Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
A Texas frontier town bank is robbed and US Marshal JD Cahill (John Wayne) must bring the robbers to justice. Soon however he realizes his children were involved and now must make some hard decisions.
This is not one of Wayne’s stronger films and that is something even he admitted at one point. It is a good movie and I find it enjoyable, but it does lag in the pacing at times. I think a few scenes could have been shortened-mostly those between the robbers and Cahill’s kids. Also, the kinda romantic subplot with Mrs. Green (Marie Windsor)-the boarding house lady which Cahill charges with watching his youngest son Billy Joe (Clay O’Brien) before he and his oldest child Daniel (Gary Grimes) head to the mountains-which just stopped could have been removed completely. It did nothing to move the story forward and ultimately went nowhere. They imply an attraction and then…nothing. Her character was unnecessary.
John Wayne goes for full on father figure in this film. But he is a bit of an absent father having pawned off his children to the care of various townsfolk as he roams the frontier catching outlaws and dispensing justice. It’s one of his less perfect characters. Cahill is regretful of the life he leads but also has gotten himself caught in the cycle.
George Kennedy plays Fraser-the villainous head of the gang of robbers. Kennedy tries to give his character a little menace and at times succeeds but the dialogue he is given hampers his efforts. The lines coupled with his expressions come off a little on the hammy side.
Lightfoot (Neville Brand) is a serviceable enough character. He has a love/hate relationship with Cahill and is apparently the marshal’s go-to tracker as well as a reluctant friend. What bothers me are how white his teeth his are. Printer paper is not that white! And they are so big. Anybody know if it was some kind of denture? It is just really distracting at times.
At its heart the movie isn’t so much about the bank robbery and the money but rather about Cahill not being there for his children and those children suffering the consequences of that. He wasn’t there to raise them and now because of that they became involved in something that not only cost the lives of others but may end up costing them their own. Cahill is also confronted with doing his duty which may mean his children face some kind of punishment once he can prove their involvement.
One thing I find interesting is that at the very end of the film the fate of Cahill’s two children is a little ambiguous. While it is implied that they will be remanded to Cahill’s care, it is not definite. You usually got something definitive that could be called “happy.” Not here.
This is not a classic Western, but it is a good Western. It has some great one-liners and some solid action. Plus you get John Wayne. The visuals are excellent, and the story is not too bad. You will enjoy this one and revisit it every now and then.