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Two Army officers, an alcoholic ex-Confederate soldier and a womanizing Mexican travel to Mexico on a secret mission to prevent a megalomaniacal ex-Confederate colonel from selling a cache of stolen rifles to a band of murderous Apaches. Written by
Marty McKee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rio Conchos is directed by Gordon Douglas and adapted to screenplay by Joseph Landon from the Clair Huffaker novel. It stars Richard Boone, Stuart Whitman, Jim Brown, Tony Franciosa, Wende Wagner and Edmond O'Brien. Music is scored by Jerry Goldsmith and Joseph MacDonald is the cinematographer. Out of 20th Century Fox it's a CinemaScope production filmed in De Luxe Color, and primary location used for filming was Moab, Utah.
One ex-Confederate officer out for revenge against the Apache, one Army Captain driven by a sense of duty, one Buffalo Soldier continuing to prove himself and one Mexican convict getting a second shot at freedom. Four men, one journey, a mission to find who is arming the Apache with repeating rifles. Danger, mistrust and hostility are their only companions.
The plot may be routine, and certainly it owes a debt to The Comancheros (Huffaker involved there too), but this is a tough and dark Western propelled by fine acting, quality direction and photography to die for. Structured around a men on a mission basis, each one with their own particular issues, it's very much a character driven piece. It's the time spent in the company of these men that makes the film so riveting, it never gets dull, the character dynamics are such, that we never quite know what to expect from the next part of the journey. Director Douglas also doesn't shy from action, pitting our odd group against Mexican Bandits and Apache Indians along the way, and then delivering a high octane finale that has a few twists and turns to keep it away from being formulaic.
Whitman and Brown acquit themselves well enough, as does Wagner as the sole female of the piece. But acting wise this film belongs to Boone and Franciosa. The former portrays a bitter vengeful heart with ease, with a lived in alcoholic face, his destiny you feel is mapped out from the off. The latter shines as the ebullient character of the group, shifty, sly and as untrustworthy as it gets, Franciosa's play off of Boone gives the film its central pulse beat. But arguably all players are trumped by MacDonald's photography and Douglas' use of the scenery. From pretty much the first frame the landscape is the big character here. Douglas wisely using many long shots to reveal miles of vistas, then knowing when to pull in close to envelope the characters to give off the feeling of mental claustrophobia. Exterior work here belies the budget afforded the film, and all told it's a far better movie than the bigger produced Comancheros. Goldsmith's score is also a plus point, striking the mood from the get go, his arrangements flow at one with the hazardous destiny of the four men.
One of the better 60's Westerns, it's in desperate need of a remastering job being done on it. 8/10
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