Film Review – HANG ‘EM HIGH (1968)

Image result for hang em high 1968Hang ‘Em High (1968; USA; DeLuxe; 114m) ***  d. Ted Post; w. Leonard Freeman, Mel Goldberg; ph. Richard H. Kline, Leonard J. South; m. Dominic Frontiere.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Inger Stevens, Ed Begley, Pat Hingle, James MacArthur, Arlene Golonka, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper, Ruth White, Ben Johnson, Charles McGraw, Alan Hale Jr., James Westerfield, L.Q. Jones, Joseph Sirola. When an innocent man barely survives a lynching, he returns as a lawman determined to bring the vigilantes to justice. Well-meaning morality tale doesn’t always hit the right notes after an engrossing opening. The tale meanders to a conclusion that isn’t. Issues are left unresolved, which may have been the intended message but leaves the viewer feeling unfulfilled. Eastwood looks comfortable in the lead and Hingle adequately conveys the pressures of the hanging judge. Stevens completes a trio of characters scarred either mentally or physically. Frontiere’s overly melodramatic score is often at odds with the complexity of the material. A flawed but worthy effort. The first film produced by Eastwood’s Malpaso Company. [18]

Film Review – THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971)

Image result for the last picture show 1971Last Picture Show, The (1971; USA; B&W; 118m) ****½  d. Peter Bogdanovich; w. Peter Bogdanovich, Larry McMurtry; ph. Robert Surtees; m. Phil Harris, Johnny Standley, Hank Thompson.  Cast: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan, Clu Gulager, Sam Bottoms, Randy Quaid, Joe Heathcock, Bill Thurman, Jessie Lee Fulton, John Hillerman, Noble Willingham, Grover Lewis, Kimberly Hyde, Gary Brockette, Sharon Taggart. In 1951, a group of high schoolers come of age in a bleak, isolated, atrophied West Texas town that is slowly dying, both culturally and economically. Superbly acted drama populated by imperfect characters trying to make a sense of their lives in a dying Texas town. Bogdanovich gives the characters room to breathe and adds a directorial flourish to create an overarching sense of sadness. The 1950s setting is realistically realised through Polly Platt’s production design and Surtees’ black-and-white cinematography. Won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Johnson) and Supporting Actress (Leachman) as well as receiving six other nominations. Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry. Director’s cut runs 126m. Followed by TEXASVILLE (1990). [15]

Film Review – THE TRAIN ROBBERS (1973)

Image result for the train robbers 1973Train Robbers, The (1973; USA; Technicolor; 92m) **½  d. Burt Kennedy; w. Burt Kennedy; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dominic Frontiere.  Cast: John Wayne, Ann-Margret, Rod Taylor, Ben Johnson, Christopher George, Bobby Vinton, Jerry Gatlin, Ricardo Montalban. A gunhand is hired by a widow to find gold stolen by her husband so that she may return it and start fresh. Late Wayne Western has a slight story that is stretched out over its running time. Disappointment from writer-director Kennedy has endless shots of the cast riding across the desert and through rivers punctuated by occasional action. Luckily, we have Wayne on board with a solid veteran cast, even if the cast is given little to work with. Beautifully photographed on location in Durango, Mexico. [U]

Film Review – CHISUM (1970)

Image result for chisum 1970Chisum (1970; USA; Technicolor; 111m) ***½  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Andrew J. Fenady; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dominic Frontiere.  Cast: John Wayne, Forrest Tucker, Christopher George, Ben Johnson, Glenn Corbett, Bruce Cabot, Andrew Prine, Patric Knowles, Richard Jaeckel, John Agar, Lynda Day George, Pamela McMyler, Lloyd Battista, Robert Donner, Geoffrey Deuel. Cattle baron John Chisum joins forces with Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett to fight the Lincoln County land war. One of the best of Wayne’s latter-day Westerns. It may not be historically accurate, but it makes for a rousing entertainment with a sharp script. McLaglen directs with style and a great sense of landscape. Johnson scores as Wayne’s mumbling sidekick. Wonderful score by Frontiere. Durango, Mexico. Fenady adapted his short story “Chisum and the Lincoln County Cattle War”. [PG]

Film Review – THE UNDEFEATED (1969)

