Thematically fine but executed with very little skill.
Rebel soldier Matt Weaver returns to town after the Civil War, only to find that his home has been sold by unscrupulous town boss, Sam Brewster. Brewster, fearing for his safety, hires gunfighter Jules Gaspard d'Estaing to eradicate Weaver. But as d'Estaing's settles in to town it becomes clear to him just what a corrupt and morally bankrupt bunch the townsfolk are.
It grieves me to mark a film like this, with so many good people involved with it, down so low. The thematic heart of this picture is fabulous, nothing none of us haven't seen before, but tales of hired gunmen straightening out dirty towns are always of interest if handled with care and a commitment to the moral essence. Invitation To A Gunfighter, in spite of starring Yul Brynner, George Segal, Brad Dexter, Pat Hingle and Strother Martin, and being directed by Orson Welles collaborator Richard Wilson, is ploddingly paced and acted like a low budget C movie. The score from David Raksin is intrusive and completely out of sync with the nature of the piece, whilst the back lot location is all too evident.
The piece briefly picks up entering the final third, where thankfully Brynner is asked to earn his pay outside of walking around glumly, but it's a false dawn as the finale has all the excitement of a runny nose. I'm in the minority judging by the comments written for this film thus far, so maybe it caught me at a bad time, but the chances of me ever seeking this one out again are remote to say the least. 3/10
One of the few Mitchum films I have never seen.
What a pity then, that life is what we do, and not just what we feel.
Based on a story by artist Tom Lea (who cameos as a barber), The Wonderful Country stars Robert Mitchum, Julie London, Gary Merrill, Charles McGraw & Pedro ArmendÃ¡riz. It's directed by Robert Parrish, the score is from Alex North with Floyd Crosby & Alex Phillips on cinematography around the Durango location shoot.
A rich western that admirably crams in a lot of genre based themes and boasts a lead protagonist of high complex value. Tightly directed by Parrish (Saddle The Wind), who is aware that this needs no action overkill, it's really with Mitchum and Robert Ardrey's script that the film owes its success. Give or take a couple of missteps with the accent (he is playing a gringo pistolero) Mitchum dominates with his stature and laconic form of acting. He's playing Martin Brady, a man who finds himself being pulled emotionally on both sides of the Mexican/American border, the contrast between both lands, and Brady's persona too (he's effectively a man without a country), is very interesting. There's a number of well drawn characters who file in and out of Brady's life, all serving purpose to the plot, with Julie London's love interest thankfully having a more darker edge than others that were often seen in the genre. There's even an appearance of Baseball Hall Of Fame inductee Leroy 'Satchel' Paige as part of an all black army regiment. Yet another strand in this multi angled movie.
Very sedate in tone but with deep character drama at its core, Parrish's film is a thinking persons movie. Some critics have called it routine, while others have said it's complicated! I just think it's a film that needs to be watched more than once to fully digest its themes. It's not one for the action fan as such, but it is excellently written and performed by the principals. It's also a truly gorgeous movie visually and aurally. A fine film that rewards further on repeat viewings, especially for fans of the great Robert Mitchum. 7/10
The hell you say!
The Train Robbers is written and directed by Burt Kennedy. It stars John Wayne, Ann-Margret, Rod Taylor, Ben Johnson, Christopher George, Bobby Vinton, Jerry Gatlin and Ricardo Montalban. Music is by Dominic Frontiere and cinematography by William H. Clothier.
Mrs. Lowe (Margret) hires Lane (Wayne) and his assembled crew to retrieve half a million U.S. dollars that her late husband stole during a train robbery. If they can find it and return it to the railroad, Mrs. Lowe will clear the family name and the Lane crew will pocket the $50,000 reward. However, there's also a considerably large posse out searching for the gold, and who is the strange man travelling alone observing things from afar?
A Technicolor/Panavision production filmed out of Durango in Mexico, The Train Robbers is small in plot but huge in entertaining heart. Stunningly photographed by the magnificent Clothier, director and writer Kennedy blends action, suspense and comedy as he straight out focuses on characterisations. With under ten speaking parts in the piece, and man made property kept to a minimum, it's very much a pared down production. But this in no way hurts the film, in fact it's refreshing to see such an airy Oater, one that is made in the 70s but feels very much like a throwback to the 50s production line of Westerns.
The town of Liberty, Texas, forms the starting point for the movie, a near ghost town of a place, the arrival of the train bringing Mrs. Lowe and Lane feels like an intruder and accentuates the sparseness that will dictate the tone of the movie. Once the group head out into the wilderness it becomes about conversations and characters reacting to revelations born out by those chats. In the distance are the heavy numbered posse out for the gold as well, but we only glimpse them like they are ghosts of the terrain, they themselves intruding on the Lane group who as the journey unfolds start to bond and learn about life and each other.
Once the group locate the site of the stolen gold, it allows Kennedy and Clothier the chance to showcase some more striking imagery. Here out in the sand swept desert is what ultimately looks like a locomotive graveyard , the image is strong and it also signals the point where the film goes up a gear and the action enters the fray. All dusty paths then lead to an explosive finale and even as the dust settles we get a narrative twist that's very very cheeky. The cast are having fun, and hats off to Margret who manages to let her Mrs. Lowe character be more than just a honey-pot in the middle of mucho machismo.
I love The Train Robbers, I really do, it's beautiful to look at and features cast and characters that are so easy to warm to. Sure there's flaws and it's routine and hardly treads new ground at a time when the Western was on its knees and struggling to stand up. But it's made with love and respect for those genre fans willing to whisk themselves back to the harmless days of the Western. Those moaning about The Duke's girth are very much missing the point of it all. 8/10
besides, itâs hard to resist a movie featuring these two stars.
Above average Oater that sees Burt Kennedy recycle a classic format.
Six Black Horses is directed by Harry Keller and written by Burt Kennedy. It stars Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea and Joan O'Brien. Photography is by Maury Gertsman and the music scored by Joseph Gershenson. It's filmed in Eastmancolor and location for the shoot is St. George, Utah, USA. Plot sees Murphy and Duryea hired by O'Brien to take her across dangerous Indian country to her husband. But are ulterior motives at work?
There's no getting away from it, this film has striking similarities to the far superior Budd Boetticher/Randy Scott movie, Ride Lonesome. Also scripted by Burt Kennedy, the plot follows the same format and Kennedy even scripts some of the same dialogue. While the keen Western fan will note the name of Murphy's character, Ben Lane, was also used for a character in Boetticher's Comanche Station. So far so regurgitated then, but although it goes without saying that to watch this piece in conjunction with Ride Lonseome is a futile exercise, this does have enough about it to warrant a viewing on its own terms one Sunday afternoon.
It's a professional and well put together movie, Murphy and Duryea (owning the film from the second he turns up on his horse, shotgun in hands) aren't asked to extend themselves but make an engaging duo (see also their pairing in James Stewart starrer Night Passage 1957). While O'Brien (The Comancheros) is gorgeous and does a nice line in sultry devious. Editor turned director Keller does a competent job, his action construction solid if somewhat hamstrung by the odd daft moment involving the Coyoteros Indians. Stunt work is very good and Gershenson's (No Name on the Bullet/Lonely Are the Brave) score is brisk and tonally correct. Bonus here is the location scenery, beautifully realised by Gertsman's (Cattle Drive 1951) photography, the St. George craggy hills form an imposing backdrop as the protagonist's journey grows more perilous and their emotional states come under scrutiny.
Enjoyable with genuine moments of quality, even if it's ultimately the second cousin to a far better movie. 6.5/10