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Taw Jackson returns from prison having survived being shot, to the ranch and gold that Frank Pierce stole from him. Jackson makes a deal with Lomax, the man who shot him 5 years ago to join forces against Pierce and steal a large gold shipment. The shipments are transported in the War Wagon, an armored stage coach that is heavily guarded. The two of them become the key players in the caper to separate Pierce from Jackson's gold. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Interesting, Well-Paced and Colorful; a Fine Noir Western All Round
This is a "caper" film, about what would be a heist in other circumstances. Since the ethics of the perpetrators are those which should have made the authorities make the robbery unnecessary, their act is justified in this situation. This noir western is a bit slick-appearing at some times; but it is physically attractive, has a good cast portraying colorful and somewhat desperate characters, and a strong theme song. Dimitri Tiomkin supplied the very capable score; and Burt Kennedy did a solid job of directing throughout. The very appealing storyline concerns Taw Jackson, played ably by John Wayne, who returns from prison to get back what he can from Bruce Cabot, who stole his ranch and framed him. All he can do is to recruit a group of "mission fighters", beginning with the man who had shot him 5 years earlier, Lomax, played by dynamic Kirk Douglas-and raid the "war wagon"--his enemy's vehicle for transporting gold, a Gatling-Gun-equipped armored stagecoach. Taw's team includes a drunken young dynamite expert he met in prison Robert Walker Jr., Keenan Wynn who is insanely jealous of his young wife, Valora Noland as the wife, Levi Walking Bear in the charismatic person of Howard Keel, his liaison to needed Indian allies, and more. Gene Evans, Joanna Barnes, Ann McRea, Terry Wilson and Frank Mcgrath are among those also doing good professional work in this interesting narrative. Only Noland is a bit weak in this cast. There are some humorous lines and interesting character moments as Wayne assembles his group and plots an attack worthy of "The Dirty Dozen" or "Where Eagles Dare", involving trees that fall at the right moment, Indians faking an attack as a diversion, dynamite used to block off access to a bridge, and a log that swings down and opens the rolling piggy bank violently. What happens after this successful robbery leads to a compromised denouement and ending; but the film is vividly put together, professionally mounted and decently scripted by Clair Huffaker from his own novel. The film stands as a reminder of what any well-made film about an ethical central character can provide relative to any un-ethical and not-fictional man's story competing for a cinema viewer's attention. Moments such as Wayne's visit to his ranch and his talk with the man who stole it, the recruiting of Lomax, the relations of the group, and the raid itself are all memorable. Underrated and always visually interesting.
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