The saga of Tom Horn - a real-life "enforcer" of Old West days - held a particular fascination for another legend. Hollywood icon Steve McQueen starred in and executive-produced what would be his next-to-last movie, a grit... more »ty, exciting recreation of Horn's latter-day career in a turn-of-the-century West where gentler ways supplanted the law of the gun - and Horn would be an unwitting victim of that change. Linda Evans, Richard Farnsworth, Billy Green Bush and Slim Pickens head a strong cast in a film capturing the essence of a time when a man's word was only as good as his guns or fists. Shot on serenely beautiful Arizona locations, Tom Horn indelibly brings to life one of the West's truly unsung heroes.« less
Barron Laycock | Temple, New Hampshire United States | 08/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the final few movies Steve McQueen (along with the little watched film version of Ibsen's "An Enemy Of The People") made before succumbing to cancer was this fine and under appreciated movie based on the historical facts surrounding the exploits, exploitation, trial and hanging of a man who wound up being the comparatively innocent "fall guy" caught in the middle of a number of clashing and rapidly changing social institutions of the American West. Horn is a gunman, drifter and marksman with a considerable reputation, and when he moseys into town the cattle ranchers see him as the key to their otherwise insoluble problems in settling their long-standing dispute with the sheepherders. Tom rids them of their problems, and in doing so is neatly set up to take the fall for a murder he didn't commit. Yet for the sake of everyone but Horn, convicting him makes considerable sense. Thus, he is railroaded, and he never stands a chance of exoneration.This is a wonderful if disturbing true story well told, and the cast is absolutely superb and on-key with tone-perfect minimalist acting that avoids being coy or too traditional, and McQueen, for all his health problems, delivers a bravura performance as a man caught by time and circumstance in a world he neither understands nor appreciates, and he does a wonderful job in conveying the stoical resignation with which this simple man accepts his unfair fate with dignity and maturity. The cinematography is absolutely breath-taking, and the size and grandeur of the surrounding scenery helps the viewer to understand just how significantly the small people like Tom Horn were in wresting the West from the wilderness it was to become part of so-called civilized and "citified" America. This is one you don't want to miss. Enjoy!"
Brilliant Performance By McQueen
Reviewer | 06/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A dramatization based on the true story of a legendary frontiersman, "Tom Horn" depicts the final years in the life of this tracker, interpreter and hero of the Apache Wars. Steve McQueen portrays Horn, who drifts into Wyoming Territory in 1901. There he makes the acquaintance of cattle rancher John Coble (Richard Farnsworth), who brings Horn's presence to the attention of the "Cattlemen's Association." There's been an ongoing problem with rustlers, not to mention the encroachment of sheep ranchers, and the association has been endeavoring to find a solution. In Horn, whose reputation precedes him, they see the answer to their problems, much to the consternation of Marshall Joe Belle (Billy Green Bush), who feels slighted in the matter; his ego, it seems, is even more pronounced than his own reputation. They hire Horn as a "Stock Detective," and give him free rein as to how he must deal with cattle rustlers; whether to shoot, or bring them in, is entirely up to him. In little more than a year's time, the rustling has stopped; Horn has done his job well. Too well, in fact. It seems that he's become a bit too "high profile," and after an incident in town, during which Horn kills a man in self defense, the members of the association, as well as Joe Belle, conclude that Horn is now their biggest problem. The last thing they want is to have their names appearing in newspapers, connecting them in any way with Horn or any of the recent killings. They want to be rid of him, and for good, but they don't know how to go about it. Soon thereafter, on one of the nearby sheep ranches, a fifteen-year-old boy is shot and killed in cold blood, by a rifle shot from a distance of two hundred and thirteen yards. Though an obvious set-up, Horn is subsequently arrested, and put on trial, for the murder of the boy. McQueen gives a performance here that is nothing less than remarkable. He deftly captures the essence of the rugged, loner cowboy, with a subtle, somewhat subdued approach that gives total credibility to his character. Horn is a cowboy, a product of the old west who has spent a lifetime killing and avoiding being killed, and like so many others of his time, is merely trying to adapt to a new century, a new era. Just another guy looking for work; and this is the Tom Horn that McQueen delivers to the screen, perceptively avoiding any feigned heroics or superfluous contrivances that would have given him that sense of being larger-than-life. His Tom Horn is a proud man, without being steeped in ego; and it's that down-to-earth attitude that makes him real, and gives distinction to this film. Director William Wiard does an exceptional job of formulating an appropriate atmosphere, and maintaining it throughout the film, which underscores the stoic nature of the story. He's made a pensive, penetrating western, realistically integrating the necessary violence into the natural fabric of the story. There's nothing gratuitous here; another aspect for which Wiard should be commended, because it adds even more to the impact of the climax. With an excellent supporting cast which includes Linda Evans (Glendolene), Slim Pickens (Sam), Roy Jenson (Mendenhour) and Geoffrey Lewis (Walter Stoll), "Tom Horn" is an honest study of life during an era of change; of the politics and prevailing attitudes that contributed to the shaping of a new century. And of the individuals, who in the final analysis, made a difference."
