Small means are sometimes threatened by big men. Money can seem greener than the grass that grows on the other side. Comes a Horseman (1978), directed by Alan J. Pakula, chronicles the story of two ranchers who are fighting for the freedom that grows on their land.

Jane Fonda is a fighter. She has gumption and a tenacity that is shown tenfold in her character, Ella Connors. Ella is the proud owner of a piece of land her father passed down to her. She protects her herd of cattle and all that surrounds her. Ella has a hard exterior but at times finds that she can be overcome by the hardships of her luck.

Ella allows veteran Frank “Buck” Athearn into her life with a bit of uncertainty. Frank, played by the great James Caan, helps Ella even when she doesn’t ask for it. But Ella cannot fair for much longer; she’s desperate for money and is trying to overcome the odds of losing what she and her father worked for their entire lives. Frank and Ella come together to save the lives they both want to lead, on the land they love.

Oil is the driving force of bad luck for Ella. The signature evil cattle baron, J.W. Ewing, (Jason Robards), threatens to steal Ella’s land. The price of oil consumes Ewing idea’s of right versus wrong. There’s no way in hell Ella will ever let go of her land, regardless of the fight Ewing puts up. The war between the two hard-headed adversaries teaches everyone about the worth one puts on money.

With the help of Frank and her hired hand, Dodger, played by stuntman Richard Farnsworth, Ella goes head to head with Ewing. The outcome is a beautiful romantic drama with long shots of gorgeous landscapes and stunning portrayals of people fighting for what they believe in.

Alan J. Pakula directed Comes a Horseman with a raw sense of reality.Director Pakula (All the Presidents Men, Klute, Sophie’s Choice)  has a knack for chronicling the human condition while overcoming insurmountable odd. If anything, this film is important to watch based on the director alone.

Not only is the direction superb, but Gordon Willis’ cinematography is stunning. You can see Willis’ dark tones throughout the rural landscapes of Comes a Horseman. But there’s also a sense of reality in the ranching scenes where you can sense Willis’s experience working on some of  Woody Allen’s best films.

Fonda and Caan give incredible performances that deserved accolades, but only Richard Farnsworth, who played Dodger, was Oscar nominated.

Everything aligns in Comes a Horseman. The actors, the landscapes and the cinematography alone set the tone for an epic western drama. When the dust settles there is even love and a bit of comedy amongst Ella and Frank.

Find out what happens when the freedom of one tenacious woman is threatened as Comes A Horseman rides through your living room. You can own it now on Twilight Time Blu-Ray and DVD.

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