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A respectable entry in the annals of the best Westerns..
Nazi_Fighter_David30 June 2002
Henry Hathaway was a versatile director whose Westerns have been as variable in quality as his other films...

Hathaway's best Westerns have all come in the fifties, beginning with the very credible 'Rawhide,' with Tyrone Power, and continuing with 'Garden of Evil,' the highly enjoyable burlesque 'North to Alaska,' most of 'How the West Was Won,' 'The Sons of Katie Elder,' 'Five Card Stud,' and 'True Grit.'

Hathaway's strong points are atmosphere, character and authentic locations... The little known 'From Hell to Texas' is quoted by those who have seen it as Hathaway's best Western on these three counts, a film directed with profound feeling for the deliberate pace and loneliness of the real West...

'Nevada Smith' is actually a strong and revealing study of the regeneration of one man... The film makes an excellent double bill with Marlon Brando's sole effort as director, 'One-Eyed Jacks.'

'Nevada Smith' is an exciting premise, taught and tight... It is not a motion picture to dismiss or forget... It is one of the first films to apply the contemporary standards of sex and violence to an Old West setting... The film is based on a story by John Michael Hayes, two-time Academy Award nominated screenwriter for 'Rear Window,' and 'Peyton Place.'

The film lingers in the mind because of its visual beauty and the intensity of some of its scenes, particularly between McQueen and Malden, two knowing actors playing together with the skill of champion chess players...

Hathaway sets up his atmosphere of dramatic tension right at the start... With a horse, a rifle, and 8 dollars, McQueen is a half-white teen-aged whose only desire is to hunt down his parents vicious killers... All helpless, he vows to dispatch the three 'bravados' one by one... He even gets himself thrown into prison just to gun one of them down...

With the help of a gun merchant (Brian Keith), McQueen learns how to shoot a gun and sets out the chase where the money is... He rides off alone, blinded by a compulsion that obscures his other motive for living: 'I don't see nothing, except my father laying on a covered-floor all burnt and cut with the top of his head blown to pieces, and my mother split up in the middle and every square inch of her skin ripped off.'

Steve McQueen recreates the type of role he had played in 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.' He is effective in his hesitant, self-conscious way, eager to be a firm gunfighter and almost as inept... He has little more sense of character than Ladd in Edward Dmytryk's 'The Carpetbaggers' but has a tension which made the film interesting to watch...

Brian Keith is excellent as the father figure who adopts McQueen... He is sincere in warning the young avenger that in order to catch and kill these men, he will have to comb out every saloon, gambling hall, hog farm and whorehouse, and become just as despicable as they are... Keith comes out a star with his quiet, sure, graceful underplaying... As he instructs McQueen, it was clear that he knows not only his guns but human nature..

Suzanne Pleshette, standing knee deep in water, is the pretty girl, able to escape from the terrors of her environment into the poetry of her reveries... Both a sinner and a saint, Pilar adds humanity to Max world...

With a knife in his hand, and a scar on his neck, Martin Landau is the psychotic womanizer, a morose, evil character, caught in Abelene dealing cards in a saloon...

Arthur Kennedy - friendly, smiling, charming and smooth-talking on the surface, weak and corrupt underneath - is the frightened villain swamped by a storm of revenge...

Karl Malden is the cynical badman who depreciates his gold before his executioner...

Raf Vallone is the good priest who wants his young avenging hunter to take a deep look into his heart...

Pat Hingle is the prisoner in custody with gun and whip, who takes great pleasure and delight in breaking his companions by beating them up...

Howard da Silva is the ruthless warden who assures his prisoners that the swamp is their wall... Miles and miles of it, filled of dirty water, quicksand, razorbacks, poison snakes, mosquitoes and malaria...

Janet Margolin is the dance hall girl uncertain of the identity of one of the dangerous murderers...

Joanna Cook Moore is the grateful saloon girl who offers herself to Max...

Rick Roman is Cipriano, the bandit who warns seriously his companion not to harm Father Zaccardi...

Ted de Corsia is the bartender who wants the two contenders to calm down in order to find out the truth..

