Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on July 19, 1972
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)