I continue to study the Western genre. I have now launched a podcast about the making of Western films. Listen here

One could certainly argue that this is not a Western but considering that it features both Wyatt Earp and Tom Mix as its main characters, revolves around the making of Western movies, and features key genre elements such as a horse chase and shoot outs, the film is at least a weird Western riff. And it could have been a fun one but I fear it was doomed before a single scene was shot.

This could be a perfect script to study for what not to do when writing a movie. First off, we’re presented with a buddy film that forgets one of key elements of that subgenre: the pair can’t start off as “buddies”, otherwise what’s the point? Every successful film of this kind from 48 Hours to Midnight Run has featured two opposites who start off in conflict and eventually come together. The people who conceived this bizarre movie set our two characters up as chummy from the very beginning! Because of this decision, the film becomes immediately dull and the poorly plotted mystery only makes it worse. There is so much potential in pitting an egocentric movie star against a grizzled lawman and the movie misses all those opportunities. I mean look at the incredible results of The Hard Way. I kept wondering if the people who made this movie had ever seen one before?

Sadly, the film was constructed by successful film veterans. So what the hell happened? I can’t even blame a director being out of his element, like Mankiewicz with There was a Crooked Man, when Blake Edwards made Wild Rovers, one of the best Westerns (and buddy movies) of the 70s. How they could have created something so flat and uninteresting baffles me. Even James Garner, an actor with consistent screen charisma, cannot save this picture. It might be one of the lowest moments of his career. Don’t even get me started on how they misuse Bruce Willis and create some of the weakest female characters I’ve seen in a long time. The only reason to be glad I finally watched this film is that I don’t have to be curious about it anymore.

Watched on Tubi.