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For a movie that starred one of the greatest box office stars of his time, based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by one America's greatest writers, "The Reivers" has continued to be something of an answer to a trivia question ("In what movie did Steve McQueen portray a semi-comic character involving a stolen automobile and a horse race?") I'm not sure of the reasons myself, but this movie has remained at the top of my "Favorite Movies" list since I first saw it in 1969. Maybe it was the out-of-character role of McQueen. Maybe it was the excellence of his supporting cast that includes Mitch Vogel, Rupert Crosse and Will Geer. Maybe it was the direction by Mark Rydell. Or maybe it was the outstanding score by John Williams (which has remained my favorite movie score of all time). Most likely, it is a combination of all the above. All I can say is that this movie has never lost its appeal for me. Watching the movie is like visiting an old friend with whom the passage of time will only strengthen the bonds of affection. This movie may not be for everybody, but I recommend it on the chance that you may be smitten by its special charm.
I personally rank this film, based on William Faulkner's last novel, among my favorites. Not that I would rank it as a "great" film, but it's a lot of fun. It's true that McQueen may have been in fact older than his character was supposed to be, but his attitude and style seems to bring it off. Mitch Vogel, as the young boy Lucius, who is lured into stealing his grandfather's (Will Geer) new Winton Flyer automobile for a wild weekend in Memphis by Boone Hoggenbeck (McQueen) is completely believable as a kid who wants the adventure, but has to be drawn into it because he respects his grandfather so much. Rupert Crosse as McQueen's other reiver (thief) in this caper adds an extra comic relief as the one who gets them into a real fix in Memphis. Ordinarily I hate movies with running narration, but the narration in this by Burgess Meredith as the grown old Lucius, remembering his exciting weekend in Memphis, adds a real touch of poignancy to this tale of youth lost. Additionally, Sharon Farrell as McQueen's prostitute girlfriend, Clifton James as a vicious southern sheriff, and Juano Hernandez as a kindly old black farmer add real dimension to the film. Throw in a beautiful score by John Williams (his first film score) and you've got the makings of a warm, charming story, accurately drawn, from the turn of the century. The scene at the film's end, where the grandfather has a heart-to-heart talk with the boy, is wonderful, and very "authentic." The director, Mark Rydell, did a terrific job. I've seen this movie many times, and it never fails to entertain me.
I have not read the Faulkner story on which this is based, so I can't
comment on how much of this delightful film can be credited to him
(doubtless Burgess Meredith's voiceovers are Faulkner's words), but
this wonderful movie about the pain of growing up is laced with plenty
of adventure and fun and deserves to become a classic. The John
Williams score is superb. The acting is wonderful from all the leads,
including the boy. This is one of the underrated Steve McQueen's best
roles, and Will Geer is perfect in the small but rich part of Boss. The
characters are all wonderfully and richly fleshed out, and there are
many moments of human insight. To top it off, the cinematography makes
the movie simply gorgeous to look at.
Considering the movie's manifold virtues it's interesting to note that one never sees it on any of the cable channels. The reason is obvious, and it's political correctness. The movie uses the "n" word multiple times, although always in the same way Mark Twain used it, i.e. to demonstrate the inhumanity behind the use of the word. Also Corrie has her eye blackened by Boone, and Ned explains to Lucius "what better sign can a woman want from a man that he has her on his mind." All this racism and sexual violence is of course abhorrent, but the forces of political correctness would rather pretend that it never existed than to look it square in the eye.
So to see this movie you'll have to buy it on DVD, which I strongly urge you to do.
My favorite Steve McQueen film has to be The Reivers. He was so right
for the part of Boon Hogganbeck, handyman and general all around
troublemaker, he should have been considered for an Oscar nomination.
It's definitely by far his funniest film.
The Reivers is a posthumously published novel by William Faulkner and it's set in the Mississippi in the turn of the last century. The protagonist is a child Mitch Vogel, a most properly brought up child and grandson to the big kahuna in that delta county, Will Geer. Geer is a man who believes in progress, in fact he's brought the first automobile into his area, a brand new yellow Winton Flyer.
That car proves way too much temptation for McQueen who'd like to use it to go courting his girl friend, a hooker who works in Michael Constantine's and Ruth White's Memphis bordello, Sharon Farrell. But to hatch his scheme, McQueen entices Vogel to tell some well placed lies about which relative the young man might be staying with and then taking Vogel and the car to Memphis after McQueen's been left in his charge. Stowing away in the Winton Flyer is Rupert Crosse.
Crosse who did get an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor is a mixed racial cousin of Geer's family and it does entitle him to some perks in the racist society that was early 20th century Mississippi. But Crosse is as smart and resourceful as McQueen and knows how to play up to people and make the racism work his way. Unfortunately Crosse lost his Oscar bid to Gig Young for They Shoot Horses Don't They. And sad to say Crosse died a few years later at too young an age, very much like star Steve McQueen.
It's one rollicking ride our intrepid trio is on from the bordello to a horse race where Crosse swaps Geer's new automobile for a race horse that he discovers runs like lightning with a trick gimmick. Laughs mixed with some serious Faulkner social commentary.
One person who does not credit enough in this film is Sharon Farrell. Her role as McQueen's girlfriend is tender and touching and in the end she actually becomes an honest woman. But a great deal of the enjoyment of The Reivers is in how that is accomplished.
