Catlow (1971) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

With the possible exception of DiCaprio in "The Quick and the Dead", this movie may have the strangest casting ever for a western. The three stars are Richard Crenna as the marshal, Yul Brynner as the affable bad guy, and Leonard Nimoy as a bounty hunter trying to kill Brynner before the marshal can bring him in.
Yup, Mr. Spock, that orn'ry ring-tailed varmint, as a rootin'-tootin' six-shooter-totin' sidewinder. Actually, Mr Spock was probably the most realistic cowboy in this. The other two stars didn't even try for any period feel. Brynner was the King of Siam in a cowboy suit with an ill-fitting hat, and Crenna was pretty much Luke McCoy, all a-grinnin' and aw-shucksin' his way through the part. 


Leonard Nimoy does a dark nude scene in which he gets out of a bathtub and has a fistfight with a fully-clothed Yul Brynner.

There is also an unidentified naked male body in the desert.

Although it is light-hearted fare, you can't say that the film was lacking in dramatic conflict. Brynner, essentially the hero of the movie, although a bad guy, has to face the following adversaries:
  • hostile Indians, whose territory he must cross
  • the entire U.S. Army (he has gold that belongs to them)
  • the entire Mexican Army (they stole the gold that belonged to the U.S.)
  • his former girlfriend, who is trailing him and is trying to kill him out of passionate revenge
  • all the richest ranchers in the West, from whose herds he rounded up mavericks before they were branded 
  • Crenna, who has a warrant for his arrest (but is also his pal)
  • Spock, who is the top bounty hunter in the West
  • a number two guy in his gang who wants the top spot for himself
  • an uncrossable desert, which is is only escape route

Do you think that's enough challenge for one man?

Of course, he emerges from the whole adventure unscathed.


In fact, in the final scene Crenna is about to take Yul back to the calaboose when Spock shows up, and shoots Crenna by mistake. Crenna kills Spock. While Crenna lies bleeding to death (not to worry, he'll be OK), Yul steals his badge, deputizes himself, and says "I better take these no-account varmints (his fellow gang members) back to prison", and rides off into the sunset. 

That gives you the general idea. It's an old-fashioned Hollywood western from the period just before films grew up, so it features plenty of buckaroos with perfect teeth in neatly-pressed clothing, and stereotyped native Americans, and is often backed by a stirring score like The Magnificent Seven, 'ceptin' not so good, consarn it. As another example of the pre-realistic period presentation, a naked dead body in the desert, shot by an Indian arrow, looks like a guy sunning on the beach at Malibu. He doesn't even have a sunburn, let alone festering sores or signs of putrefaction. 

The film is about 50% comedy and 50% adventure, filled with plenty of good buddy camaraderie, and "wah-wah" music in the background when Crenna and Brynner play their little jokes on each other. Some of the humor is downright slapstick. When he steals the gold from the Mexican Army, Brynner fixes up a system where he pulls the soldiers one-by-one off their mules into the rafters of a building's entryway, where Brynner waits for them and bops them on the head as they rise, while one of his own men takes over the mule. They show Brynner bopping about ten guys, the last four or five in speeded-up motion, like a Keystone Kops film. Basically, it needed Graham Chapman to come out in his Colonel's outfit and say "move along, too silly".

Anyway, it's a pleasant diversion, basically a lightweight TV show directed by TV veteran Sam Wanamaker. You might even enjoy it if you can ignore the racial stereotypes which now seem deeply offensive to our more sensitized ears. And how can you pass up the chance to see Mr Spock as a naked cowboy?

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 2.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.7.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. Avoid it if you expect an adventure film to be serious and realistic.

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