“What you did was an act of war; but selling information — that’s treason, rotten treachery for money.”
Shortly after the Civil War is over, a Yankee colonel (John Wayne) joins forces with two Confederates (Jorge Rivero and Chris Mitchum) in confronting a corrupt rancher (Victor French) who betrayed his platoon during the war.
- Howard Hawks Films
- John Wayne Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Howard Hawks’ final film is traditionally viewed as the informal “third part of [his John Wayne] trilogy”, preceded by Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1966) — and while Peary argues that it’s “still quite entertaining” despite not being “as strong or complex” as either of these two earlier films, I disagree. Immediately after a rousing, finely crafted opening sequence — in which a team of Rebs carry out an elaborate act of sabotage against a gold-carrying Union train by creatively using hornets, smoke, and rope — the film quickly becomes rather boring “good guys against bad guys” western fare, with some obligatory romance and broad humor thrown in. Making matters worse is that none of the supporting actors are particularly convincing or interesting: former-model Jennifer O’Neill (playing a vengeful, hot-spirited townswoman) is simply annoying:
and Jorge Rivero is surprisingly uncharismatic as her French-Mexican love interest and Wayne’s right-hand man.
Meanwhile, Wayne (who was already suffering from the cancer that eventually killed him) seems to be mostly walking through his scenes.
In his review, Peary spends a substantial amount of time analyzing Wayne’s character, who he notes comes across as “less of a superman”, “less dominant than in early films, and mellower”, “more of a father figure than a leader” — but it’s difficult not to interpret these characteristics as merely symptomatic of his personal exhaustion, and perhaps a weariness with the type of cliched roles he was being asked to play again and again (throughout his lengthy career, he starred in nearly 250 movies — of which no less than 36 are listed or discussed in Peary’s book!). Howard Hawks completists and/or fans of Wayne will likely be curious to check out this rather pedestrian western, but all-purpose film fanatics needn’t bother.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- The initial train sabotage sequence
- Fine cinematography
No; despite its historical significance as Hawks’ last film, this one isn’t must-seeing viewing.