For any fan of Steve McQueen, The Reivers is an absolute must. And I guarantee you, one will become a fan of Steve McQueen after seeing this fascinating, tender, funny film.
A diverse group goes off on an adventure, each for his own reasons, and each comes back changed and much wiser. Romance, excitement, tough choices, new experiences, and a really great car -- what more can you ask for? In a just world, this would be considered a classic of the coming-of-age genre. It is one of McQueen's most complex and charming performances. Crosse, another actor who died much too young, is brilliant. It has some mature material, but it is a wonderful family movie to talk to kids 13 and up about what growing up really means.
Together with Clarence Browns version of Intruder In The Dust, this must count as one of the few good film versions of Faulkner. The Reivers was his last, his tenderest, his funniest, and his most accessible book, and this is a tender, funny, and accessible film. McQueen gives yet another excellent performance, as does the little used Rupert Crosse.The narration by Burgess Meredith is wonderful. In short, a very good "Southern"
This movie holds a special significance to me as it was one of my late
father's favorites. It's a William Faulkner coming-of-age story about a
boy named Lucius (Mitch Vogel) in early 1900s Mississippi. Lucius looks
up to Boon (Steve McQueen), the immature handyman on his grandfather's
plantation. Boon convinces Lucius to help him "borrow" the
grandfather's brand new car and drive to Memphis to see Boon's
prostitute girlfriend (Sharon Farrell). Tagging along for the ride is
Lucius' older cousin Ned (Rupert Crosse), who's almost as irresponsible
as Boon. Once in Memphis, a lot of things happen and they wind up
needing to win a horse race to get the grandfather's car back.
McQueen is good in a role a little outside of his wheelhouse. Vogel, Farrell, and Crosse are all good as well. Will Geer plays the grandpa. Light-hearted but with some serious moments. In many ways it plays like a Disney film of the period, except with whores and people using the N-word. William Faulkner is probably my favorite Southern author but his work hasn't been considered easy to translate to screen. This is one of the better efforts.
This is an enjoyable old fashion type of adventure they just wont make anymore outside of a Disney adaptation. It's based on a William Faulkner story, his last I believe, and may be slightly autobiographical. I always saw this movie on television in the 70s & 80s and didn't realize so much of the film was cut and watered down for TV. The video VHS/ or DVD is much more complete and has more uncensored dialogue as well as including excised TV scenes such as when the trio arrives at the 'bordello' and Lucius is introduced. While the movie takes on a Disney or Hallmark heritage type of look it is not that. It is much more mature with spicy dialogue as mentioned and mature scenes that round out a longer running time. One thing I noticed is that this movie hails from 1969 when certain sexual situations were now being allowed in American productions. This movie reflects this change, while being basically family fare it 'just' escaped an R rating presumably as the MPAA system was still new and unfamiliar with how to rate certain subject matter. If this movie had been made just four or five years before it no doubt would have captured the rural early 20th century innocence familiar to Faulkner but the sexual situations, which make the story more believable, wouldn't have been included. Alas this is a great movie to have in your collection to take out and view when you're lonely and want something to look at or if it's raining outside. ***1/2 stars and it deserves to be much more well known than it is.
William Faulkner's story about an eleven-year old boy in Jefferson, Mississippi at the turn-of-the-century who tells his kin a string of lies in order to go on a stolen holiday with his father's handyman and a half-black relative. They travel into sinful Memphis, Tennessee in a yellow Winton Flyer, and initially their misadventures have the mud-spattered feel of an early-'60s Disney movie. Originally billed as rollicking family entertainment (though rated 'M' for mature), things take an odd, disquieting turn with an extended trip to a cathouse, where the kid's guardian (Steve McQueen) tussles with his favorite prostitute, who wants to go legit and get married (there's also a bloody fight between two youngsters that seems to come out of nowhere). Director Mark Rydell feasts on picturesque sunsets and auto-ride sing-a-longs, but he's got a penchant for vulgarity that undermines the comedy. It seems no one here wanted to make a strictly pictorial piece of scrapbook nostalgia, so the film ends up failing as both an American tall tale and as a boy-grows-up-fast character study. McQueen has some good, feisty scenes, but his character is rather hapless, and a Steve McQueen who does little but react to others is an automatic disappointment. The chief interests (the hazy, early-morning ambiance and cinematography, the quaint Winton Flyer which gets traded for a racehorse) nearly salvage the rest of the production, which was reportedly troubled after McQueen and director Rydell butted heads. The star later claimed this was a personal favorite of his films, but it is terribly uneven, occasionally perplexing and often sick-making. *1/2 from ****
I saw this film when I was about the same age as the main character, the
boy, played by Mitch Vogel. It left a strong impression on me. The
cinematography, the magnificent score by John Williams, flawless acting,
and, of course, Faulkner's story, create an atmosphere that few movies
achieve. In terms of acting, McQueen is probably the weakest link, but he
still deserves points for successfully suppressing his characteristic squint
and open-mouthed grimace -- and he is as close to lovable as he can be. The
movie also has more than it's share of memorable scenes, especially between
Will Geer as the grandfather and Vogel.
I would be wary of letting young children see this film. The story conveys the undercurrents of racism and sexism that existed then (and now). I was 12 when I saw it and I understood it. As a parent, be ready to explain some things, though, and preview the film.
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