In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_americanfable-poster_web

American Fable

American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.

Thumb_get_out

Get Out

We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Sundance Archives

Reviews

The War Wagon

  |  

"The War Wagon" is that comparative rarity, a Western filmed with quiet good humor. It is also a point of departure for John Wayne, who plays a bad guy for just about the first time in his career.

Advertisement

His success here raises the question, What was old Duke waiting for, anyway? Wayne has exhausted the possibilities in those noble movies where he plays the archetype of Western Civilization. Ever since he gave Chill Wills that pompous speech about What My Country Means to Me in "The Alamo" (1960) ("It kinda makes a choke come into ma throat"), he hasn't been the same.

But now Duke's back in form, playing the leader of a band out to capture the War Wagon. He hitches up with an old enemy (Kirk Douglas) and a crew of assorted castaways to capture an armored wagon protected by a Gatling Gun and 32 guards.

The elaborate wagon itself is one of the film's top attractions even though, every time it rattles onto the screen Dimitri Tiomkin bursts into a theme that sounds like "Clang, Clang, Clang Goes the Trolley" played backwards.

Advertisement

Wayne and Douglas have a lot of sardonic dialog. At one point, they enlist some Indians to drag branches behind their horses, an old Indian trick to make lots of dust so Bruce Cabot will think his wagon is being attacked by Indians. "You don't suppose they'll fall for that old Indian trick again, do you?" Douglas asks Wayne. It's the first Western I've ever, seen in which they even admit it's an old Indian trick. "They'd better," Wayne says. They do.

Howard Keel plays the Indian (that's right, Howard Keel plays the Indian) with broad humor, sticking with the conspirators until the other Indians fall into possession of the gold, and then nobly deciding to rejoin his people. Robert Walker improves on his Nervous Drunken Kid role, which he introduced in "The Happening" (1967).

And, in new firsts for movie nudity, Wayne plays a scene in his long johns, and Douglas appears wearing nothing but his gun belt. Now we've seen that, I guess there's nothing to look forward to but Jane Fonda with her clothes on.

Advertisement

Popular Blog Posts

Oscar's History of Pickiness

At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Netflix's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" an Unfunny Parody of Sadness

A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.

If We Picked the Winners 2017

The RogerEbert.com staff picks for the Oscars.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus