The Traven Brothers.
The Shadow Riders is directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and adapted to screenplay by Jim Byrnes from the novel written by Louis L'Amour. It stars Tom Selleck, Sam Elliott, Katharine Ross, Dominique Dunne, Ben Johnson and Geoffrey Lewis. Music is by Jerrold Immel and cinematography by Jack Whitman.
A CBS TV production, The Shadow Riders has Selleck (Mac Traven) and Elliott (Dal Traven) as brothers, who even though they fought on different sides in the Civil War, there fondness for each other still exists. With the war now officially ended, the brothers meet up and head for the family home, here they find their parents telling of how their sisters and Dal's girlfriend Kate (Ross) have been abducted by Renegade Rebels. The men promptly set off in search of their loved ones... It's all very much standard stuff, both in plot telling and production values. Exuding very much a family feel, it's a disappointingly bloodless and sexless picture, with some clichÃ©'d dialogue, poor musical accompaniments to certain scenes (tonally way off) and filler sequences thrown in for good measure. That said, it's very much a harmless piece, with the two male leads good company to share some time with, while Johnson and Harry Carey Jr. offer up a welcoming presence. Location scenery is also well photographed, keeping things airy, and ultimately it's a decent enough time waster for Western fans not expecting an under seen gem. 6/10
I haven't seen The Sacketts , which is why I didn't mention it in my review for TSR, which I think is meant to be a sequel of sorts?
I suppose when one deals with men of action, one just expect action.
"As the American Civil War ended, another war was just beginning. The Mexican people were struggling to rid themselves of their foreign Emperor--Maximilian. Into this fight rode a handful of Americans--ex soldiers, adventurers, criminals--all bent on gain. They drifted South in small groups-- AND SOME CAME ALONE"
Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster head the cast as two polar opposite American adventurers who get involved with Maximilian's royal house and Juarez's revolutionaries in 1860s Mexico. Cooper plays Benjamin Trane, basically a good man, tho one tainted by much cynicism, and Lancaster plays Joe Erin, gunman and an untrustworthy crook. Vera Cruz was the first release in SuperScope (beautifully shot by Ernest Laszlo on location in Mexico) and with director Robert Aldrich at the helm, the film brilliantly captures the violence and danger that was brought about during Mexico's revolutionary period. Adapted by Roland Kibbee and James R. Webb from a Borden Chase story, Vera Cruz very much feels like (is) a precursor to Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch and Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns of the 60s.
With its blend of comedy and outright action, the film is essentially a buddy buddy Western with a cynical amoral kicker. It's a blend that may not be to everyone's tastes, but with Lancaster (grinning for all he is worth) and Cooper (laconic supreme) in the leads the film rises above its oddity status. The professionalism on show, both from the obvious big stature of its stars and Aldrich's astute choreography of the action sequences, ensures this is a polished piece. There's much machismo of course, one only has to see that Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine and Jack Elam are in the support gallery of thugs to know this fact, but it should be noted that the picture is interested in showing a fair reflection of the Mexican conflict. The Mexican government of the time were outraged at the film, but on reflection now it's evident the film doesn't take sides. That to my mind has to be applauded.
Some problems exist, notably some of the dialogue is a touch too corn based now. While as the main female character, Denise Darcel is out of her depth. One could think that she is maybe swamped by all the testosterone around her, but when you notice that Sara Montiel is coping fine in a secondary role, it shows Darcel to be limited. Vera Cruz held its own on release, neither busting the box office nor sinking without a trace. It would take over ten years before the true value of the film would start to be noticed. With that, it now shows to be very influential within the genre. Explosive, important and darn good fun, that's a mixture you just can't ignore. 8/10
Low, Low budgeted Django clone fails to ignite.
Django (Ivan Rassimov) returns to the family home to find his father has been robbed and murdered by bandits. Ignoring the advice and pleas of his sister Mary (played by Rassimov's real life sister Rada), Django sets off to town for revenge. But this is merely the beginning of things...
There's enough enjoyment here for the very hardcore Spaghetti Western fan, but expectations levels really should be set at low. There's plenty of the standard Spag shootings, stand-offs and posturings, moody atmosphere and the music is pretty ace (Felice Di Stefano), but the structure of the pic is off.