The expertise before the cameras and behind it, plus McQueen's dynamic presence, makes 'Nevada Smith' a respectable entry in the annals of the best Westerns...
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ron-fernandez-pittsburgh15 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Good scenery, great cinematography and good music score do not a movie make. Good plot, but executed in a strange way. STEVE MCQUEEN is MUCH, MUCH, MUCH to old for the role. He also kind of "sleep walks" thru this. Maybe he didn't have much faith in the script. SUZANNE PLESCHETTE is wasted in a nothing role. In fact she's totally miss cast. The three villains score my vote for good performances. An uncredited JOANNA MOORE has a nice bit in a hotel room with MCQUEEN. Picture could have used more of her. SPOILER ALERT: Now for the worse part. How did MCQUEEN get out of the swamp and get out of his prison chains and end up in California with no one noticing??? A real plot hole here unless there was a giant cut in the final edit. If so, that was DUMB. Picture was OK until that point, and what follows is pretty bad. Again maybe to jagged editing. Nothing makes much sense. Too bad as NEVADA SMITH has the makings of a good film.
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What I believe is the biggest problem with this film
daylecorley26 March 2011
What I think is the biggest problem with Nevada Smith is casting a 40 year old blond with blue eyes to play a 16 year old half Native American. It is distracting throughout the whole story. Sometimes it is even ludicrous because a couple of times people seem to recognize on sight that he is Native American. Couldn't they have at least dyed his hair black and give him some contact lenses for Pete's sake? And what was supposed to be a sweet "coming of age" scene with the young Native American girl just looked WRONG. Steve McQueen was a good actor and all, but throughout the whole movie I was using my imagination replacing him with a young Bronson or someone a little more appropriate to the character he was playing.
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More Intense Revenge
ccthemovieman-115 June 2006
This was a western with a good cast and another intense, interesting revenge story. It's fairly long at 130 minutes but Steve McQueen is usually charismatic enough to carry a film, and he does so here, too.

As the title character, "Nevada Smith," McQueen is joined by a number of well- known actors of the 1960s: Suzanne Pleshette, Karl Malden, Brian Keith, Arthur Kennedy, Raf Vallone, Martin Landau Janet Margolin and Pat Hingle.

McQueen plays a man who is totally dominated by thoughts of revenge. It motivates his every move. I don't recommend that attitude, but it makes for a good movie.

It was nice to see this in 2:35:1 widescreen. Even though I owned a new tape, that nice western photography made the DVD purchase worthwhile.
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Miscast McQueen
kenjha9 April 2010
A young man seeks revenge for the brutal murder of his parents. It's generally well made, but can't overcome a big casting flaw. The title character is supposed to be a teen-aged half-breed. Unfortunately, he's played by 36-year-old blonde-haired, blue-eyed McQueen. It's hard to buy when he is repeatedly referred to as a kid and a half-breed. McQueen tries to act young, but acting like a man half his age makes him appear mentally retarded. The film goes on too long, with an extended prison sequence (stangely reminiscent of "Papillon," which McQueen would star in seven years later) that seems out of place in a Western. The impressive cast is chock full of familiar faces.
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Harold Robbins Western sleaze saved by McQueen and Hathaway.
TheVid23 April 2003
This sidebar story from Harold Robbins THE CARPETBAGGERS was given class treatment by Paramount as a vehicle for McQueen, who lends some authenticity to a rather routine character motivated by a quest to avenge the brutal slaying of his parents at the beginning of the picture. Henry Hathaway lends visual elegance to what's basically a drawn-out, seedy revenge tale. Alfred Newman provides the rousing music. Moderately engaging.
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Has some flaws but is still a good film.
Virgil_Hilts_196422 November 2003
The problem with any Steve McQueen western is that none measure up to The Magnificent Seven, his best cowboy role and one of the best westerns of all time.

Nevada Smith is not a perfect screenplay but it is nonetheless entertaining. It is the tale of a young boy who seeks revenge on three men who viciously tortured and murdered his parents. It has a predictable plot and some directorial flaws, but overall it meets the criteria for a good film; it is entertaining.

At age 36, McQueen is a bit hard to believe as a 'kid'. The story obviously spans many years in Max Sand's life and if the writers had played this up more McQueen's age would not have mattered. Even showing Max and Alex Chord in a winter setting followed by spring, something to show an extensive passage of time would have helped make McQueen's age more fitting (if he'd lost weight prior to filming it would also have helped). More emphasis should have been placed on his progression from illiterate, green half-breed to savvy gun slinger. The passage of time while he learned to read, use firearms, kill his first victim and recover from wounds at the Indian village, should all have been used more extensively to make Max Sand age into the character portrayed by McQueen.

But regardless of McQueen's actual age, by the time Max kills the first of the three men he is tracking and then gets himself thrown into a Louisiana prison to find another one, his character's age and looks are believable.

