CHISUM—-rootin’ tootin’ sixgun free-for-all, one of the better of The Duke’s last batch of actioners, refreshingly old-fashioned (aside from all the squib charges), packed with gunfights and fisticuffs, energetically put over in 1970 by a team of seasoned pros.
It’s a rambunctious, romanticized retelling of that durable slice of western Americana, the Lincoln County War, coming down in New Mexico of the bloody 1870s, mixing cattle baron John Chisum (John Wayne, to the hilt) up with Billy The Kid (Geoffrey Deull) and Pat Garrett (Glenn Corbett), and pitting them against a slew of dog-mean land grabbers and paid killers.
Upholding greed & corruption (did I say this was the old Southwest? ) are: Forrest Tucker, making up for F-Troop with relish, gleefully ridding himself of redeeming characteristics; shifty Bruce Cabot; hair-trigger badass Richard Jaeckel; and most auspiciously, Christopher George, vividly, vitally rotten, a score of noteworthy nastiness.
Andrew J. Fenady’s script doesn’t exactly bow you over with originality, but director Andrew V. McLaglen’s handling of the stereotypical situations is respectful of the genre: generally good natured in the humor angles and vigorous in the action department. It’s one of McLaglen’s best outings, along with Shenandoah and The Devil’s Brigade, much tighter than his too often lazy steering.
The production looks good (it came in under budget at $4,500,000) and took in enough to rank #19 for the year, rounding up $9,600,000. Filmed in some particularly attractive hills, valleys and canyons around Durango, Mexico.
With Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine (lots of Andy’s on this shoot), Pamela McMyler, Patric Knowles, Edward Faulkner, Lynda Day George, Ray Teal (his last movie), Christopher Mitchum, Robert Donner, Gregg Palmer, Ron Soble, Hank Worden, Abraham Sofaer, John Agar, Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez. Cinematography by William H. Clothier. Marred somewhat by a terrible song, warbled by Merle Haggard sounding like Glen Campbell. It’s inserted to accompany the budding romance between Deull and Pamela McMyler (complete with ironed hair out of the wrong 70s).