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Thursday, December 11, 2014

BIG JAKE (1971)

This late John Wayne Western is a surprisingly respectable outing. George Sherman, an old-line helmer from Wayne’s B-list days, is no Ford, Hawks or Hathaway, but he gets a nice rhythm going in this kidnapped grandson saga, and doesn’t force a roistering tone at us like the dreaded Andrew McLaglen, Wayne’s usual hack director.* Something of a family affair, Wayne’s got two of his sons in here (and a third on as producer); plus old-timers Maureen O’Hara; Hank Worden; Harry Carey Jr.; John Agar; even Robert Mitchum’s son Chris. (A few of ‘em don’t know much about acting, but that’s part of the charm.) The best support comes from Bruce Cabot as an Indian pal and from a great mangy version of Lassie. (And damned if the dog & the Native American don’t get the exact same treatment all thru the pic.) Agin’em, a whole posse of bad guys to take down ‘with extreme prejudice,’ led by a deeply creepy Richard Boone. So, lower your gaze, ignore a couple of lousy soundstage campfire settings and you might understand how this throwaway project made that year’s Top Ten grossers.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Wayne apparently took over a fair amount of the directing when Sherman proved too ill to work on the tougher locations. He’d done much the same for the aging Michael Curtiz on THE COMANCHEROS/’61, a film with the same DP (William Clothier) & composer (Elmer Bernstein).

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