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Monday, May 30, 2011


James Stewart & Dean Martin are unlikely brothers in this unpleasant Western that comes with an inexplicable comic edge. Perhaps Stewart felt he had to add something to liven up the proceedings, but his wry winks & nudges only highlight a storyline that’s less mean-spirited than sour. The set up has Martin botching a bank robbery with his thuggish gang. They’re all caught, and a rope is already around their necks, when Dean recognizes the new hangman in town . . . Stewart. Off they go with the freshly widowed Rachel Welch as hostage; hard-driving sheriff George Kennedy (& posse) in pursuit; and, once over the border, a gang of Mexican ‘bandoleroes’ preparing to attack the lot of them. The scenery has its charms, thanks to William Clothier’s painterly outdoor lensing, but Andrew McLaglen megs in his usual coarse style, bringing out the hammy side of Stewart; the lazy side of Martin; the dull side of Kennedy; and giving Welch little help with her Sophia Loren impersonation. To his credit, McLaglen works harder than usual at staging his action sequences, he even manages to get thru the entire film without throwing in one of his signature, pointless donnybrooks; but honestly, the guy was a terrible hack.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: For old-line stars testing the waters of Hollywood’s newfangled amoral Western territory, try Hank Fonda & Kirk Douglas in the Joe Mankiewicz/Newman/Benton THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN/’70.

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