THE VIRGINIAN: TRAIL TO ASHLEY MOUNTAIN (1966, USA) ***
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Abner Biberman; w. Sy Salkowitz; exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Cy Chermak; ph. Enzo A. Martinelli (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. Michael R. McAdam; ad. George Patrick; set d. John McCarthy Jr., James M. Walters Sr.; cos. Vincent Dee; m/up. Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Frank H. Wilkinson (Mono); tr. 2 November 1966; r/t. 76m.
cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Doug McClure (Trampas), Martin Milner (Case), George Kennedy (Huck Harkness), Gene Evans (Blanchard), Steve Carlson (Willy Parker), Hugh Marlowe (Ed Wells), Judi Meredith (Ruth), Raymond St. Jacques (Allerton), Paul Comi (Jack Harlan), Ross Elliott (Sheriff Abbott), Monica Lewis (Connie Wells), Jackie Coogan (Bodey).
(s. 5 ep. 8) Trampas (McClure) leads a two-man posse to capture the brother-in-law (Carlson) of a friend (Marlowe) in jail who is innocent when the Sheriff (Elliott) is injured. They encounter others who hinder their progress and an unhappy couple. But the big problem is Trampas’ partner. The story’s basic premise is of an outlaw on the run from a posse, where the posse, led by McClure, is made up of individuals each with their own reason for being involved. The tension plays off between these individuals through until the inevitable shootout finale. The story is elevated by the strong guest cast and good direction from Biberman.
BANDOLERO! (USA, 1968) ***
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox; Release Date: 1 June 1968 (USA), 2 August 1968 (UK); Filming Dates: 2 October–early or mid December 1967; Running Time: 106m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: 4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG-13/15.
Director: Andrew V. McLaglen; Writer: James Lee Barrett (based on the unpublished short story “Mace” by Stanley Hough); Producer: Robert L. Jacks; Director of Photography: William H. Clothier; Music Composer: Jerry Goldsmith; Music Supervisor: Lionel Newman (uncredited); Film Editor: Folmar Blangsted; Art Director: Jack Martin Smith, Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Chester Bayhi, Walter M. Scott; Make-up: Del Acevedo, Daniel C. Striepeke, Edith Lindon; Sound: David Dockendorf, Herman Lewis; Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott, Emil Kosa Jr.
Cast: James Stewart (Mace Bishop), Dean Martin (Dee Bishop), Raquel Welch (Maria Stoner), George Kennedy (Sheriff July Johnson), Andrew Prine (Deputy Sheriff Roscoe Bookbinder), Will Geer (Pop Chaney), Clint Ritchie (Babe Jenkins), Denver Pyle (Muncie Carter), Tom Heaton (Joe Chaney), Rudy Diaz (Angel), Sean McClory (Robbie O’Hare), Harry Carey Jr. (Cort Hayjack), Don ‘Red’ Barry (Jack Hawkins), Guy Raymond (Ossie Grimes), Perry Lopez (Frisco), Jock Mahoney (Stoner), Dub Taylor (Attendant), Big John Hamilton (Bank Customer), Robert Adler (Ross Harper), John Mitchum (Bath House Customer).
Synopsis: An outlaw rescues his brother from a hanging and is pursued by a sheriff to Mexico, where they join forces against a group of Mexican bandits.
Comment: Stewart poses as a hangman to rescue his brother Martin and his gang from a public execution. On their escape, they capture Welch, whose husband (Mahoney) was killed during a bank robbery led by Martin. Kennedy is the sheriff who leads a posse into Mexican bandit territory to rescue Welch and recapture Stewart and Martin. This Western is memorable for Stewart’s charm and Martin’s assured performance. The action is often violent and nasty, but the scenes are well-handled by McLaglen. The developing romance between Martin and Welch is subtly played if a little stilted, whilst Stewart has the best lines and is the most sympathetic character despite his outlaw status. Goldsmith supplies a memorable score and Clothier’s photography is crisp. A veteran support cast helps to make this an above-average genre film.
THE EIGER SANCTION (USA, 1975) ***
Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: The Malpaso Company / Jennings Lang / Universal Pictures; Release Date: 21 May 1975 (USA), 21 August 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: 12 August – late September 1974; Running Time: 129m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence.
Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Hal Dresner, Warren Murphy, Rod Whitaker (based on the novel by Rod Whitaker, as Trevanian); Executive Producer: David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck; Producer: Robert Daley ; Director of Photography: Frank Stanley; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Art Director: George C. Webb, Aurelio Crugnola; Set Decorator: John M. Dwyer; Costumes: Glenn Wright, Charles Waldo; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: James R. Alexander, Robert L. Hoyt; Special Effects: Ben McMahan.
