Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Sons of Katie Elder

I had another movie planned to blog about today, but things came up and so I had to watch The Sons of Katie Elder off a three-film DVD set of John Wayne movies. (It turns out there's a nine-film set available both at Amazon and the TCM Shop that has the three on the set I bought and six others.)

The movie starts off with a train heading towards a town, with opening credits and music that's unmistakeably Elmer Bernstein accompanying. That train stops in the town of Clearwater, Texas, where three men are waiting for a fourth. A man does get off the train, but it's not the one they were expecting, and the one they were expecting isn't on the train at all. It turns out that the three men are the Elder brothers: Tom (Dean Martin), Matt (Earl Holliman), and young Bud (Michael Anderson Jr.); they were expecting eldest brother John (John Wayne) to show up for their mother's funeral. John does show up, although he watches the funeral from afar.

The man who did get off the train, Curley (George Kennedy), goes to a ranch owned by Hastings (James Gregory), who is planning big things for the town. But the ranch used to be owned by the Elders' parents. Dad -- well, we'll learn a bit more as the movie goes on about how the ranch passed from his hands -- suffice it to say that he got shot to death, but the murder is unsolved. Mom had to move off the ranch after Dad died, and she died poor and one would guess of a broken heart.

The four sons begin to investigate, and find out that things aren't quite right, but that nobody will tell them the full truth of what's going on. Having said that, we can guess that Hastings is no good right from his first scene, as he's clearly expecing John Elder to mean trouble. The whole point of bringing Curley in is to deal with John before John can deal with Hastings.

The Sons of Katie Elder is one of those movies that I'd call good, solid entertainment, but it's also not the sort of thing I'd think of as standing out at anything. The movie has a fairly leisurely pace, running a bit over two hours and having a resolution that comes rather abruptly. The plot is one that you'd call "formulaic" if you wanted to denigrate the movie, but is really more of a standard-issue Western theme of revenge. (One of the top IMDb reviews used the word "traditional", which has rather more positive connotations than "formulaic".) There's a fair amount of action in the second half, and reasonably good performances. I just found it hard to find anything special in the film.

Still, the various box sets are relatively low priced. And considering that you're getting The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence and The Shootist at least, it's easy to think of The Sons of Katie Elder as a bonus. Besides, there are other people who will like it even more than I do.

No comments: