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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The cavalcade of generally stunning 20th Century Fox Cinemascope/Color
westerns that were produced in the fifties really came to an end with
"Warlock" in 1959. The sixties saw a diminishing public appeal for them
but during the new decade there were a few excellent examples of the
genre still to come in the shape of RIO CONCHOS (1964), a reasonably
good remake of "Stagecoach" (1966), the outstanding "Hombre" (1967) and
the hearty "Butch Cassiday & The Sundance Kid" (1969). The latter two
regretfully dropping the Cinemascope extension from the Fox logo and
renaming the same process Panavision.
After "Hombre" the best of them is by far RIO CONCHOS! A rugged rip roaring adventure in the best action packed tradition of the Hollywood western. Produced for the studio by David Weisbert the picture's basic premise gave an assertive nod to the studio's earlier "The Comancheros" (1960). Deriving from the novel by Clair Huffaker it was written for the screen by Joseph Landon and Clair Huffaker (who also wrote "The Comancheros"). The amazing Cinemascope cinematography came from genius cameraman Joe MacDonald and it was all solidly directed by the somewhat underrated Gordan Douglas.
Richard Boone is Apache hating Major Jim Lassiter, late of the confederacy, who - with a furtive Mexican companion Rodriquiz (Tony Franciso) - is seconded into a Yankee undercover operation to find out where 2000 repeating rifles have disappeared to. Under the leadership of Captain Haven (Stuart Whitman) and his black Sgt.Franklyn (Jim Brown in his first movie appearance) Lassiter learns that his old Confederate commanding officer - the demented Colonel Theron Pardee (Edmond O'Brien) who is holed up on the Rio Conchos - is in possession of the guns and plans to arm the Apaches so as to reignite the Civil War. The mission is to thwart the Colonel's intentions and destroy the guns. In a marvellous set piece the picture ends literally in an explosive finale as the cache of arms goes up in a mushroom of smoke.
Performances are generally good throughout. Whitman is fine in the lead in what is probably his best movie. But Richard Boone is a tad excessive in his playing. His Lassiter character is over-stylized even to the point where some of his scenes are rendered weak and unconvincing. However the acting honours has to go to Tony Francioso in one of the best roles he ever had. He is superb as Rodriquiz the wily, unscrupulous and womanizing Mexican. It is an Oscar winning performance! And there is an interesting bit of casting for an Indian girl played by the little known Wende Wagner. Here the actress perfectly creates an impressively authentic portrayal of a young Apache female.
Conveying the action along is the terrific score by Jerry Goldsmith. Although he had previously written the music for a few westerns such as the forgotten "Black Patch" (1957) and his fine wistful effort for "Lonely Are The Brave" (1962) nothing before or after can compare to his work on RIO CONCHOS. It is a driving propulsive score! The main theme - first heard under the titles - is quite brilliant with the accordion gently introducing the tune accompanied by clunking banjo, guitar, scratcher comb and whip before the strings take up the tune to full flight. This cue is used later in an up tempo treatment for an escape and river crossing sequence with the strings screaming out the theme against repeated figures in the brass. The use of music here makes the scene simply breathtaking. There is also a plaintive reflective cue to characterize the Indian girl in a melancholy movement and there's some attractive indigenous folk tunes played on guitar for a Cantina sequence. RIO CONCHOS is Jerry Goldsmith's best score for a western!
Jerry Goldsmith's music is just one exceptional element that makes RIO CONCHOS a remarkable, memorable and exciting action picture and gets my vote as one of the best westerns Hollywood ever conjured up.
Rio Conchos is a story about two men who won't let go and keep seeking
vengeance. Richard Boone is a former Confederate soldier who came home
to find his family massacred and is wreaking a terrible vengeance on
the Indians. Kind of like Ethan Edwards would in The Searchers if left
to his own devices.
The other man is Edmond O'Brien, Boone's former commanding officer, who is seeking vengeance for the lost Confederate cause and the way it went down in Generals Grant and Sherman's war of attrition. He's hijacked a group of repeating Spencer rifles and is about to trade them to Chief Rudolfo Acosta of the Apaches.
When Boone is found with one of the repeaters by the army, he's tossed in the guardhouse and then given a choice of staying there or leading Captain Stuart Whitman to the weapons. After thinking it over somewhat Boone agrees.
So an unlikely quartet of Whitman, Boone, Jim Brown, and Anthony Franciosa set out. This group has little regard for each other and that does impede the teamwork involved to successfully pull off the mission of either get the weapons back or destroy them.
This was the feature film debut of Cleveland Browns halfback Jim Brown who went on to a pretty successful acting career after his days on the gridiron were through. OF course Tony Franciosa as their Mexican guide/interpreter is as usual the best one in the film. Talk about someone no better than he ought to be.