Cast: Clint Eastwood (Jonathan Hemlock), George Kennedy (Ben Bowman), Vonetta McGee (Jemima Brown), Jack Cassidy (Miles Mellough), Heidi Brühl (Mrs. Montaigne), Thayer David (Dragon), Reiner Schöne (Freytag), Michael Grimm (Meyer), Jean-Pierre Bernard (Montaigne), Brenda Venus (George), Gregory Walcott (Pope), Candice Rialson (Art Student), Elaine Shore (Miss Cerberus), Dan Howard (Dewayne), Jack Kosslyn (Reporter), Walter Kraus (Kruger), Frank Redmond (Wormwood), Siegfried Wallach (Hotel Manager), Susan Morgan Cooper (Buns), Jack Frey (Cab Driver).
Synopsis: A classical art professor and collector, who doubles as a professional assassin, is coerced out of retirement to avenge the murder of an old friend.
Comment: Saddled with a weak by-the-numbers script this spy thriller is considerably bolstered by the superb mountain climbing footage and Eastwood’s star power. Eastwood also performed his own stunt work adding a sense of authenticity and he directed the climbing sequences with considerable skill, managing to create a tense climactic ascent of the Eiger. Kennedy shines in a support role as Eastwood’s climbing buddy, as does Cassidy as a gay assassin. Great use is made of Monument Valley and Swiss locations and John Williams provides an evocative score.
Notes: The scenes that depict Hemlock training for the Eiger climb include Monument Valley’s “Totem Pole,” a rock spire with an elevation over 5,500 feet. According to production notes, Eastwood performed the climb himself while Kennedy was lowered onto the rock’s crest by helicopter. Shortly after the scene was filmed, the Navajo Nation deemed “Totem Pole” off-limits to future climbers. Twenty-six-year-old British climber David Knowles died on the Eiger during the production.
THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (USA, 1974) ***½
Distributor: United Artists; Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 22 May 1974 (USA), 19 September 1974 (UK); Filming Dates: July – September 1973; Running Time: 115m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
Director: Michael Cimino; Writer: Michael Cimino; Producer: Robert Daley; Director of Photography: Frank Stanley; Music Composer: Dee Barton; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Casting Director: Patricia Mock; Art Director: Tambi Larsen; Set Decorator: James L. Berkey; Costumes: Jules Melillo; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: Bert Hallberg, Norman Webster; Special Effects: Sass Bedig.
Cast: Clint Eastwood (Thunderbolt), Jeff Bridges (Lightfoot), George Kennedy (Red Leary), Geoffrey Lewis (Eddie Goody), Catherine Bach (Melody), Gary Busey (Curly), Jack Dodson (Vault Manager), Eugene Elman (Tourist), Burton Gilliam (Welder), Roy Jenson (Dunlop), Claudia Lennear (Secretary), Bill McKinney (Crazy Driver), Vic Tayback (Mario Pinski), Dub Taylor (Station Attendant), Gregory Walcott (Used Car Salesman), Erica Hagen (Waitress), Alvin Childress (Janitor), Virginia Baker (Couple at Station), Stuart Nisbet (Couple at Station), Irene K. Cooper (Cashier), Cliff Emmich (The Fat Man), June Fairchild (Gloria), Ted Foulkes (Young Boy), Leslie Oliver (Teenager), Mark Montgomery (Teenager), Karen Lamm (Girl on Motorcycle), Luanne Roberts (Suburban Housewife), Lila Teigh (Tourist).
Synopsis: With the help of an irreverent young sidekick, a bank robber gets his old gang back together to organise a daring new heist.
Comment: Road movie turns into heist movie in this entertaining vehicle for Eastwood and Bridges. The plot is initially slight and the pace slow as we are introduced to the two misfit loners. Once Kennedy and Bridges enter the story the character interplay becomes the main focus and the pace quickens as the quartet take to work to raise money to fund their heist. The tone swings from comedy to melodrama to violent action but is generally well-handled by Cimino on his directorial debut. Bridges delivers a superb and believably natural performance and Eastwood generously gives him centre stage. Kennedy too stands out as Eastwood’s stubbornly proud ex-partner.
Notes: Cimino modelled this movie after one of his favourite films, CAPTAIN LIGHTFOOT (1955). Bridges was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.
Cahill: United States Marshal (1973; USA; Technicolor; 103m) *** d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink; ph. Joseph F. Biroc; m. Elmer Bernstein. Cast: John Wayne, Gary Grimes, George Kennedy, Neville Brand, Marie Windsor, Denver Pyle, Jackie Coogan, Harry Carey Jr., Pepper Martin, Paul Fix, Clay O’Brien, Morgan Paull, Royal Dano, Dan Vadis, Hank Worden. J.D. Cahill is the toughest U.S. Marshal they’ve got, just the sound of his name makes bad guys stop in their tracks, so when his two young boys want to get his attention, they decide to rob a bank. Late Wayne Western is middling story that has overly-preachy elements to it. Wayne is in good form though, despite his lack of screen time, delivering a typically tough performance. Kennedy is as reliable as ever as chief heavy and Bernstein’s score attempts to lift the tale out from its routine origins. Script, like BIG JAKE, is by DIRTY HARRY scribes the Finks but lacks dramatic punch. Based on a story by Barney Slater. 
Sons of Katie Elder, The (1965; USA; Technicolor; 122m) ***½ d. Henry Hathaway; w. William H. Wright, Allan Weiss, Harry Essex, Talbot Jennings; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Elmer Bernstein. Cast: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Earl Holliman, Michael Anderson Jr., Martha Hyer, Dennis Hopper, Strother Martin, George Kennedy, James Gregory, Paul Fix, Jeremy Slate, John Litel, John Doucette, James Westerfield, Rhys Williams. Ranch owner Katie Elder’s four sons determine to avenge the murder of their father and the swindling of their mother. Enjoyable, if slightly overlong, Western with Wayne in fine form supported by a strong cast including Martin, Holliman and Anderson Jr. as his brothers. Kennedy also good as a hired heavy. Rousing score by Bernstein. Filming was delayed after Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer. [U]
In Harm’s Way (1965; USA; B&W; 165m) **½ d. Otto Preminger; w. Wendell Mayes; ph. Loyal Griggs; m. Jerry Goldsmith. Cast: John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, George Kennedy, Patricia Neal, Tom Tryon, Paula Prentiss, Burgess Meredith, Slim Pickens, Dana Andrews, Brandon DeWilde, Jill Haworth, Stanley Holloway, Franchot Tone, Carroll O’Connor, Larry Hagman, Barbara Bouchet. A naval officer reprimanded after Pearl Harbor is later promoted to rear admiral and gets a second chance to prove himself against the Japanese. Bloated and flatly directed WWII drama has more than a hint of melodrama and fails to satisfy despite improvement in its final act. Script suffers by trying to open up too many dead-end sub-plots involving a casting mix of seasoned veterans and future stars. Virtues are crisp black and white cinematography and stoic performance from Wayne. Based on the novel “Harm’s Way” by James Bassett. [PG]
Earthquake (1974; USA; Technicolor; 123m) **½ d. Mark Robson; w. George Fox, Mario Puzo; ph. Philip H. Lathrop; m. John Williams. Cast: Charlton Heston, George Kennedy, Richard Roundtree, Lloyd Nolan, Walter Matthau, Ava Gardner, Genevieve Bujold, Lorne Greene, Marjoe Gortner, Barry Sullivan, Victoria Principal, Monica Lewis, Gabriel Dell, Pedro Armendariz Jr., Lloyd Gough. Various stories of various people as an earthquake of un-imagineable magnitude hits Los Angeles. A triumph of special effects over characterisation and plot. Heston plays the square-jawed hero in his usual style. Performances are variable with Gardner and Gortner particularly guilty of hamming up their roles. The finale lacks any real resolution. Oscar winner for Best Sound (Ronald Pierce, Melvin M. Metcalfe Sr.) and Special Achievement Award for visual effects (Frank Brendel, Glen Robinson, Albert Whitlock). Additional footage shot for 160m TV version. [PG]
Concorde … Airport ’79, The (1979; USA; Technicolor; 113m) * d. David Lowell Rich; w. Eric Roth, Jennings Lang; ph. Philip H. Lathrop; m. Lalo Schifrin. Cast: Alain Delon, Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely, George Kennedy, Sylvia Kristel, Eddie Albert, Bibi Andersson, Charo, Martha Raye, Cicely Tyson, John Davidson, Andrea Marcovicci, Jimmie Walker, David Warner, Mercedes McCambridge. This film is the last of the AIRPORT genre which stars Kennedy who has to contend with nuclear missiles, the French Air Force and the threat of the plane splitting in two over the Alps! Nonsensical final entry in the series is dragged down by preposterous scenario, risible and often embarrassing dialogue and wooden performances. The series was laid to rest with this one. The film reached UK theatres a year later, and was renamed upon its release there. Raye’s final feature film. [PG]
Airport ’77 (1977; USA; Technicolor; 114m) *** d. Jerry Jameson; w. Michael Scheff, David Spector; ph. Philip H. Lathrop; m. John Cacavas. Cast: Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, George Kennedy, James Stewart, Brenda Vaccaro, Joseph Cotten, Olivia de Havilland, Darren McGavin, Christopher Lee, Robert Foxworth, Robert Hooks, Monte Markham, Kathleen Quinlan, Gil Gerard, James Booth. Art thieves hijack a 747, hit fog and crash into the ocean, trapping them and the passengers under 100 feet of water. Strong cast adds value to this third entry in the series. Good production values and a tense final act overcome the by now obvious characters and familiar situations. Developed from a story by H.A.L. Craig and Charles Kuenstle. Network TV version added one-hour of additional footage. Followed by THE CONCORDE… AIRPORT ’79 (1979). [PG]