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Johnny Concho is directed by Don McGuire who also co-writes the screenplay with David P. Harmon. It stars Frank Sinatra, Keenan Wynn, William Conrad, Christopher Dark and Phyllis Kirk. Music is by Nelson Riddle and cinematography by William Mellor.
It has become something of a forgotten Sinatra movie, courtesy of distribution issues and a general apathy towards Sinatra's performance in the title role. One glance at the few reviews that exist out there in the internet world shows it to be very much a quintessential divisive movie. There doesn't appear to be any middle ground, folk either like it plenty or loath its very existence. I fall into the former camp.
Plot has Sinatra as Johnny Concho, a man firmly trading on his brother's fearsome reputation as one of the Wests' most deadly pistoleers. So much so that although his brother, Red Concho, doesn't even live in the town of Cripple Creek, Johnny is able to do as he pleases; win at cards without showing his hand, stay rent free in the best room at the hotel and etc. However, this all changes when gunmen Tallman (Conrad) and Walker (Dark) ride into town and announce that Tallman has gunned down Red Concho and that they are here to run the town whilst exposing Johnny for the coward he is...
Congratulations, you just bought yourself a $300 rat.
Sinatra for the most part here has Concho as a thoroughly dislikable man, it's actually a bold performance from Old Blue Eyes, he's up there inviting all sorts of negative reactions, either as an emotional bully or as a spineless goon, he's working hard to convince and although he's clearly wet behind the ears for a Western portrayal (it was his first go at an Oater), he gets the required impact to make the story work.
If you have seen enough Westerns over the years then you can probably guess how everything will turn out. This is a psychological Western, one that most likely had ulterior motives as per the thematics regarding events that surfaced in America during the 1950s, but it doesn't break any molds or redefine the psychological Western. But what it does do it does very well, most notably in the way director McGuire (adaptation writer, Bad Day at Black Rock) gets quality turns out of Conrad and Wynn.
The Wynn factor is annoying because he simply isn't in the film enough, but what we do get is truly hard as nails. He's playing Barney Clark, a reformed gunman - cum - preacher, who as it happens is the one to put a spine in Johnny's back with some tough love. Every scene Wynn is in positively crackles with testosterone, brought to us via the Lord's work of course! You will hanker for more of the character for sure, but enjoy what we have at least.
Then there is Conrad, turning in a wonderfully sedate lesson in villainy. There's no histrionics and no shouting, just quiet speaking, cigar chomping menace, and of course he's quick on the draw, which always helps if you want to hold a town in the palm of your hand! Sinatra is not just playing second fiddle here, he's at the back waiting to be cued in by Wynn and Conrad. This doesn't make Johnny Concho a bad film! It does make it far from being a Sinatra essential viewing for his fans, but for Western fans this is well worth taking a look at if you can snag it. Cool ending as well! 7/10
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