"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day of the Evil Gun (MGM, 1968)

Day of the Weak Film


This is the last Western to be reviewed of the ones I saw on my vacation. Only The Spikes Gang was any good of the selection I had. I was unlucky. Still, there's no such thing as a really bad Western. There's no Western that it is totally unwatchable, that has no saving graces.

Actually, come to think of it, there is one. I'll write about it (if I can bring myself to) another time.

Anyway, to Day of the Evil Gun (lordy, what a title).

What is it about made-for-TV movies? How is it that you can tell, right away? But you can. Maybe it’s something to do with the cameras and lenses. It’s not to do with budget or stars. You can have a low-budget studio oater with unknown stars which is clearly a cinematic motion picture, and bloated productions with big names that are obviously TV ones. Odd.

Many of them are not very good. This one, for example. It is pretty tedious. Thank goodness it had Glenn Ford in it; otherwise it would have been a total clunker. But Glenn was fine, always, in everything. He lifted a mediocre picture and saved a bad one.

There have been lots of ‘Day’ Westerns. Day of Anger, Day of the Bad Man, Day of the Outlaw, A Day of Fury, and so on. Studios seem to like Days.

This one is about two guys who team up to rescue women taken by Apaches (it’s called Le Jour des Apaches in French). It's a plot that goes right back to Fennimore Cooper. But The Searchers it ain’t. And you can’t really tell which of the guys is the goodie and which the baddie, except that Glenn’s one of them so it’s a bit obvious. But you can’t tell from their actions. Arthur Kennedy is the other. My, how he could overact.

It was filmed in Mexico by an undistinguished photographer, W Wallace Kelley. Jeff Alexander did the music so it ought to have been alright. But it wasn’t. The dialogue was by Charles Marquis Warren so ought to have been at least passable. But it is wooden and ponderous. The acting, with the exception of Ford (even he looks overweight and tired) and John Anderson as a corrupt army officer, is universally dull. Dean Jagger, Harry Dean Stanton, Paul Fix, Royal Dano, great Western character actors but this time all poor. Perhaps with the script they had and the director, they couldn’t overcome those handicaps.

The director was Jerry Thorpe. Who? I hear you cry. Well, quite. He was the director of a number of TV episodes of We Love Lucy. A real qualification for directing an exciting Western, huh?

There are scenes when they ‘ride’ fake horses. I do hate that. Kennedy’s teeth are equally and equally obviously false. Perhaps it’s the teeth that lead him to call them aparches.

The women are just ciphers.

The hats are bad.

You’ll be getting the idea by now. This movie is NBG.


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