A superb cast of supporting actors backs up McQueen. Brian Keith is the perfect father figure who takes Max in and teaches him to use firearms and tells him about life and how to find the men who killed his parents. Suzanne Pleshette cannot be made to look bad no matter how hard the make up department tries. Even dirty and sweaty in the swamp, her natural beauty and class shine. These traits and her unique voice and soft movements steal any scene she is in. She almost upstages McQueen. Martin Landau, Arthur Kennedy and Karl Malden are as bad as any movie villains I ever saw.

POSSIBLE SPOILER: In the end, Max does the right thing. He purges his hate and embraces the bigger meaning of life. He doesn't forgive the murderers; he just elevates himself above them. He doesn't kill Fitch, instead after wounding him severely he walks away from a life of violence. For some reason, I believe he returns to the Indian tribe of his birth and to Neesa, the Indian woman who truly loves him. In any case, ultimately the film works.
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Revenge...A Dish Served Too Cold
Bill Slocum19 June 2009
Two things stand out in a positive way in this rather grim, overblown revenge western: Cinematographer Lucien Ballard and Brian Keith in a winning, low-key supporting role. Otherwise it's one of those films that leaves you thinking about what might have been.

Steve McQueen stars as Max Sand, teenaged son of a white man and a Kiowa woman who sets out to revenge his parents' murders at the hands of three bad men in search of gold. The killers prove hard to find. On his search for revenge, Max meets up with an assortment of people that testify to the broader possibilities of life, but he can't shake the determination to inflict vengeance - whoever suffers.

It's a good concept for a story, maybe not a new one in 1966, but still worthy of in-depth treatment. But McQueen is all wrong for the main part, too old and unbelievable as a half-breed, and much of the action that takes place is highly contrived. Director Henry Hathaway and writer John Michael Hayes, working from a concept developed around a character featured in the novel and later film "The Carpetbaggers", toy with the question about whether Max's quest to settle scores is a bad thing in itself, but never develop it.

"You're a dirty low animal!" Max is told at one point by a woman who he misled in order to confront one of his parents' killers. But even when he lets innocent people die so he can make a beeline for the worst of the bad guys, Tom Fitch (Karl Malden), the film doesn't bother to suggest Max as anything other than a noble avenger. Perhaps McQueen didn't want to play a Western anti-hero. Too bad he didn't wait a few months - Clint Eastwood would have shown him how it's done.

There are a lot of problems with "Nevada Smith", but the big one I suspect - with no secondary info to back me up - was that it was conceived and largely shot as a roadshow western, then got scaled down as the producers realized they didn't have "Lawrence of Nevada" on their hands. Weird go-nowhere scenes chew time, like Max buying a can of peaches and having an inane conversation with a chuckling storekeeper, but you also get abrupt story shifts. One second Max is sitting helpless in a Louisiana swamp; the next he's leaning on a corral fence hundreds of miles away.

The film is constructed in three parts, one for each killer, but there's no reason any of them should run longer than 20 minutes. Instead, the whole film runs over two hours.

As a McQueen fan, it's distressing seeing him pressing so hard, overemoting when he confronts one of the other killers, played by Martin Landau: "Jesse Coward! Jesse Murderer! Jesse Woman Killer!" McQueen didn't scream well on camera. He also hooks up with two different women, Janet Margolin as a Kiowa maiden and Suzanne Pleshette as a Cajun laborer, neither of whom are remotely believable in underwritten roles and seem sops to McQueen's growing female fanbase.

At least there's some good moments amid the chaff, like a sequence where McQueen beats the stuffing out of a cowhand to win an amused Fitch's respect. Lucien Ballard's full-screen compositions show why he was the lensman for so many classic 1960s westerns, including Hathaway's later "True Grit". And Brian Keith as Jonas Cord, a gun dealer who befriends Sand, steals every scene he's in with gentle digs and sighs that reminds one of how terrifically Hathaway used John Wayne in "Grit": "You don't drink? Where you're going' you better study up!"

But when Keith's not on screen, "Nevada Smith" is no fun to sit through. It's an odd western, overbaked but underdeveloped, lacking the courage of whatever passes for its convictions. "You're yella! Ya haven't got the guts!" is the last line we hear before the credits roll...sadly appropriate.
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Good but problematic...
MartinHafer22 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Whether or not this is a good film, it sure is a poorly cast one. Think about it....a 35 year-old Steve McQueen is cast as a teenager who is half American-Indian!! The guy is fair-skinned and blond and looks every bit 35--which is hilarious when people refer to him as 'boy' and 'kid'!! It's also odd, since the actor playing his father (Gene Evans) is only 8 years older! While not a major character in the film, Suzanne Pleshette is cast as a Hispanic woman--bad casting but not nearly as bad as McQueen.

