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Monday, February 9, 2009

THE RARE BREED (1966)


Hiding inside this third-rate Western is a wonderful story that’s dying for a better telling. Andrew McLaglen, just off two big hits (McLINTOCK!/’63 and SHENANDOAH/’65), was a hack helmer with a penchant for sloppy camera set-ups, a tin ear for dialogue and a laissez-faire attitude toward aging stars. When in doubt he throws in donnybrooks to liven things up. Maureen O’Hara is a British widow who brings her prized Hereford to Texas for breeding and James Stewart (beginning his bad toupee era) is hired as escort for the lady & her bull. But only Brian Keith, as an unhinged Scottish/Texican rancher who woos the feisty O’Hara, finds just the right balance of OTT fun & sentiment. Some of the second-unit action scenes are quite well handled, they almost make up for the stagelot exteriors that look like Franco Zeffirelli sets for a production of Puccini’s GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST. But this story is so much better than McLaglen’s presentation, your heart sinks at such a missed opportunity.

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