Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of making my own 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.
Week Forty Four: Duel at Diablo
I finally got around to watching this. It’s been sitting on my list for years now, recommended by my friend/mentor Gus Edwards. I don’t have the same affection for the film as he does and it took a further conversation for me to see what he saw in it but as usual, I’m glad I gave it a look.
The film starts promising enough with Garner rescuing the woman and going back to the troops to set up the traveling plot. My first issue with the movie comes quick in the shape of Bill Travers, the Irish (I think) cavalry commander. I’m sure Bill’s a good actor in some things but his character here never worked for me; I didn’t believe a single second, especially of the accent, which is ironic since Bill is English. His voice and mannerisms are over the top and don’t jive with everything else that’s going on.
Garner is okay but a little flat in this and I think Poitier could have had more fun with his role. They’re both just a little too generic for me. The only talent who really stood out in the picture was Dennis Weaver, who I know best from Spielberg’s Duel and his brief role in Orson’s Touch of Evil. Weaver is believable and a delight to watch as he weaves (sorry) through the narrative, not quite knowing what his deal is till the end.
In the end, I was mildly amused by the picture. Gus explained that it’s the exact kind of film he’d love to see on a Saturday afternoon at the movie theater when he was a kid. From this perspective, I can see a lot of admiration for this action romp. It’s a Western drawn with crayons, not painted with oils.
Seen on Amazon Prime.