Monday, January 31, 2005

Movie review: HOMBRE

Hombre (1967) – It’s hard to believe that this film was made three years after Fistful of Dollars. While few of the main characters here are without a rough edge, there is still an obvious Hollywood sensibility throughout. I suppose we should be grateful that the film ends in the fashion in which it does and we don’t see the Newman & Celino riding off into the sunset together.

The film was adapted by screen writer, Irving Ravtech, from the novel of the same name, written by Elmore Leonard. Four years previously, Newman, Ravtech and director Martin Ritt had all worked together on Hud, a more contemporary western. That one based on Larry McMurtry’s Horseman Pass By.

John Russell (played by Paul Newman) is the son of a white family, kidnapped and raised by the Apache Indians for years until he was adopted, by the Russell family. Finding life among the white settlers unsuitable he returned to the reservation to work as an Indian policeman. When his adopted father passes away he comes to town to sell his father’s rooming house, run by Jessie (Diane Celino). Deciding to leave the area after the sale he finds himself sharing a stagecoach, driven by an old acquaintance Henry Mendez (Martin Balsam), with a number of questionable characters, including Grimes (a great villain role for Richard Boone), Dr. Favor (Frederick March) and his wife Audra (Barbara Rush), along with Jessie, and several other folks. When bandits stop the coach the travelers must fend for themselves and fight off the bandits to protect the money that Dr. Favor had swindled. Mendez and Russell are the only two of the passengers who really have a chance of getting out of the situation alive, but stay with the others for reasons of their own.

Not a great film, but certainly an enjoyable movie for western fans. Boone especially seems to be having a good time in his role, with most of the other members of the cast doing professional if unspectacular jobs. Frank Silvera, as the Mexican bandit, seems to have been studying Alfonso Beldoya in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, in preparing for the role. Two and a half stars.

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