The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Young Guns of Texas

So do you have a famous parent? No? Me neither, but I've two keepers. I grew up in Chicago where Michael Jordan did and still does reign king, the greatest basketball player to ever live. Once his kids started to grow up though, the pressure passed to them. Would they be as good as Pops? Well, short answer, but 'No.' When you've got famous parents, there's pressure whether it's inward or outward to live up to what the parents accomplished. Take 1962's Young Guns of Texas, a little-known western that features four actors with famous parents.

In a town in the southern part of Texas, a young man, Tyler Duane (Gary Conway), rides in and starts asking questions. He's on the trail of a small army patrol but not an everyday army patrol, instead it's one Union officer, six Confederate soldiers and one woman. Looking for answers, Tyler meets a young cowboy, Jeff Shelby (Jody McCrea), who says the patrol passed through town a few days earlier. Why is this patrol so special? Tyler reveals they're carrying $30,000 in gold, but the patrol is wearing out horses trying to get to Mexico before they're caught. Jeff sides with Tyler, agreeing to join him on the trail, but they're not able to leave before getting caught up in some town drama. Now Tyler, Jeff and a small group are also being hunted, a posse following them. A showdown in the desert looms when all three groups meet up.

God bless Encore Westerns. They seem to show the same cyclical bunch of westerns -- some classics, some good, some really bad -- on a weekly to monthly basis, but I do love a western (basically any of them). I keep tabs on their schedule because let's face it, you never know when you may stumble across one you've never seen, maybe never even heard of it. Enter this little known, very B-movie(ish) western from director Maury Dexter. The description actually said "Mostly noteworthy because of appearances by offspring of...." without actually giving....ya know, a description. Well, the story ends up being a mess, but it clocks in at just 78 minutes. As soon as it starts, it's over. Not especially good, but not long enough either where it overstays its welcome.

As for those celebrity offspring, yeah, they're here in abundance. Along with McCrea (father Joel McCrea), look for James Mitchum (Robert's son) and Alana Ladd (Alan's daughter) in key parts. Even Chill Wills' son, Will Wills (that's his name, no kidding) makes an appearance. What's the verdict? Who holds their own? Who doesn't? None are especially good to be fair. McCrea holds his own as Jeff, a young cowboy always seeming to get into trouble. Mitchum is okay but nothing flashy, trying to go for the strong, silent type that his Dad became synonymous with. Ladd isn't given much to do other than look pretty, part of a doomed relationship with Mitchum's character, Morgan Coe, a young man rescued from a Comanche tribe now dealing with prejudices of the classier white society. Of the young stars dubbed the 'Young Guns of Texas,' I thought Conway holds his own best and he's almost a background player in parts.

Simply put, 'Guns' tries to accomplish far too much. There's two main storylines, both worthy of their own feature length movie, but instead we get two decent stories jammed into one lightning-quick 78-minute story. Story 1: A young former Union officer (Conway) rides into town looking to return $30,000 in Army payroll that's been stolen by his brother. The officer and a cowboy hit the trail to reacquire the gold. Story 2: A former Comanche captive falls for the beautiful daughter of the local rancher (Robert Lowery) who doesn't take kindly to the possibility of that son-in-law...even though the rancher was the one that rescued Morgan from the Indians years before. Neither story gets the attention it deserves, wasting the potential that could have brought 'Guns' up a notch or two into some pretty respectable territory. As is, there is simply too much going on, the two stories absolutely forced to work together, coherent story be damned!

But you know what? I still liked this mess of a movie. It isn't good, but it's entertaining. At a certain point, I just stuck with it to see how things were resolved, for the sake of a review, and to see which characters get picked off in the finale. There isn't much in the way of action, and when it's there, 'Guns' borrows liberally from some 1950s westerns, including most obviously some footage from Hondo. It's an odd bean to say the least. I liked the potential, three young cowboys, a little kooky preacher in Chill Wills, the young, innocent daughter, and a tough-talking, seductive female rancher (Barbara Mansell) on the trail kept me intrigued. The payoff is okay, but it's nothing special as things are rushed together in a flash. If you're a western fan, you may enjoy it in bits and pieces. As a whole? Eh, could have been pretty decent with some tweaks.

Young Guns of Texas (1962): **/****

No comments:

Post a Comment