I’ve come to steal this movie!

The movie is kind of ambiguous and that is a good thing.  Oates’s character reluctantly takes the woman’s assignment even though he knows she’s lying while Hutchins takes her at her word.  The short film manages to build up the two odd relationships with the woman and then introduces the third player of Nicholson as the woman’s hired gun which strains both relationships instantly…yet, the characters continue on with her and Billy Spear.  It leads to a violent ending with more ambiguity and few explanations.  Gashade’s brother Coin is the man they are hunting…it could have something to do with a person trampled by Coin, but it never is explained.

The cast is strong.  Warren Oates could arguably be the most foolish of the group in that he knows there is something wrong about this woman from her first appearance, yet he goes along with her and leads Coley to death.  Millie Perkins plays a good user who recognizes that her femininity and money can capture whomever she needs.  Nicholson brings a great swagger to the gunshooter Billy Spear who has to believe in himself and ability…something that Nicholson always emotes.

shooting billy spears willet gashade warren oates jack nicholson

Just a fun ride through the desert…

The movie also looks very good.  It was shot in Kanab, Utah which seems desolate and arid.  It isn’t the pretty desert and feels deadly…despite the characters riding deeper and deeper into it without any plans for a return trip.

The Shooting is a solid film that is rather underseen despite Nicholson and Oates’s involvement.  The movie is short and two the point (less than an hour and a half), and the plot does keep it interesting.  It might not be as straight forward as a John Wayne Western and it might not have the beauty of a Man with No Name Eastwood film, but it has its own different style worth checking out for fans of westerns.

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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