Two Wayne Westerns, Two Eras...
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 01/18/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Packaging "Tall in the Saddle", one of John Wayne's best-loved 'B' westerns of the 1940s, with "The Train Robbers", a lesser Wayne western effort from the 1970s, is, at first glance, a strange pairing, as the films have virtually nothing in common, other than both being westerns, and both starring the Duke.
But setting aside the lack of 'common ground', if you are a Wayne fan (as I am), both films are worth owning on DVD. "Tall in the Saddle" (1944), with a screenplay co-written by Wayne's lifelong friend, character actor Paul Fix, and produced by future Wayne business partner, Robert Fellows, is, in truth, a murder mystery set in the Old West, as Wayne investigates the murder of his prospective employer. Befriended by crusty woman-hater Gabby Hayes (who Wayne had worked with, frequently, dating back to his 'Lone Star' quickie western days, the previous decade), he quickly finds himself up to his neck in suspects (including a too-genial 'judge', played by another life-long friend and collaborator, Ward Bond). Loaded with some of the best humor of any Duke film (after he pistol-whips a gunman expecting a shoot-out, he responds, when admonished for HITTING the man, "Yes, ma'am, just as hard as I could!"), and some combustible sex appeal (provided by sultry Ella Raines), the film is short, fast-paced, and exciting. It even offers Wayne's vision of his future, as, when hearing Hayes described as a "grumpy old cuss", he replies, "I like grumpy old cusses...Hope to live long enough to be one."
By the time of "The Train Robbers" (1973), Wayne had certainly achieved that goal! Produced at the twilight of his career, as the combination of deteriorating health and a lack of good scripts were taking their toll, the film is a lightweight, if good-natured entry, of a group of gunhands (headed by Wayne), hired by sexy Ann-Margret to recover and return a gold shipment stolen by her late husband. Filmed in the era of "The Sting", nothing is as it seems, and the group soon finds themselves pursued by outlaws and a mysterious stranger (Ricardo Montalban), all leading up to a 'twist' ending. The fun of this movie isn't in the plot, however, but in the obvious camaraderie between Wayne and another lifelong friend and co-star, Ben Johnson, as well as with Rod Taylor (in his only teaming with the Duke), and Christopher George (in his fourth, and final appearance in a Wayne film). The chemistry between Wayne and Ann-Margret is light, and sweet-natured; she flirts, he reminds her that his saddle is older than she is! This isn't anywhere near the best of the Duke's movies, even for the 1970s, but it is likable, and the Wayne persona is as charismatic as ever.
At a really terrific price, "Tall in the Saddle"/"The Train Robbers" is certainly worth owning, especially if your DVD budget is limited.
The Duke STILL delivers!
William W. Miller | Sparks, NV United States | 01/15/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Seems an odd mix here, a vintage Wayne film and one of his last. These films were released almost 30 years apart. Both are decent westerns, neither considered among Wayne's best, though the earlier one features Gabby Hayes and that is reason alone for aquiring.
As for the Train Robbers, it's a decent but lightweight film with fun byplay between members of the Wayne troop and Ann Margaret is certainly attractive. It does have a bit of a twist at the end. But Wayne at the end of his illustrious career is just a bit too long of tooth to carry off the potential romance angle that's supposed to exist with Margaret, as evidenced by him telling her that his saddle is older than she is.
Just wondering if we are going into a period of repackaging Wayne films ala Elvis and every song he ever recorded."