Directed by Ted Post
May 18, 1986
A motley group of stagecoach passengers embark on a dangerous trip from Tonto, Arizona Territory to Lordsburg, New Mexico Territory.
This is a 1986 TV version loosely based on the legendary film that made John Wayne a star. This was also a starring vehicle for members of the supergroup The Highwaymen. Kris Kristofferson takes over the Wayne role of the Ringo Kid who here, unlike in the original, is innocent of the crime that sent him to jail. Johnny Cash stars as Marshal Curly Wilcox who rides along with Overland Stage Driver Buck (John Schneider-not a member of The Highwaymen) on the way to Lordsburg in part to arrest Ringo before he gets revenge on Luke Plummer.
Waylon Jennings stars as the gambler Hatfield and Willie Nelson is Doc Holliday because rather than have the original film character of Doc Boone they need to shoehorn in a real historical figure. Nelson gave an odd performance here. His delivery was fine, but he never blinked. He was ridged and afraid to blink. Fortunately he has improved as an actor since.
There are a few differences between this and the original. The whiskey salesman Peacock (Anthony Newley) makes it all the way to Lordsburg in the 1930s film but leaves the coach at the first stop after obtaining a horse here. The gambler Hatfield dies in the original but survives here. I guess Waylon Jennings was too big to die. In contrast the thieving banker Gatewood (Tony Fanciosa) survives in the original but is killed in this remake. Balance?
Stagecoach ‘86 is not a bad film but Kris Kristofferson replacing John Wayne is a bit questionable. He just does not exude the toughness as Ringo that John Wayne did. Then again Wayne is a tough act to follow. He had a unique screen presence that exuded toughness without doing anything and Kristofferson comes off more as irritated.
As a TV movie it is not bad. The look of the film is near feature film quality. It does not look overly cheap. From the town to the stagecoach to the costumes it looks good. The script is not sloppy and despite Wilson being bug-eyed the acting is fine. The major issue is that the film rushes through things. The film needed to take time to build like the original and this just did not. Or it just hurries through big events.
For example the attack by the Apaches is a blink and you miss it tight moment. I understand battles cost money and this had only so much allotted run time but if you are going to have characters traveling through hostile territory and build up a potential threat and then have them attack you should make it worth it. But it just felt rushed and a bit obligatory since they were trying to parallel the previous film.
Aside from the letdown of the Indian attack the rest of the movie is pretty good. It is an interesting story that will hold your attention from beginning to end. While I find it annoying that directors and screen writers need to put their own mark when remaking classic stories, it does not poo poo everything.
With a supporting cast of Elizabeth Ashley as Ringo’s love interest Dallas, Merritt Butrick as Lieutenant Blanchard who’s small accompanies the stagecoach, Mary Crosby as Mrs. Lucy Mallory, and Cash’s wife of an eventual 34 years June Carter Cash showing up as Mrs. Pickett we have a cast that makes the film enjoyable.
Stagecoach ‘86 is worth a watch. Even if you are a fan of the original, you will still find enough to enjoy in this film. Watch it!