Image result for the undefeated 1969Undefeated, The (1969; USA; DeLuxe; 119m) ***  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. James Lee Barrett, Stanley Hough; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Hugo Montenegro.  Cast: John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Bruce Cabot, Ben Johnson, John Agar, Antonio Aguilar, Lee Meriwether, Roman Gabriel, Merlin Olsen, Harry Carey Jr., Royal Dano, Marian McCargo, Melissa Newman, Jan-Michael Vincent, Edward Faulkner, Paul Fix. After the Civil War, ex-Union and ex-Confederate Colonels are leading two disparate groups of people through strife-torn Mexico.  Boisterous Western, typical of its director and the late career of Wayne. Hudson is the surprise package, turning in a dignified performance as the proud defeated Confederate Colonel. Some memorable set-pieces atone for the routine nature of the story and a disappointing finale. Nice use of locations in Sierra de Órganos National Park in Mexico. Based on the novel by Lewis B. Patten. [PG]

Film Review – RIO GRANDE (1950)

Rio Grande (1950; USA; B&W; 105m) ***½  d. John Ford; w. James Kevin McGuinness; ph. Bert Glennon; m. Victor Young.  Cast: John Wayne, Claude Jarman Jr., Ben Johnson, Maureen O’Hara, Harry Carey Jr., Chill Wills, J. Carrol Naish, Victor McLaglen, Grant Withers, Patrick Wayne, Steve Pendleton, Alberto Morin, Stan Jones. A Union officer is in charge of an outpost on the Rio Grande in which he is in charge of training of new recruits one of which is his son whom he hasn’t seen in 15 years. Third of the Wayne/Ford “Cavalry Trilogy” is probably the least, but still vastly entertaining. Story unfolds at a leisurely pace (including two or three musical interludes) with Wayne and O’Hara sparking a strong chemistry in their first of five outings together. McLaglen offers his familiar light relief as heavy-drinking sergeant. Extensive use of Mohave Valley locations. Based on a story by James Warner Bellah. Also available in a computer colourised version. [U]

Film Review – SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949)

Related imageShe Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949; USA; Technicolor; 103m) ****  d. John Ford; w. Frank S. Nugent, Laurence Stallings, James Warner Bellah; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Richard Hageman.  Cast: John Wayne, Ben Johnson, Victor McLaglen, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Harry Carey Jr., Mildred Natwick, Paul Fix, George O’Brien, Arthur Shields, Michael Dugan, Noble Johnson, Fred Graham, Tom Tyler, Jack Pennick. A US Cavalry Captain, on the eve of retirement, takes out a last patrol to stop an impending massive Indian attack. Encumbered by women who must be evacuated, Brittles finds his mission imperilled. Gloriously shot (Hoch’s colour photography rightly won an Oscar) second film in Ford’s celebrated Cavalry Trilogy is a thoroughly entertaining account of the last few days active service of respected Captain Wayne. The production values are high and great use is made of the Monument Valley location. Wayne is in top form in a role older than his years. Johnson also shines as unassuming sergeant, whilst McLaglen adds his usual high spirits to the proceedings. Followed by RIO GRANDE (1950). [PG]

Film Review – THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974)

Image result for the sugarland express posterSugarland Express, The (1974; USA; Technicolor; 110m) ****  d. Steven Spielberg; w. Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins, Steven Spielberg; ph. Vilmos Zsigmond; m. John Williams.  Cast: Goldie Hawn, Ben Johnson, Michael Sacks, William Atherton, Gregory Walcott, Steve Kanaly, Louise Latham, Harrison Zanuck, A. L. Camp, Jessie Lee Fulton, Dean Smith, Ted Grossman. A woman attempts to reunite her family by helping her husband escape prison and together kidnapping their son. But things don’t go as planned when they are forced to take a police hostage on the road. Spielberg’s first theatrical feature is a winning combination of drama and humour. Balancing the tone is the director’s biggest challenge as he takes on this adaptation of real life events. Hawn and Atherton score strongly as the misguided couple, whilst Johnson gives a quietly effective performance as a sympathetic lawman. The tone shifts sharply in its final act, but this remains an engaging tale. [PG]

Film Review – THE WILD BUNCH (1969)

Image result for the wild bunch 1969Wild Bunch, The (1969; USA; Technicolor; 145m) ****½  d. Sam Peckinpah; w. Walon Green, Sam Peckinpah, Roy N. Sickner; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Jerry Fielding.  Cast: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Strother Martin, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Jaime Sanchez, L.Q. Jones, Emilio Fernandez, Albert Dekker, Bo Hopkins, Dub Taylor, Paul Harper, Jorge Russek. An aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the “traditional” American West is disappearing around them. Ultra-violent statement from Peckinpah symbolising the passing of the Old West and the introduction of modern warfare. Immaculately shot and edited with a percussive doom-laden score by Fielding. Veterans Holden and Ryan in particular are superb and are well supported by a strong stalwart cast. Opening and closing shootouts are brutal. [18]