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TCM Greatest Classic Legends: John Wayne

by Ed Tapper
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Saturday Jun 29, 2013
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In a fifty-year screen career, John Wayne made himself synonymous with the screen Western. Quality-wise, the Duke maintained a fairly high average, particularly at his peak. However his early and late careers were decidedly spottier. Among its new DVD offerings, Turner is releasing TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: John Wayne,
which includes four later films.

The first of three Westerns is the 1973 "Cahill, U.S. Marshall," In this slowly paced, episodic film, Wayne attempts to maintain law and order, while his young sons become involved with a gang of bank robbers led by ornery George Kennedy. Wayne is on automatic pilot in this forgettable venture.

In "Chisum," Wayne plays a wealthy, scrupled ranch-owner who locks horns with sleazy speculator, Forrest Tucker, while befriending Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. When Billy takes the law into his own hands, Chisum comes to the rescue in the exciting, final shootout. Outside of veterans Tucker and Wayne, the supporting cast is weak, and the movie is marred by a corny script.

Quality-wise, the Duke maintained a fairly high average, particularly at his peak. However his early and late careers were decidedly spottier.

The best film of the lot is the 1973 "The Train Robbers," where Wayne is supported by a charismatic cast, including Ann-Margret and Rod Taylor. Margret is the widow of a bank robber whose gang made off with a half-million in gold. Knowing its whereabouts, she plans to return it, and engages Wayne and his pals to assist her. The first half is slow and talky; but when the other robbers show up for their share, the action kicks in, and really bristles. The surprise ending is well worth the wait.

In 1971, Wayne turned down the lead in "Dirty Harry," later regretting it when the film proved a huge smash. To compensate, he made another cop drama, the leaden "McQ." Overweight, nearly 70, and sporting a nasty toupee, he was hardly a threat to Clint Eastwood in the sex appeal department. His commanding presence cannot bolster this predictable tale of cops running a drug syndicate. The only saving graces here are a few exciting chase sequences, and some nice location photography of Seattle.

Special features include an assortment of production shorts, and documentaries on Wayne. Considering the variable quality of the films selected, the collection is recommended for only the fervent Duke collector. Consumers will be pleased to know that TCM is not charging by the bullet.

TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: John Wayne
DVD
$24.99
www.tcm.com

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