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 – TRUE GRIT (1969)

Image result for true grit 1969True Grit (1969; USA; Technicolor; 128m) ****  d. Henry Hathaway; w. Marguerite Roberts; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: John Wayne, Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Glen Campbell, Strother Martin, Jeremy Slate, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey, Donald Woods, Alfred Ryder, Ron Soble, John Fiedler, James Westerfield, John Doucette, Edith Atwater. A drunken, hard-nosed U.S. Marshal and a Texas Ranger help a stubborn young woman track down her father’s murderer in Indian territory. Scenic western with Wayne enjoying himself immensely in one of his best-remembered performances as Rooster Cogburn and Darby also excellent as young Mattie Ross. Hathaway paces the story just right and Duvall impresses as Wayne’s outlaw nemesis. Superbly photographed utilising stunning Colorado locations aided by a rousing Bernstein score. The only film for which Wayne ever won an Oscar. Based on the novel by Charles Portis. Followed by ROOSTER COGBURN (1975) and a TV pilot in 1978. Remade in 2010. [PG]

Film Review – THE WAR WAGON (1967)

Image result for the war wagon 1967War Wagon, The (1967; USA; Technicolor; 96m) ***  d. Burt Kennedy; w. Clair Huffaker; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Howard Keel, Robert Walker Jr., Keenan Wynn, Bruce Dern, Gene Evans, Bruce Cabot, Joanna Barnes, Sheb Wooley. A rancher returns from prison having survived being shot, to the ranch and gold that a businessman stole from him. He makes a deal with the man who shot him 5 years ago to join forces and steal a large gold shipment. Wayne and Douglas make a good team in this Western heist movie that promises more than it delivers. Keel also scores as a renegade Indian. Well shot action sequences and some witty dialogue help to mask some of the more fanciable elements of the script. Memorable Tiomkin score. Based on Huffaker’s novel “Badman”. [U]

Film Review – EL DORADO (1966)

Related imageEl Dorado (1966; USA; Technicolor; 126m) ****½  d. Howard Hawks; w. Leigh Brackett; ph. Harold Rosson; m. Nelson Riddle.  Cast: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt, Paul Fix, Arthur Hunnicutt, R.G. Armstrong, Edward Asner, Christopher George, Jim Davis, Michele Carey, Marina Ghane, Robert Donner, John Gabriel, Johnny Crawford. Cole Thornton, a gunfighter for hire, joins forces with an old friend, Sheriff J.P. Hara. Together with an old Indian fighter and a gambler, they help a rancher and his family fight a rival rancher that is trying to steal their water. Western re-teams Hawks and Wayne with the second half of the movie being a re-working of RIO BRAVO (1959). Many of the elements of that classic are repeated here and whilst it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its inspiration it is still fabulous entertainment. Mitchum is superb as drunken sheriff. Caan and Hunnicutt also shine as the young protegee and old Indian fighter. The poem recited by Mississippi is an actual poem called “El Dorado” by Edgar Allan Poe. Based on the novel “The Stars in Their Courses” by Harry Brown. [PG]

Film Review – THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER (1965)

John Wayne, Dean Martin, Michael Anderson Jr., and Earl Holliman in The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)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]

Film Review – McLINTOCK! (1963)

McLintock! (1963; USA; Technicolor; 127m) ***  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. James Edward Grant; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Frank De Vol.  Cast: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Yvonne De Carlo, Patrick Wayne, Stefanie Powers, Chill Wills, Jerry Van Dyke, Edgar Buchanan, Strother Martin, Aissa Wayne, Jack Kruschen, Bruce Cabot, Perry Lopez, Robert Lowery, Hank Worden. A cattle baron fights his wife, his daughter, and political land-grabbers, finally “taming” them all in this Western comedy with “Taming of the Shrew” overtones. High-spirited, if rather empty, Western-comedy is carried by the performances of its leads, with Wayne and O’Hara sparring off each other as they trade insults. The movie’s two big set-pieces – a slapstick fight in a mud pool and Wayne’s pursuit of O’Hara through the town in the climax are the most memorable sequences in this big, brawling and politically incorrect entertainment. [U]

