Winchester ’73 was the first of the great, groundbreaking Anthony Mann-James Stewart Westerns (and the only one in black-and-white). Stewart is driven anti-hero Lin McAdam, out to avenge the heinous murder of his father — and, in a parallel pursuit, to recover a much-coveted stolen rifle, now passing from hand to hand. It all leads to “one of the most neurotic shootouts in the history of the Western” (Phil Hardy, Time Out).
“My favorite westerns are the classic black-and-white westerns from the ’40s. One of them is Anthony Mann’s Winchester ‘73, which has very interesting male figures and situations. For example it’s got James Stewart playing this normal farmer, who is out on the road seeking revenge for some reason. Later he finds out that his brother killed his father, and there’s this great moment around the campfire where his buddy asks him, “Can you even go back? How can you keep living this life out on the road?” In westerns there’s often this discrepancy between the fantasy of being on the road and the desire for a normal life. There’s also this great coward figure in the film. Heroes who carry it within themselves, on the one hand this dream of “who would I like to be?” and on the other hand there’s who they are when their behaviour and actions are affected by fear. Those are always really exciting characters for me, and in Winchester ‘73 there’s this coward, who’s always sitting with his fiancé in the wagon, and when the Indians come he rides off and leaves everyone behind. For some reason I find him one of the most interesting characters in the film.” (Valeska Grisebach interviewed by Jessica Ellicott)