Directed by Edoardo Mulargia and written by Vincenzo Musolino, the creators take a gamble by having the revenge aspect played out very early in the piece, the plot then thrusts a multitude of characters involved - in one way or another - in the search for the missing money taken when Django's pa was killed. The whole piece feels like a string of sequences stacked up against each other without a flowing sense of rhyme or reason. It doesn't help that this incarnation of Django is bland and it is in fact his side-kick Barrica (played by Ignazio Spalla) that engages more on the fun and entertainment front. The low budget shows on occasions (watch out for that deja vu feeling), whilst logic jumps and daftness are never far away.
Needlessly complex in telling and structure, pic is marginally saved by the action and some colourful characters, but really it is for those die-hard Spag fans only. 5/10
Fort Utah is directed by Lesley Selander and written by Steve Fisher and Andrew Craddock. It stars John Ireland, Virginia Mayo, Robert Strauss, Scott Brady, John Russell, Richard Arlen and James Craig. Music is by Jimmie Haskell and cinematography is by Lothrop Worth.
Drifter Tom Horn (Ireland) teams up with Indian Agent Ben Stokes (Strauss) to help a pioneer wagon train against army deserters and Indian renegades.
Filmed in Technicolor/Techniscope out at Vasquez Rocks and Santa Clarita in California, Fort Utah, in spite of being shot in 1966, feels like a 1950s Oater. Of course the big giveaway is that the headliners in the cast are more long in the tooth than back in the day. Yet collectively they have produced a a very decent Oater with old fashioned value.
There's plenty going on in the plotting. The Indians have had enough of the reservation living arrangements so a renegade band have fled, leaving Ben Stokes the not unenviable task of trying to locate and placate. There's a gang of army deserters - The Marrauders - led by nefarious Dajin (Brady) out for what they can get their hands on, illegally of course. Right in the middle of hostile territory is a wagon train of pioneers who unbeknown to themselves are going to need help to survive, enter Tom Horn and the Fort Utah of the title.
Pic never wants for action, Horn gets into a fight pretty much every ten minutes, be it fisticuffs or shoot-outs, there's barely pause for him to take breath, well except for when he's getting smitten with Linda Lee (Mayo a gorgeous mature at 46) that is. She's travelling with the wagon train and has a secret as well as a major cleavage that gets an airing during a ferocious Indian attack on the wagon train. Whilst unsurprisingly she's getting unwanted attention by a scallywag pioneer fellow...
Some of the stunt doubles are very poor, which sort of sits with Haskell's cheesy musical score, and the big finale features a WTF moment to close down the encounter. But with some very nice photography for the night time scenes, and the superb backdrop of Vasquez Rocks pleasing the eyes, one can't grumble about not having it all. It's not a classic of course, and it has some formulaic baggage to carry around, but for old fashioned Oater lovers this has much to recommend. 6.5/10
Denver and Rio Grande is directed by Byron Haskin and written by Frank Gruber. It stars Edmond O'Brien, Sterling Hayden, Dean Jagger, Kasey Rogers, Lyle Bettger and J. Carol Naish. Music is by Paul Sawtell and Technicolor cinematography by Ray Rennahan.
Two railroad companies battle for the right of way through Royal Gorge - with murderous results...
In truth it's without doubt that the scenery on offer here, and if you happen to have any kink for olde steam trains, are what puts this in the above average department. Plot is based around real instances during the advancements of the Denver and Rio Grande railway. It plays out for entertainment purposes as baddies against goodies and as a notable observation of what some will do to get their way. There's strands involving wrongful accusations, simmering passions and a whole host of train sequences snaking through gorgeous locations. There's even some amazing train carnage, which is thrilling and more potent as it's not model work on show. Cast are fine and turning in perfs that we accept as viable for our enjoyment - with a pat on the back for Zasu Pitts and Paul Fix who are playing out a cute and funny mature courtship in the making - and all other tech contributions are safe and appealing enough.
Opening with a voice over narration set to scenes of the then modern D&RG railway, before whisking us back to its formative years, this is a nice nostalgia piece that overcomes its plotting failings courtesy of big heart and ocular delights. 7/10
Both films were shot back to back.