Film Review – THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962)

Image result for the man who shot liberty valanceMan Who Shot Liberty Valance, The (1962; USA; B&W; 123m) ****½  d. John Ford; w. James Warner Bellah, Willis Goldbeck; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Cyril J. Mockridge.  Cast: John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Strother Martin, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, Jeanette Nolan, John Carradine, John Qualen, Ken Murray, Willis Bouchey, Carleton Young, Woody Strode, Denver Pyle. A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend and tells the truth about his deed. Ford’s last great Western is dominated by three strong central performances. Wayne represents the old-west values, whilst Stewart stands for the civilisation of law and order. Marvin’s outlaw stands in the middle as the evil which must be dealt with. Meanwhile, Miles must decide whether her heart lies with Wayne or Stewart. Rich in detail with a strong script and boisterous performances from a quality supporting cast and sumptuously shot in black and white by veteran cinematographer Clothier. In 2007, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Based on the story by Dorothy M. Johnson. [U]

Film Review – THE COMANCHEROS (1961)

Image result for the comancheros 1961Comancheros, The (1961; USA; DeLuxe; 107m) ***  d. Michael Curtiz; w. James Edward Grant, Clair Huffaker; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: John Wayne, Stuart Whitman, Lee Marvin, Bruce Cabot, Nehemiah Persoff, Ina Balin, Michael Ansara, Patrick Wayne, Jack Elam, Edgar Buchanan, Joan O’Brien, Henry Daniell, Richard Devon, Bob Steele, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams. Texas Ranger Jake Cutter arrests gambler Paul Regret, but soon finds himself teamed with his prisoner in an undercover effort to defeat a band of renegade arms merchants and thieves known as Comancheros. Interplay between Wayne and Whitman drives this otherwise routine story. Curtiz adds directorial style and the action scenes are well shot, but other aspects of the story never really get off the ground. Rousing score by Bernstein. The final film directed by Curtiz. On the days when Curtiz was too ill to work, Wayne took over direction of the film. Based on the novel by Paul Wellman. [PG]

Film Review – NORTH TO ALASKA (1960)

Related imageNorth to Alaska (1960; USA; DeLuxe; 122m) ***  d. Henry Hathaway; w. John Lee Mahin, Martin Rackin, Claude Binyon; ph. Leon Shamroy; m. Lionel Newman.  Cast: John Wayne, Stewart Granger, Fabian, Ernie Kovacs, Capucine, Mickey Shaughnessy, Karl Swenson, Joe Sawyer, Kathleen Freeman, John Qualen, Stanley Adams, Frank Faylen, Kermit Maynard, Roy Jenson, Alan Carney. When Wayne and Granger strike gold in Alaska. Granger sends Wayne to Seattle to bring Granger’s fiancé back to Alaska. Very broad Western, driven by high-spirited performances and helped by strong production values and use of locations. Lacks any real depth and its main purpose is as a time filler. Based on the play “Birthday Gift” by Ladislas Fodor and an idea by John H. Kafka. [U]

Film Review – THE ALAMO (1960)

Image result for THE ALAMO 1960Alamo, The (1960; USA; Technicolor; 193m) ****  d. John Wayne; w. James Edward Grant; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Richard Boone, Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Linda Cristal, Joan O’Brien, Chill Wills, Joseph Calleia, Ken Curtis, Carlos Arruza, Jester Hairston, Veda Ann Borg, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Cliff Lyons. In 1836, as General Santa Anna and the Mexican army sweep across Texas, Colonel William Travis is tasked with defending a small mission on the Mexicans’ route at all costs. Grand spectacle, notably the closing final battle scenes, are the main draw for this exercise in logistics. Wayne handles the whole thing with considerable aplomb. Whilst the inevitability of the story’s conclusion has been laid down by history, there is a sense of admiration for the spirit of the volunteers that only occasionally veers into the overly-patriotic and preachy. Wayne, Widmark and Harvey all bring star quality to the proceedings. Great score by Tiomkin. Wayne assumed huge personal debt to get film finished after United Artists refused funding once budget was exceeded. Oscar winner for Best Sound. Original video release cut to 161m. Remade in 2004. [PG]