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The cast of Ben Johnson, Sam Elliot, and Tom Selleck in a western is
Some have compared this movie to The Sacketts (same writer, same cast), and gave is something of a pan.
I found the story line in general, and a couple of the sub-plots, very very entertaining. I think you have to recognize that adultery has been around since the beginning of time. The treatment of of Uncle Jack (Ben Johnson) reminded me a lot of one of my uncles, and the dialog just sounded right.
While the scenery may have looked a little California, the place settings in Texas were genuine - Big Springs and Baffin Bay are real places. Baffin Bay is at the south end of Padre Island off Laguna Madre - home of the best bay fishing in Texas.
If I were to describe the Louis L'Amour novel-based television film
"The Shadow Riders" in two words that might seem to contradict each
other, they would be: dimwitted and fun. No, this is not a great
Western or a great movie by any stretch of the imagination.
Intellectually and screenplay-wise, it's mediocre at best. But in terms
of the entertainment that one receives from viewing it, especially fans
of the old-fashioned Westerns like myself, it both promises and
delivers. There is not a single smart line or moment in "The Shadow
Riders", but it's thoroughly entertaining and I was not bored with a
single moment of it. I was not mightily impressed either, but I had the
time of my life.
I have not read the original novel by Louis L'Amour, but judging from my research, the basic plot remains the same. The film stars Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott as brothers who fought on opposite sides of the Civil War and return to their home in Texas only to find that their sisters, brother, and Elliott's girlfriend (played by Elliott's real-life spouse Katharine Ross) have been taken by renegade Confederate soldiers led by a bloodthirsty, revenge-seeking colonel (Geoffrey Lewis), who plans to sell them as slaves in Mexico in return for guns and ammunition to continue a war he feels has not ended.
If somebody had come up to me after viewing "The Shadow Riders" and told me that it was made in the 1950s or 60s, I would have believed it. That could very well be the magic that works in this otherwise dimwitted Western. It has the same spirit, the same style, the same manner and rhythm of dialogue and story that the old, action-packed classics had. Yes, it's an old-fashioned Western, but that's not a bad thing at all.
Yes, the film also has many moments where disbelief must be suspended. Just like in the old Westerns, when there's a shootout, the good guys score a direct hit every time and the bad guys, no matter how many shots they fire, always seem to miss. There's a scene where Selleck and Elliott are charging into an enemy camp trying to stampede their stolen cattle and are firing three to five shots from their six-guns into the air instead of wisely saving ammunition for fighting the enemy that's rousing in front of them. And I also thought it was silly how Geoffrey Lewis and the always competent Gene Evansas well as everybody else it seemswas drawn relentlessly and vulnerably to a middle-aged Katharine Ross. Not to mention that the attitudes of several characters seem written for actors of an adolescent age even though the film was meant for adult actors.
You get my point. "The Shadow Riders" is not an intelligent film. And like I said earlier, it's not a very well-made one either. But it's most certainly entertaining in the guilty pleasure range and it's eye candy with its all-star cast, many of whom are veterans from the old Western period like Harry Carey Jr., R.G. Armstrong, and Ben Johnson, who steals every scene he's in as the brothers' renegade uncle. If you're not a Western fan, there's really no big reason to see "The Shadow Riders". But if you are, or if you want to see Dominique Dunne in her last film role, then by all means, see it. You will have the time of your life.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While I certainly feel that serious film criticism has its place, it is
just silly to over-think and over-analyze a film like this.
It's a Western, but it's not The Searchers.
It has a sense of humor about itself. The actors are fun to look at. The good guys win. The nice guy gets the girl. The bad guys get shot or face the law. They all lived happily ever after. Is any of this a spoiler for a "Good-Time Western?" Nope, but that's okay.
It's a fun movie. If you don't like this movie, you are thinking too much. If you don't love this movie, that's all right. You were only meant to have a good time with it.
If three guys ever looked like rugged, craggy-faced cowboys, it has to
be the trio that starred in this made-for-TV movie: Sam Elliott, Tom
Selleck and Ben Johnson. With those guys, and a whole lot more, and a
story written by Louis L'Amour, this is about as western a Western as
you'll ever find.....and it should be better than it is.
There is just too much "Rambo" mentality in the good guys never get hit and the bad guys get hit with every shot. That, and a few comments made such as "(adultry) is no big deal" has no place in this story and that kind of liberalism is more with the filmmakers than the people of the Old West.