This is a highly unusual film because it is a prequel to another film. In 1964, "The Carpetbaggers" had a supporting character, Nevada Smith (Alan Ladd) and "Nevada Smith" is about this guy's younger years. Though, if you think about it, McQueen really doesn't look all that much like Alan Ladd, either.

Three men on horseback approach Smith and ask where his father is. He tells them and thinks nothing of it. However, the three men are thieves and think the father has struck gold in his mine. To try to get him to talk, they skin his Indian wife alive and then kill him! Not surprisingly, when the son discovers this, he vows revenge. However, the path to revenge is long. He knows nothing about killing and is ill-prepared. But, by the end of the film, he's an experienced killer and ready for the ultimate showdown.

Aside from the bad casting decisions, I had a problem with the ending. It just didn't ring true on several levels. First, the baddie was there with his entire gang--yet he runs away and is pursued by Nevada Smith. Since he had about 10 friends, why run? And, when he did, why didn't any of his gang bother to help him or at least take a shot as Smith?! It's a shame, because if the ending were a bit better and the casting A LOT better, it could have easily earned an 8. Interesting but flawed.
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Another tall revenge tale from Harold Robbins--western style...
Neil Doyle6 September 2007
NEVADA SMITH is a long-winded revenge tale encompassing chapters in a man's quest for revenge. The first chapter is the most interesting--with BRIAN KEITH showing "the kid" (STEVE McQUEEN) something about handling a gun as a gunslinger should who's looking to avenge the killers of his parents.

As the killers--MARTIN LANDAU, ARTHUR KENNEDY and KARL MALDEN--give tough, gritty performances and each is slated to be avenged for the killing of Nevada Smith's parents.

But the last half of the film sags under the tacked on spiritual saga with RAF VALLONE preaching the Bible to "the kid", who promises to "keep it in mind" before he goes off to find the third man, KARL MALDEN.

It's all directed in typical Henry Hathaway fashion--ruggedly staged action against gorgeous scenic backgrounds. It's a role that suits STEVE McQUEEN as perfectly as any of his best parts. He's especially good in the early segment as the uneducated kid who comes under the tutoring of BRIAN KEITH as Jonas Cord.

The swamp scenes, where McQueen gets himself sent to prison so he can locate Arthur Kennedy, almost seem like segments from another movie he made with Dustin Hoffman--PAPILLON. HOWARD DaSILVA and PAT HINGLE play the brutal warden and his helpmate in brutal fashion. SUZANNE PLESHETTE is rather unlikely as a doomed native girl in an underwritten role.

Summing up: A revenge tale that could have been trimmed by at least 30 minutes to make a tighter western.
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Pretty solid western revenge drama, though not perfect
Wizard-818 September 2002
Though there isn't much here that you haven't seen before in a western revenge drama, it's pretty well done. You can understand why the protagonist turns away at any chance of a normal life and instead concentrates on nothing but revenge. And it is undeniably satisfying to see him enact his revenge any chance he gets.

It's good for what it is, though there are some problems, that if tweaked, could have made the movie even better. For one thing, casting McQueen as a half-Indian? And casting this mid-30s actor as a character that's supposed to be young enough to be called "Kid"!?!? Plus, the escape from the swamp doesn't seem finished; in fact, with the short sequence where one of McQueen's pursuers commenting on the bullets he has left makes me believe that several minutes were edited out before the movie was released.
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Violence and gun-play in a revenge story , masterfully played by Steve McQueen
ma-cortes17 October 2006
After witnessing the brutal massacre of his family , a young man (Steve McQueen) set out a personal vengeance against a hideous band (the trio formed by Martin Landau , Karl Malden , Arthur Kennedy) . He swears revenge and will do pay one by one the murderers . He carries the vengeance in his heart after seeing his family butchered . Previous rules of the code of west are dated , he is nowadays guided by vendetta . The protagonist combines raw ferocity , toughness and untamed youth . He learns about the life with the experience only a master gun-fighter (Brian Keith) can offer . He is going after those who killed them . He travels the southwestern and goes to Abilene as cowboy . In this cattle town the rowdy , free-spending cowboys attracted saloon keepers , gambling houses , brothels with prostitutes (Janet Margolin) and all types of frontier men , the city became notorious for its lawlessness and vice , there he found his main enemy (Martin Landau) . Later on , he goes to Northern and crosses paths to track down and hunt foes . He is become an outlaw with a price on his head and carries out bank robbery , murders and being severely wounded . But he is trapped . He is imprisoned in a prisoner camp that is a hell on the earth , the inmates are tortured , harassed and humiliated by the wardens (Pat Hingle , Howard Da Silva) in a gaol where rules the strongest law . He along with a convict (Arthur Kennedy) and helped by a gorgeous young woman( Suzanne Pleshette) are involving the preparatives for the scape . He also meets a good priest (Raf Vallone), explaining him a moralising speech.