Rio Conchos has enough action to satisfy the biggest western fans around. The ending, shall we say the conclusion of the film and the mission leave an uncertain future for the survivors of the last battle.
An eclectic cast rounds out this rather rugged western film. Craggy Boone stars as a man who hates the Apaches because they slaughtered his wife and child (hardly an original background for a character.) When he is found using a certain rifle to kill his prey, he is arrested and thrown in jail with knife-wielding Franciosa, who is set to hang for murder. It turns out that the rifle is one of a huge shipment that has gone missing and it's up to cavalry captain Whitman and his sergeant Brown to retrieve them. Boone and Franciosa join them in order to aid the mission (and set up dramatic conflict within the contingent.) The foursome travels the dusty terrain of Utah and the American Southwest, encountering Indians and Mexican bandits along the way, all the while mistrusting each other. They believe the guns are in the possession of a dethroned Confederate Colonel (O'Brien), who wants to rebuild the South in all it's glory out West! (He even builds a mansion-like plantation home out of timber with fine furnishings and curtains in the windows, but no ceilings and, in most cases, no walls!) On the way to O'Brien, the quartet also picks up a spitfire Apache girl (Wagner) who tried to do them in with a gang of pals, but failed. If it all sounds pretty standard and pat, it is to a point, but thanks to the entertaining cast, the captivating Jerry Goldsmith score, the location scenery and the rough edges of the story, it manages to be an entertaining film. Boone puts a lot of compelling flavor into his role. Whitman is less impressive, but does a nice enough job. Franciosa is very hammy and indulgent, but keeps it interesting anyway. Brown (a man with an unbelievable physique) has almost nothing to say or do, but still comes across as warm and thoughtful, not to mention strong! He retains his dignity at a time when racial tensions were beginning to start their boil-over. O'Brien has a lot of fun with his outre character. Wagner is nearly unrecognizable in a sketchy character. Her loyalties are divided and her reasoning isn't always clear. (Her character speaks no English in the film.) She would soon enter pop culture history as the loyal assistant to "The Green Hornet" on TV. Several memorable moments occur in the film including a standoff between the men and some Apaches at a deserted house, a torture sequence in which the men are dragged by horses and flogged with straps and the sight of O'Brien's surreal timber estate. This isn't a particularly well known western, but it certainly has merit as it demonstrates the changing level of content in the genre and contains some solid acting.
"Rio Conchos" is a tough, fast-paced, action-packed western, with good performances by all concerned. If the story--Union soldiers go undercover to find the men who are supplying guns to renegade Indians and outlaws and come across a Confederate plot to carve out territory in the West--seems familiar, that's because it's a variation of John Wayne's "The Commancheros" of a few years earlier, and it's almost as good, and in some ways better. Richard Boone gives a very flavorful performance as the tough major in charge of the operation, in conflict with subordinate Stuart Whitman. Jim Brown, in his film debut, is a bit stiff, but otherwise acquits himself quite well. Anthony Franciosa, playing a Mexican outlaw paroled to accompany them on the mission, doesn't quite pull the characterization off, but handles the action scenes very well. Director Gordon Douglas, an old pro at this kind of picture, keeps things going at breakneck speed, with exciting action scenes and good byplay between the characters. This is one of the best-made action westerns of the '60s, with good plot twists, and is consistently interesting all the way through. Highly recommended for western fans.
A personal favorite. Four men are teamed on a mission to find missing rifles; the trail leads to an ante-bellum Southern mansion built in the middle of the desert, and a private army led by a crazed, vengeful Rebel general. As much a fantastic adventure tale as a Western, "Rio Conchos" mixes "The Commancheros" with "North by Northwest" and keeps the action coming to a spectacular climax. The four uneasily teamed men include two cool hipsters (charismatic Richard Boone and suave Anthony Franciosa) and two tough squares (smoky-voiced Stuart Whitman and muscular Jim Brown, in his film debut.) Boone -- a TV star here in one of his few screen starring roles -- commands the screen, with Franciosa a smooth foil. Certain elements are dangerously dated -- bloodthirsty Indians, a "wily" Mexican in Franciosa's character -- but the film's tough viewpoint and exciting action is still a wonder to behold. Best of all: Jerry Goldsmith's flavorful, macho Western adventure score, which climaxes with immense power in the last minute of the film. Note: several scenes in this film match those in "The Professionals," made two years later in 1966.
A tough western about stolen rifles and an undercover group sent into Mexico by the US Army to try to stop their sale to Apaches who would use them to kill whites. There is plenty of action along the way although most of it is there as filler. However, there are a few moments on the journey, a ferry ride across the Rio Grande into Mexico for instance, that explode off of the screen. In addition, if you want your Richard Boone quotient for the day, this film will definitely fill it. His part as a hardened Civil War vet who hates Apaches is memorable. Unfortunately, it's kind of trapped within the at times dubious confines of this movie. But, when the group actually gets to the guns, an elaborate plot unfolds with the great Edmond O'Brien as a Confederate general who leads a band of rebels and refuses to give up the fight and has the idea to let the Apaches (the ones that Boone hates with a vengeance) have the stolen guns so that they can kill whatever Yankees they might find. The driving force in all of this is hatred and vengeance, making this film pretty heavy going.
