Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Cowboys (1972)


I watched this on Netflix's Watch Instantly feature last night while Amy was at Bible study. It's a good one.

The story, which I somehow had missed even when I read the synopsis a while back, concerns Johny Wayne's character needing to take a herd of cattle to market, but lacking any hands to help him. On the advice of a friend, he looks into a local school and decides to hire a bunch of kids to help him (age 15 and under).

The acting of the kids ranges from good to pretty good. Thankfully, none of them are annoying. There are a couple of really good scenes, too, like when Wayne lays into the stuttering kid to try and get him to stop. The kid is so genuinely hurt, frustrated and angry that I'd swear that scene were real. I felt the emotions very acutely.

Bruce Dern's style of acting was unique and effective. He played the villain with a certain degree of charm and cowardice. His way of naturally delivering the dialogue and his effortless, "not-acting" facial expressions sell his character well. I don't think I've seen him in any other movies, so I don't know if that's his standard style or not.

Also great was Roscoe Lee Brown. I don't think I've seen him in anything else, but he's a wonderful actor. His character was full of authority and wisdom in a gentle and fatherly way.

John Wayne was John Wayne, but he has a good character here.

John Williams provided the score, and it was a little overbearing at times (as the scores to older westerns can be). There's a scene at the end where the kids are actually shooting it out with the bad guys, and the music gets all up-beat and adventurous. I can sort of understand that, hey, it's kids who are shooting it out and winning, but given the events that had just preceded the shoot-out (spoilers: the violent death of John Wayne, the near-hanging of Roscoe Brown), it seemed a bit too light-hearted.

Overall, a unique entry into John Wayne's catalogue, and a fitting movie to have at the end of his career.

4 comments:

Brian said...

Speaking of westerns, have you read any good western genre novels?? I watched Open Range the other day and then Tombstone the next, and then Wyatt Earp the next . . . Now I've got this strange craving to read a good western.

Ryan said...

You know, I've never actually read a proper western novel. The closest I've come was reading The Gunslinger by Stephen King, which is an interesting book, but the world is "weird western." So there's magic, mutants, out-of-place technology and such. I've also read a lot of western graphic novels, of course, but those don't count either. I'm sure there's gotta be some good ones out there. In fact, I remember one coming out somewhat recently that was written in the early 20th century that was censored and cut until now. I can't remember what it was called, but it's supposedly been this revered classic for all these years, even in its cut form, which cut out a gun battle at the end.

Have you seen The Quick and the Dead? It's not a great movie, but it's really entertaining, and if you're a gun-nerd like me there's a lot to like. It's nothing but quick-draw duels.

Nobody said...

The only Western novel I've ever read was a Zane Grey book in high school. I think it was Black Mesa. I remember thinking it wasn't very special, but at the time I couldn't care less about the Western genre. Maybe now I'd be able to appreciate it differently, but something tells me if you've read one Zane Grey novel, you've read all hundred of them.

Ryan said...

Zane Grey rings a bell. That might be the book I heard about being recently re-released with a bunch of censored material put back in.

You had to read a western novel in high school?