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


This early Tom Selleck/Sam Elliott pairing has the makings of a great film. The story of two brothers who fought on opposite sides of the war, who must now team up to find their kidnapped sisters is a good premise. Earlier this year, I read a Western novel by Bone Tomahawk director S. Craig Zahler with some similarities. But his book takes the story in an ultra-violent direction, whereas Andrew V. McLaglen’s turns the perilous adventure into a lightweight affair.

From the start, the tone is apparent: from Selleck’s escapades with women to Elliott’s near but never dangerous escape from the rope. What follows is a jovial tale that might be fun at times but it never feels suspenseful. Perhaps that wasn’t the goal, but as Howard Hawks said, “There’s only action if there’s danger.” In this case, there’s plenty of shooting and blowing things up but none of it feels like true action. It’s far too laid back. The one exception is the semi-villain played by Geoffrey Lewis, an unusual choice, who is the film’s only unpredictable element. I liked his performance and wish the script leaned more into his character. But like Burt Kennedy did in so much of his later work, McLaglen leans hard into the comedic side of his story and, in my opinion, misses what could have been a thrilling L’Amour adaptation.

But hell, it’s still a good time watching Selleck, Elliott, Katharine Ross, and Ben Johnson do their thing.

Watched on Tubi.