A fitting epitaph to McQueen's career
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 05/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Soldier, Indian tracker, lawman, outlaw, hired killer - there are about a half dozen movies that could be made about Tom Horn, so it's surprising that it wasn't until the Western was on its last legs that, aside from the odd fleeting appearance in B-movies, he finally made it to the big screen. In some ways it's amazing he made it at all. 1980's Tom Horn was a troubled picture, and that's putting it mildly. Sam Peckinpah was at one time tapped to direct, but he fell out with star and producer Steve McQueen before shooting started - possibly literally, since McQueen's alleged response to a furious argument they had in the car one evening led to McQueen insisting he get out without bothering to stop first. Neither Don Siegel nor Elliot Silverstein made it past pre-production. Electra Glide in Blue director James Guercio only lasted for the first three days of the shoot, and cinematographer John Alonzo and McQueen himself also had a hand in the finished film at one point or another, with credited director William Wiard apparently hired only to placate the Directors Guild when they wouldn't allow the star to direct himself. The screenplay went through many changes along the route as well, with Thomas McGuane's 450-page epic being constantly chipped away, Abraham Polonsky's rewrite being rejected and Bud Shrake's final script eventually alternating with McGuane's depending on which version the star felt like filming that day. And just to add to the good news, the picture suffered from major budget cuts due to studio politics and the threat of a William Goldman-scripted Robert Redford rival project (eventually made for TV with David Carradine as Mr Horn), shrinking from a three-hour $10m epic about the Indian tracker and interpreter's life to a $3m small-scale Western about its ignominious end.
Under such circumstances it would be wildly optimistic to expect the film to be even watchable, let alone great, but somehow it bucked the odds to come out as a bona fide forgotten classic. While there's no shortage of action in the first half of the movie - certainly enough for the studio to somewhat misleadingly sell it as an action movie - this is really a much more elegiac Western about the end of an era seen through the fate of a man out of his time and trapped by a reputation he cannot really live up to anymore. "If you really knew how dirty and raggedy-***ed the Old West was, you wouldn't want any part of it," he tells Linda Evans schoolteacher, and the ailing McQueen makes no attempt to disguise just how raggedy he looks himself. When we first meet Horn it's not long before he's on the losing end of a fight with champion boxer" Gentleman Jim" Corbett, and after a brief and all-too successful career disposing of rustlers for the local Cattlemen's Association, soon finds himself set up for an even bigger fall when his ruthless efficiency becomes something of a public relations disaster for them.
Taking its lead from Horn's own autobiography, dictated while on trial for murder, there is an element of print the legend to it: whereas the real Horn was undone by his own egotism (his claim to have captured Geronimo seems largely fantasy, though he was one of the trackers involved in the campaign), McQueen's Horn is a simple man, modest, inarticulate, awkward in social situations and only really good at killing, which he regards simply as his job. But there's a striking lack of vanity to the performance, with McQueen not afraid to look a shrunken figure long past his prime - even his futile escape attempt feels almost half-hearted, something he feels he's expected to do, and there's a sense of acceptance of his impending death as he makes his inevitable way to the water-triggered gallows that he springs himself because nobody else wants to pull the lever on him.
(Curiously lawman Joe LeFors, whose dubious testimony sealed Horn's fate, is renamed LaSalle in the film, possibly because McQueen didn't want the audience to make any connections with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which was a one-time McQueen project that helped his rival Robert Redford become a superstar: McQueen certainly knew how to hold a grudge.)
The scars of the troubled production do sometimes show, not least in a flashback so abrupt everyone in the theatres thought they'd got the reels in the wrong order, but the strengths more than compensate, not least among them an effortlessly superb supporting performance from Richard Farnsworth, who manages to create a convincing onscreen bond with McQueen despite their off screen history (the young McQueen had got Farnsworth fired from Wanted: Dead or Alive when the veteran was still a stuntman). The cold, stark look of the film, it's town either muddy or snowbound, its ranges barren and desolate, and Ernest Gold's brooding score also catch the mood of impending death all too well. The Hunter may have been McQueen's last film, but in many ways this is the more fitting epitaph.
The only extras on Warners 2.35:1 widescreen transfer are the original theatrical trailer and a promo for Wanted: Dead or Alive.
Robert Phillips | 04/21/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was lucky enough to be an extra in this film as a national guardsman and as a townsperson. I was one of the guys who escorted McQueen to the gallows. Steve McQueen was an amazing man who handled the shooting and riding to the amazement of the stuntmen and cowboys on the film. I recall him shooting cans with a six shooter while chewing a big wad of tobacco and drinking Old Milwaukee on ice. (His favorite drink). He was a gentleman and Dick Farnsworth and Slim Pickens hung out with us all the time. Slim even came by my fraternity. Geoffrey Lewis was great in this movie. Not much of a review but I love the film for all its great memories!"
ONE OF MCQUEEN'S GREATEST ROLES
Robert Phillips | 08/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A classic western and one Steve McQueen's greatest roles, Tom Horn is a must for any serious western movie library. The movie tracks Horn's tracks from the Southwest into Wyoming and a career as a "stock detective." The career begins promisingly enough but soon takes a downward turn as Horn, the simple cowboy and tracker, runs head on into big business politics and scandals that jeopardize not only his freedom but his life.The cast also includes Linda Evans (Dynasty) and Richard Farnsworth (The Grey Fox). As a result of viewing this movie I was also lead to an excellent biography: Tom Horn: Blood on the Moon: The Dark History of the Murderous Cattle Detective by Chip Carlson and Larry D. Ball. Once you see the movie you'll want to read the book."