THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER
(directed by Henry Hathaway, 1965)
***** (out of 5)
> This flick was classic western cinema from the opening shot: the great wild West, awash in strains of Elmer Bernstein’s sweeping score.
. Four ne’er-do-well brothers return to their hometown after long absences to bury their mother- but the locals are not thrilled to see them. Their mother was universally regarded as a saint, struggling hard to make ends meet while bragging about her four boys who had all but abandoned her to her dotage. The four are shamed everywhere they go. But when they try to make things right, they discover some dark town secrets involving the murder of their father and the possible theft of their mother’s ranch. The scheming, murderous rancher (a slimy James Gregory), doesn’t plan to give up without a fight, nor does his nervous son, (a sweaty, twitchy Dennis Hopper), so they hire a professional gunslinger to terrorize and intimidate the Elder brothers, (played with the usual contemptuous sneer by George Kennedy). Unfortunately for them, steady gunfighter John Wayne does not intimidate easily. Nor do his brothers gambler Dean Martin, failed businessman Earl Holliman, and rebellious Michael Anderson Jr. as the hotheaded youngest. When a corrupt posse comes after them during a horse drive, the bullets begin to fly.
. At every turn, this classic is populated by familiar character actors whose bread and butter was westerns. Their names may not be familiar but their faces would be. (Names like John Doucette and James Westerfield and Rhys Williams and Strother Martin and Percy Helton- all of whom appeared in classic Twilight Zone episodes.)
. There is plenty of beautiful widescreen photography here as well, from the dusty desert town set in the middle of nothing, (Mexico substituting for Texas), to gorgeous shots along the dusty trail on the horse drive. Best of all, there’s an explosive ending in store, when Big John Wayne confronts the dirty, thieving scoundrel that shot his pa in the back and stole his mother’s ranch.
. So many great westerns! THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER is certainly one of them.
© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.