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The Virginian

Threat advisory: Low - Low risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

The Virginian (Bill Pullman) is a man who has left his native state to test his fortunes in the new territories of the West. His strong bonds of friendship and his respect for freedom are matched by an unwavering sense of justice, all of which are soon put to the test.

In Wyoming, The Virginian falls in love with Molly Stark (Diane Lane), a strong-willed schoolteacher who has recently moved west from Vermont. Despite their strong bond, she questions, and eventually takes a stand against, the vigilante violence that is tacitly practised by The Virginian, and by all of the men who fight to find - and keep - their place in the emerging west.

The Virginian's desire to improve his station in life and be a success in Molly's eyes leads him to accept the job of foreman at a giant cattle ranch and face a separation with his past. The new responsibilities eventually require sacrifices that define this classic story's themes of destiny, maintaining personal integrity and accepting the consequences of commitment.

In a world in which the power of allegiance overshadows the written law, The Virginian faces a crossroads when he is betrayed by his best friend. As a result of the betrayal, he is forced to protect his ranch against a rival rancher and his relationship with Molly is jeopardised. He must risk losing his life, and her love, in order to enforce the Wyoming Territory's own stringent code of justice and honour.

Persons of interest

  • Bill Pullman .... The Virginian, Director
  • Diane Lane .... Molly Stark
  • John Savage .... Steve
  • Harris Yulin .... Judge Henry
  • Colm Feore .... Trampas
  • James Drury .... Rider
  • Gary Farmer .... Buster
  • Brent Stait .... Griffin
  • Sheila Moore .... Mrs Henry
  • Philip Granger .... Ben
  • Dennis Weaver .... Sam Balaam
  • Norman Edge .... Thorsen
  • Jim Rattai .... Nebrasky
  • Mark Anderako .... Mr Ogden
  • Maureen Rooney .... Mrs Ogden
  • Billy Merasty .... Lee Talltrees
  • Owen Wister .... Author
  • Larry Gross .... Screenwriter

Cinematic intelligence sources

  • Studios and distributors:

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

The Shakespearean.

Not that this film is in any way the equal of any of Shakespeare's plays, but Bill Pullman & Larry Gross have attempted to graft the Bard onto a Western in order to find something that is more than both. Unfortunately, they have found something which is less than either.

Shakespeare writes stories that reach into the guts of humanity and pull forth the viscera of human existence. Westerns celebrate the mythos of the cowboy in his battle against human nature amidst an unforgiving mother nature. The Virginian... well... The Virginian wanders around them wide-open plains like a lost bobby calf. There should be nothing more to a Western than a lonesome cowboy and his faithful horse; romance, rustlin' and rangin' are by-the-by. In this film they are everything with a little bit of horsing around thrown as an afterthought.


Bill's direction is as otiose as his acting - if he were any more laid back he'd be lying down - which puts him at odds with everything that's going on around him. The supporting cast are working hard to find the passion in their characters and the danger in their lives but are constantly being dragged down by Bill's stone-faced performance. Perhaps he's supposed to be subtle. Maybe he's going for the strong, silent type. It doesn't work. His lack of depth as an actor is fine for roles that don't require talent (eg the President in Independence day or the Sheriff in Lake Placid) but it puts him out of his depth in a character driven story like this one.

Feel free to give it a miss.

Security censorship classification

M (Low level violence)

Surveillance time

91 minutes (1:31 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

VHS rental: 8 August 2000

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