Tuesday, August 18, 2015


TCM's star for tomorrow, August 19, is one of the more enduring stars ever to grace Hollywood: John Wayne. I have to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of Wayne's westerns, so my opinion is that you could do worse tomorrow than to start with Brannigan, which is coming on at 6:00 PM.

Brannigan is, of course, played by Wayne. Lt. Brannigan is a detective in the Chicago police department, and he's hot on the trail of the big-time gangster Larkin (John Vernon). It's not just that Larkin is a big gangster; it's personal for Brannigan in that he feels responsible for one of Larkin's men having killed Brannigan's junior partner. There's also a more pressing issue, that Larkin jumped bail, which is also why the cops want to get him again. As it turns out, Larkin has been found -- in England. One of Brannigan's superiors is waiting for him with a ticket on the next plane to London.

So Brannigan arrives in London, where he's picked up by his liaison for the duration of this asignment, Jennifer (Judy Geeson). Yes, she's a woman, but there's not much of a battle of the sexes here. The bigger issue for Brannigan is going to be with Cmdr. Swann (Richard Attenborough), Brannigan's colleague from Scotland Yard, and the guy who's going to be in charge of the case. Swann doesn't like the fact that Brannigan carries a gun, and also has a smug attitude about the fact that the Americans lost Larkin and it's the Brits who were able to locate him.

Swann is about to have that smug attitude wiped right from his face, however. They don't actually have Larkin in custody; they're just tailing him constantly so they can bring him in when they're ready to make the transfer to Brannigan. And in that time, Larkin goes to a Turkish bath, where he's kidnapped! Oh dear, that really bollixes up everybody's plans.

Enter Larkin's attorney, Fields (Mel Ferrer). He's willing to cooperate with the British police in getting Larkin back from the kidnappers. The kidnappers, for their part, have come up with a rather elaborately choreographed scheme to get the ransom money, but one that the police are able to surveil almost for the duration. So when they get to where the money should be, they get -- a bag full of newspaper! That certainly complicates things. But complicating them even further is the fact that Larkin hired a hit man to take out Brannigan in the UK.

It goes on like this for another hour or so after the botched ransom sequence, but when I write it like that, I'm not implying that the movie isn't entertaining. Wayne does well in what was only mildly a stretch for him; I can't help but think of compare his police detective to the old marshals he would have played decades earlier in all those westerns. The story is also well done, and the other supporting performances are good too. There's nothing particularly challenging here, and nothing particularly new, but oftentimes that's just the thing to sit back and relax.

Brannigan seems to be available from Amazon via instant video, but I think the DVDs are out of print.

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