This is a violent , lengthy Western based on the character created by Harold Robbins in ¨The Carpetbaggers ¨(adapted to cinema by Edward Dimitrick with George Peppard) . In the movie there is action , tension , adventures , violence and results to be quite entertaining . The great Steve McQueen gives a very good acting in his peculiar style . Support cast is frankly awesome , such as : Brian Keith , Raf Vallone , Pat Hingle , Howard Da Silva , Janet Margolin , Martin Landau , Paul Fix , John Doucette , Gene Evans , among others . The picture is well photographed , including magnificently detailed outdoors and stunning locations in glittering colour . As it packs an evocative and colorful cinematography in Technicolor by Lucien Ballard . Excellent music by the veteran and classic Alfred Newman . The motion picture was finely directed by Henry Hathaway (True grit, Five sons of Katie Elder) .
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Excellent Western:
Ron-18123 November 2001
What makes this movie so much better than most westerns is the cast. Every speaking part is handled by a true professional and although the story line has been much used over the years, everyone should view this movie to enjoy one great performance after another. Steve McQueen, Brian Keith, Karl Malden, Arthur Kennedy, Susan Pleshette, John Doucette, you just don't get a finer cast than that. This is a must see for all serious film buffs. I rated this an 8.
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One of McQueen's Worst Efforts
qormi5 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Steve McQueen is usually the coolest guy in the room (Bullitt, The Magnificent Seven, The Sand Pebbles, etc.). In this movie, however, I'm afraid he checked his charisma out at the door. He seemed to be a complete dork throughout most of the movie; with a dumb look on his face. Why the women in the film would shamelessly throw themselves at him seems implausible; women generally don't go for confused, nonverbal, deficient-looking guys. The action sequences were also weak. The scene where he fights Martin Landau in the corral was very disappointing. The fight was viewed from a far off camera when closeups were called for. Why would McQueen's character open the gate and release a herd of at least 50 cattle in the middle of the night? All he had to do was circle the corral, fire his gun, and let the cows trample Landau, who was stupidly hiding in their pen. Wouldn't the owner of the cattle have been a little peeved if, after a long cattle drive, some jerk released them? Another dumb action sequence was when McQueen strangled the prison guard with his ankle chains, lifting him off the ground and then pulling on the chains wrapped around the man's throat for good measure. The man collapsed, dead. But wait - there's more - we find out in the next scene that he survived (he was after all, a prison guard with a heart of gold.) How could anyone survive being strangled? Then, there's the part where he teams up with Carl Malden's character to rob a stagecoach with the intention of killing Malden. Why in the hell did McQueen's character go along with the heist and allow the outlaws to slaughter all the men escorting the gold shipment? He had ample time to kill Malden while the robbery was being planned. The idiot was just as bad as the bandits. Lots of flaws; just dumb.
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"Some Kind of Man"
bkoganbing5 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you remember The Carpetbaggers, you'll note the scene where Jonas Cord, Jr. tells his surrogate father Nevada Smith about how he researched and discovered his real story. That his real name was Max Sand and that when three vicious outlaws killed his parents, he spent years tracking them down to mete out justice.

From that small speech in The Carpetbaggers came the motion picture Nevada Smith which starred Steve McQueen in the role that was destined to be Alan Ladd's last. Talk was that Ladd would have liked to do it himself, but he would never have been convincing as the young Nevada.

The outlaws who McQueen is on the trail of are three of the most vicious ever created in Hollywood. Karl Malden, Arthur Kennedy, and Martin Landau each admirably fit their despicable characters. So does Brian Keith as Jonas Cord, Sr. who became McQueen's friend and benefactor.

