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Rancher Joseph Cotten brings tragedy to his family
"The Tramplers" (1965) is not a bad western. It almost lives up to its ambitious goal, which is to tell a tragic story of how a father wrecks his family. Joseph Cotten, a big rancher, fought for the South but he refuses to concede defeat. His one man war against carpetbaggers and northerners, which he thinks of as a lawful war, includes a lynching of a man who encouraged his slaves to run away. Gordon Scott, one of his sons, returns from the war and sees the lynching. There are 3 or 4 other sons too who are loyal to their father. James Mitchum, another son, also has mixed feelings about it. Cotten's wife and two daughters are ruled over by him, and his wife can see that his obsession is very hateful. This starts the story off with good conflict. The lynched man's daughter is out to get justice. She has some sparks with Gordon Scott.
Cotten wants to dictate his daughter's husband and doesn't approve of Franco Nero as the man, although he's a decent fellow. Nero's role here is strictly supporting, and he's billed as Frank Nero. Cotten orders Scott and Mitchum to break up the pair, but they disobey. In a major story development, they take off to undertake a big cattle drive. Cotten sends men to pursue them in a big shootout. Mitchum, by the way, when speaking with a southern accent, is very close in looks and sound to his father.
There's more to it but eventually, after the extended diversion of a cattle drive, they return to take possession of Nero's spread and because home is where the heart is. The family conflict resumes. This leads to the final resolution of the conflict between Cotten and Scott.
There are several shootouts in which the accuracy lies almost entirely in the hands of Scott and Mitchum, who has become something of a gunslinger. The body count rises steeply.
The movie is almost an American-style western, and the story develops quite a lot of tension due to the elements of brothers against brothers and brothers against father. However, it doesn't know quite what to do to deal with these big issues. It doesn't choose a bad outcome, but it still felt somewhat lacking, as if the ambition of the story outran its content. The characters of the other brothers were not developed. There was no scene between Cotten and his wife or between his daughters and their father. Too much potential conflict and character development were omitted because of the introduction of the cattle drive, which has a completely different feel to it. Still, I liked the movie well enough and consider it a decent western, almost average overall as a movie. It's reasonably entertaining and provides some escape.
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