Shane ★★★★

Trying to think of another film that raises its stakes and shifts its tone by introducing a new character halfway through as much or as quickly as this one. Here, the shift is from 'serious' to, well, really serious, and very dark. And the new man is Jack Palance as a black-hatted gunfighter: a lean-cheeked cross between Everett McGill, Vito Antuofermo, Pier Paolo Pasolini and a Klitschko brother—a villain who smiles as he gloves up his trigger hand in preparation of killing a man in broad daylight (that squelchy mud outside of Grafton's...!).

Palance's Wilson is the opposite of Alan Ladd's Shane—a strong, blonde-haired silent type—though the two share a common background. Their first encounter, in which they size one another up under moonlight while two other significant characters talk, is framed and edited in such a way that the tension is almost comical (silent looks, mimicked gestures). Then there's the final showdown, and that pan across the bar, the camera-movement prompted by a resting dog rising to its feet to trudge from one sitting position to another. Superb.