The film is just "fair" in about every aspect, nothing of note, despite a lot of similarities (cast and author) as the better-made "The Sacketts."
Being a huge fan of Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot in westerns, I have to say that I was underwhelmed with the show. I actually bought the DVD just because it had Tom Selleck, Sam Elliot AND was a Louis L'Amour story. I had not heard of it but figured I couldn't go wrong. While the combination of Selleck, Elliot and L'Amour should have been golden, they turned out to be brass. The production value was very "television" (it was made for TV). It is what it is in that regard. However the action sequences were (IMHO) amateur. The hero knocks out the bad guy with one punch. The bad guys never see the hero's sneaking through the bushes in broad daylight. It just had a typical 80's TV show feel to it. I still felt it was worth the purchase for Selleck and Elliot even if the story and production didn't support them very well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not one to like Western movies, but this movie is one Western I
like. Tom Selleck plays his part with 100% perfection.
Mac Travern, (Selleck) has just served in the Civil War, on the Union side. His younger brother, Dal Traven, (played by Sam Elliot) had been on the Confederate side. But the two brothers joined each other to rescue their Uncle "Black Jack" Travern, who had been kidnapped by some Confedreates who refused to believe the3 war was over. Jesse Traven (Jeff Osterhage) had also been kidnapped, and then comes the chase and rescue bit that always turns out either funny or tragic.
I have not read any of Louis L'Amour's books, but this was a great film based on his writing.
My Score: 7/10.
The Shadow Riders is directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and adapted to
screenplay by Jim Byrnes from the novel written by Louis L'Amour. It
stars Tom Selleck, Sam Elliott, Katharine Ross, Dominique Dunne, Ben
Johnson and Geoffrey Lewis. Music is by Jerrold Immel and
cinematography by Jack Whitman.
A CBS TV production, The Shadow Riders has Selleck (Mac Traven) and Elliott (Dal Traven) as brothers, who even though they fought on different sides in the Civil War, there fondness for each other still exists. With the war now officially ended, the brothers meet up and head for the family home, here they find their parents telling of how their sisters and Dal's girlfriend Kate (Ross) have been abducted by Renegade Rebels. The men promptly set off in search of their loved ones...
It's all very much standard stuff, both in plot telling and production values. Exuding very much a family feel, it's a disappointingly bloodless and sexless picture, with some cliché'd dialogue, poor musical accompaniments to certain scenes (tonally way off) and filler sequences thrown in for good measure. That said, it's very much a harmless piece, with the two male leads good company to share some time with, while Johnson and Harry Carey Jr. offer up a welcoming presence. Location scenery is also well photographed, keeping things airy, and ultimately it's a decent enough time waster for Western fans not expecting an under seen gem. 6/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I love Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot. Together in the same just makes it better for me. Playing two brothers home from the just ended Civil War, where they fought on opposite sides, they find that their women folk have been stolen by what turns out to be Rebels who are running for Mexico to keep on fighting. The bad guys plan on trading them to some gunrunners for surprise, surprise, guns. Katherine Ross plays the brave, undaunted, heroine type. She shows great spirit and fortitude. Ben Johnson appears as the brothers long gone Uncle Black Jack, a character of dubious reputation. He turns out to be just what the brothers need. Every thing turns out well and the good guys win and the bad guys lose. Typical for a L'Amour novel.
Sometimes I think of a good western as a conventional plot, with slight variations, and having the merit of doing it in the best way possible. Applying those standards "The Shadow Riders" scores quite well. Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott are the ideal heroes, playing two brothers who fight on different sides during the civil war.Just listening to their dialog is half the fun of the film. Katharine Ross is beautiful and Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Junior ( remember the John Ford films?) are welcome additions to an already excellent cast. The story is from Louis L'Amour and follows the character of his books, predictable but entertaining. The musical score brings to mind the song "The Battle of New Orleans". An unusual scenery with vivid colors and a seashore that looks a lot like California even though it is in Texas, this western is not outstanding, but very enjoyable
Four of the best all time best western actors performing with Tom Selleck and Catharine Ross at their best -- Harry Carey, Jr., Ben Johnson, Geoffrey Lewis and Sam Elliot -- make the best of a Louis L'Amour story. Purists may be put-off by the geographical inaccuracies; there is no Baffin Bay or Converse County, Texas. The location looks more like the California coast than Texas.
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