Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of finishing post and releasing my 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 Ninety Five: The Deadly Trackers
Considering the supposed production issues this film had, the outcome is a whole lot better than I predicted. Reportedly started under the direction of Sam Fuller (who wrote the source material) until he was kicked off along with most of his main cast and then revamped with Rod Taylor as the villain (who apparently rewrote a good deal of the script), the film bumped its way along all the way through post-production to completion. Funny too, this is the second time I’ve heard about Rod rewriting dialog on set in the last couple weeks. Was he one of those pain in the ass actors who is always stepping out of his lane or was he a humble creative force who happened to improve the films he was in? I’ll be curious to research more for the answer.
Anyway, back to the film, it has a lot of good things going for it. The opening is striking with some high stakes laid out in no time. The quest of retribution by Harris builds well and goes in surprising directions like an accident that occurs two thirds into the film. One of the most unexpected elements of the movie is Lettieri as the honorable Mexican cop. Usually he’d play the Taylor role (and steal the show with it) but here he plays against type. It doesn’t quite work but it’s an interesting change of pace to see him as the saint instead of the sinner.
Ultimately, I wish the last quarter of the film went in a different direction. I won’t spoil the ending but I think Harris could have gone even darker. Upon learning that Taylor’s villain has a wife and child, it would have been fascinating to see him decide to kill them instead. He becomes the evil that ruined his own family and therefore, Taylor is placed in his shoes. Alas, that’s not the direction the storytellers chose but I still think this film is worth a look.
Seen on DVD.