Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Joe Kidd

Joe Kidd - poster best cropCinema Monolith: 8/10 This film is part of the Cinema Monolith collection!
IMDb: 6.5/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: ** out of 4

Released on July 19, 1972
Rated PG
88 minutes

Directed by John Sturges

Written by Elmore Leonard

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, John Saxon, Don Stroud, Stella Garcia, James Wainwright, Paul Koslo, Gregory Walcott, Dick Van Patten, Lynne Marta, Joaquin Martinez, John Carter, Clint Ritchie, Pepe Callahan

Once again, I found myself delightfully impressed with a Clint Eastwood film that had made no impact on me years ago, but for some reason really struck a chord this time around. Here, it was the John Sturges-directed Western Joe Kidd, starring Eastwood as the title character, an ex-bounty hunter hired by Robert Duvall to help track a Mexican revolutionary, played by John Saxon, who plans to incite a revolt against local landowners. When Duvall begins killing Saxon’s people in cold blood, and takes the populace of a local village hostage, Clint begins to rethink his loyalties…especially when Duvall makes him a hostage as well.

As he did with several of his Westerns prior to the release of Joe Kidd, Eastwood played his character cool and dynamic, and by this time in his career he’d firmly established the attitude and style fans have come to know and appreciate; he was tough, he was confident, he had a dry wit, and he could expertly handle a gun. And best of all, he had a penchant for dealing with any manner of bothersome jerks, whether he was tossing one down a flight of stairs, casually bashing the same one in the throat with the butt-end of a rifle, or flinging a potful of beans into one’s face, then knocking him senseless with the now-empty pot (probably my favorite moment of the movie).

All of this was enriched by the direction of Sturges and Elmore Leonard’s screenplay, one of the few he’s written—or that have been based on his work—that actually retained the atmosphere and texture of his Western and crime novels; the film was just loaded with classic Leonard dialogue and touches. The look of the film wasn’t bad, either: the sets, cinematography (by Eastwood regular Bruce Surtees), and art direction were all impressive, and Sturges took his wide camera frame and made great use of several majestic backdrops in California, specifically those in and around Yosemite, Lone Pine, and the Inyo National Forest.

This was a well-done and enjoyable revisionist Western, with Eastwood creating another iconic character in the ‘Man with No Name’ mold, whose actions and dialogue make him an absolute blast to watch. But what surprises me is, Joe Kidd isn’t as highly regarded a film as I would’ve expected, and has garnered quite a number of lukewarm ratings and reviews over the years. Well, just forget all that; when compared to other films in Eastwood’s canon of Westerns, or even his films in general, I’d say this one ranks right up there with his best.  (8/10)

6 comments on “Joe Kidd

  1. Dracula
    2/8/18

    Dick Van Patten from Eight is Enough! He must have played some goofy guy in the movie. Hard to picture him in a western with Clint.

    • Todd B
      2/8/18

      Don’t worry, ol’ Dickie was nowhere near a horse, and didn’t ride with Clint, with his six-guns blazing. He had a very minor role as a hotel manager, and was in two scenes, and had a few lines of dialogue. And you’re exactly right: he played a goofy guy.

  2. geelw
    2/8/18

    Haven’t seen this in a few decades (eek). Looks as if if it’s time to revisit it. Of course, that often means TCM will run it the day after I track down the DVD.

    • Todd B
      2/9/18

      Buy the DVD, don’t open it, hold on to the receipt, wait a few days, watch it on TCM, then return it! But seriously…I’m curious to hear what you think whenever you get to watch it.

  3. Pretty high praise for this one. I fall into that category that says…..eh, it’s just another Eastwood flick. I don’t have anything against it but I will say it’s a John Sturges film that isn’t. It’s so much a Clint Eastwood styled film I have to wonder sometimes if Sturges walked and Clint did directorial duties. Or did Sturges just play to the growing Clint mystique and add to it? It’s littered with Clint’s crew from Buddy Van Horn to James Fargo and also Malpaso is the production company. Sturges? Hard to see it that way. Nice cast though, Saxon and Duvall favorites and slimy Paul Koslo a welcome 70’s face.

    • Todd B
      2/9/18

      It’s funny that you see it as a ‘Eastwood-styled’ film, which you’d think I would as well, but instead I see it as a ‘Elmore Leonard-styled’ film. And while researching for this review I read that Eastwood futzed with the script a bit and made it more ‘Kidd-centric’, which to me makes sense, since the film is called Joe Kidd. If it’s true, I’m sure Sturges and Leonard weren’t all too thrilled with those changes. But if the story was instead centered on John Saxon, and the movie called Luis Chama, I’m not sure I’d care all that much to see it.

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