I was kinda expecting a black hats/white hats movie but that's not what this is. The heroes are pretty rotten men themselves. Richard Boone, Stuart Whitman, Jim Brown, and Anthony Franciosa play four rather ruthless characters trying to track down the man selling guns to the apache. Boone in particular is outstanding as the Indian hater who just murders apache on sight! Franciosa is a smiling Mexican who can't be trusted for a second. Whitman and Brown are not quite as bad but they certainly aren't likable either. One of the real attractions in this movie is Wende Wagner who plays this sexy Indian girl. Not an important character and she never speaks a word of English, but you can't take your eyes off her.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This seems quite violent for an American early 60s western, but then I
suppose one has to remember that this was the same year as 'A Fistful of
Dollars'. The key to the film really is Richard Boone's superb portrayal of
Jim Lassiter, the ex-Confederate army scout who has turned into a drunkard
and an Indian-killer after the death of his wife and child at the hands of
The first scene shows an unarmed Indian burial party in a howling desert wind, who are cold-bloodedly murdered by Lassiter. US army captain Stuart Whitman and his sergeant Jim Brown follow the trail from the bodies to Lassiter, but they seem more interested in where he got his rifle from than in his crimes.
He is kept in incarceration in the guardhouse back at the fort until he agrees to tell the officers where he got his rifle. He lets them know that he obtained it from one Pardee, a Confederate guerilla, in Mexico. It transpires that is one of a shipment of US army rifles stolen from under Whitman's command. He agrees to lead them to Pardee, on the condition that they take Rodriguez, a Mexican condemned to the gallows for knifing a man, along with them, as he can speak the local language and knows the country like the back of his hand.
The trail leads the four men through Apache attacks, gunrunners, and banditos, until finally they reach Pardee's layer. Everything seems set for a splendid finale, but, unfortunately, the film seems to end in mid-air, so to speak; we do not find out what happens to our heroes, or to the villains.
One of the refreshing things about this film is that there is no romantic interest to speak of. The action scenes are very exciting and well handled, the plot speeds along wonderfully, the actors are all very good, and there are some good rugged locations. The scene of the final confrontation is especially spectacular, with Pardee's half-completed grand mansion towering above the valley. The only real quibble is the awful ending. This is a must-see for western fans, a truly entertaining film!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you are fan of great westerns and acting you must see this movie. I have not missed many westerns, but up until today I have never had a chance to see this, I knew about it thanks to IMDb and I am a huge fan of Richard Boone whom I consider on of the best Wesern Stars ever, right up there with John Wayne,Clint Eastwood Henry Fonda etc. Others have given the story line better than I could. But Boones performance is a must see, he totally dominates the film is as usual so incredibly believable, probably because in real like he was one tough S.O.B. It is great to see him in the beginning a burnt out shell of an ex confederate officer who's family was butchered by the Apaches and as the story races forward he slowly changes into an honourable man at the end. Some great scenes include the shoot out with the Apaches at the burned out farmhouse and Boones performance in the flea ridden bar was a also a great scene. Boone was so convincing as a tough guy, someone you wouldn;t want to go against. Great cinematography and soundtrack acompany this film which moves along at a fast rate and contains a few well placed plot turns. Highly recommended to any western fan and I hope to find it on DVD
This really was the last good conventional western action film, just before
Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah opened the gate to a new genre. It is a very
violent film, if you watch it closely, though not as graphic as what came a
couple of years later. It is worth watching for the scenery, action, and
most of all, a tremendous cast.
The great Jimmy Brown, Richard Boone, Tony Fransiosa, and ....Stuart Whitman. Wait...Stuart Whitman?!...no...he stinks. hes got no charisma, no screen presence. hes dull, flat...He stunk in everything. But I heard hes one of the richest men in California, so he wouldnt mind my saying so.
Actually, Stuart Whitman, the dullest of the major characters, is not needed at all. The screenwriters should have had the guts to transform the character into Jim Browns role...even make him a black officer. That could have been historically accurate, and even have set up a whole dynamic of tense racial relationships, especially when confronting Boones ex-Confederate racist character. Alas, nobody had the guts in 1964, but it would have been interesting, and the film would be even more highly regarded today.
The film ends abruptly and strangely, but it fits. Pay attention to Wendy Wagner as the Apache chick, shes hot, hot hot! I would have liked to have seen more of her.
Remember, if anybody wants to win trivia contests, "The Dirty Dozen" was not Jim Browns first film. "Rio Conchos" is!
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