The film is known for being the indelible, mythic granddaddy of post-modern westerns as it isn’t just a western; it’s a masterwork in which every little detail seems to contribute to the intensity in the air and while it’s deliberately epic landscape photography is now a sine qua non of the genre. Director George Stevens helms in the grandest style, meticulously and subtly attending equally to all the elements while employing the good-guy/bad-guy stereotypes that characterize westerns but with a depth of intriguing complexity in narration and with characterization that’s stabled with a good cast and keenly restrained performances from Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Jack Palance and Brandon deWilde in a sophisticatedly noble, gun-totting, scenic plains of a seminal exemplar. The film is based from Jack Schaefer’s novel of the same name, it was consensually well receipted and has become a self-consciously intended western classic.
Here’s what some of the critical receptions have been for the film over the years:
Bosley Crowther from New York Times says: “For ‘Shane’ contains something more than beauty and the grandeur of the mountains and plains, drenched by the brilliant Western sunshine and the violent, torrential, black-browed rains…”
Emanuel Levy from EmanuelLevy.com says: “The direction is deliberate, but the attention to detail is impressive, and the performances of Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur and Brandon deWilde are so good and restrained that they overcome the social-mythical types they’re playing.”
Geoff Andrew from Time Out says: “Stevens’ classic Western, with its inflated reputation, now looks as if it were self-consciously intended as a landmark film right from the start.”
Roger Ebert from Chicago Sun-Times says: “There are intriguing mysteries in ‘Shane,’ puzzles and challenges, not least in the title character and the way he is played by Alan Ladd.”
William Brogdon from Variety says: “Wyoming’s scenic splendors against which the story is filmed are breathtaking. Sunlight, the shadow of rain storms and the eerie lights of night play a realistic part in making the picture a visual treat.”
The 1985 film Pale Rider is partly inspired by Shane, with Clint Eastwood playing a mysterious stranger who comes to the aid of gold prospectors terrorised by a mining tycoon
The 2017 film Logan drew substantial thematic influence from Shane, and formally acknowledged it with a series of specific dialog references and scene clips. As the film ends, Shane’s farewell words to Joey are recited, verbatim, at the title character’s grave.