There are three substantial women's parts in this film. Janet Margolin is the Kiowa Indian girl who went into the white man's world and became a prostitute who cares for McQueen when he's wounded in the Kiowa Village. And there's Joanna Moore, a most grateful widow of Martin Landau who wants to thank Steve good and proper for her new station in life. She's the one with the title quote for the review.

One of the unsung roles in the film however is that of Suzanne Pleshette who plays a Cajun swamp girl who gets bitten by a water moccasin while helping McQueen and Arthur Kennedy bust out of a prison work camp in Louisiana. His treatment of her is McQueen at his most ruthless, he's just using her to get out a jail to get a crack at Kennedy. In fact he deliberately got himself thrown into prison for that purpose. When Pleshette realizes that when she's dying in the swamp of the untreated snakebite, it's maybe her finest moment in her film career.

Nevada Smith was a very good part for Steve McQueen, it stands high with his legion of fans and holds up very well forty years later.
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Another big hit for Steve McQueen
moonspinner5528 May 2007
Henry Hathaway directs this successful, but lumpy, wayward western-drama scripted by John Michael Hayes, featuring a title character originally introduced in Harold Robbins' book "The Carpetbaggers" (making this film a prequel of sorts). Steve McQueen is the young half-breed avenging the deaths of his parents by heartless cowboys Karl Malden and Arthur Kennedy; Brian Keith plays a mentoring, sympathetic gun-salesman who teaches Steve how to shoot; Suzanne Pleshette is a love-interest from the backwoods. Overripe scenario gets big boost from charismatic McQueen, excellent as usual. The supporting work from the men is also strong, though attractive Pleshette hasn't gotten a handle on her role and remains a puzzlement. The story strays all over the place, but Hathaway's pacing never drags and it's quite a good show for both western-buffs and soap fans. **1/2 from ****
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A must for McQueen and "epic western" fans...
Poseidon-325 June 2002
Fans of traditional westerns should get real pleasure out of this movie. Henry Hathaway, director of many classics, amasses a strong cast of veteran actors and gets a sometimes epic feel out of the film. McQueen, in one of his most popular roles, plays the half-breed son of a miner and his Indian wife. When three heartless drifters savagely murder his parents, he sets out for revenge. If one can get past the fact that McQueen looks about as half-breed as Conan O'Brian and is constantly referred to as "boy" even though he was 36 at the time (!), the rest of the film should be enjoyable. He shares some nice chemistry with Keith, an ammunition salesman who shows him a few tricks. (This character is the father of the George Peppard character in the film "The Carpetbaggers" which preceded this film, made by the same people.) The murderers are played by three strong, well-pedigreed actors (Landau, Kennedy and Malden.) They all do a very fine job. It is intriguing to see McQueen go up against them in turn, with increasing skill and inventiveness. McQueen isn't content to merely kill them or let them die. He meticulously sets up scenarios in which he can exact his revenge. In this, the film is a bit far-fetched, especially when he is willing to be sent to a swampy wasteland of a prison and to allow himself to be mistreated regularly. It is here that he meets his love interest (Pleshette.) In a waist-length wig and skirt tucked into her belt, she is a sort of indentured servant on a rice farm who visits the prison for conjugal visits. She does the best she can with a rather stereotypical role. She certainly proved she wasn't afraid to get DIRTY! Ultimately, the film is a bit too long and somewhat overly episodic to be a great one, but it is an enjoyable experience for the most part. One note: The mostly unshown murder at the beginning is more chilling and upsetting in it's description than any truckload of gory, bloody gunk thrust upon the screen today. It's a testament to the fact that what one can't see is often more vivid than what one can.
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A beautiful story about brutal revenge
dean t19 June 2005
This movie stands the test of time as a western classic examining universal themes, up there with more touted flicks like Shane, and the Searchers. The brutal murder of his parents begins the metamorphosis of Steve McQueen's character, from an innocent boy into an instrument of revenge. His hatred grows more resolute, even as several people are kind to him along the way, and he falls in love, twice. An example of the lengths he goes to is getting himself thrown into prison to gain access to one of his victims. Despite the humanity he encounters on his journey to catch the killers, will he allow hatred to consume his life? Though coming from different places, McQueen, and Carl Malden, as the leader of the gang he is after, both give vintage powerful performances. A young Suzanne Pleshette is gorgeous. Brian Keith is simply great. A thinking man's Kill Bill.
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Does not deserve the high rating.
kneiss117 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I do love old western movies, but I really dislike this one. The pictures and the atmosphere (OK OK, maybe actors as well), are the only reason to watch this movie. Everything else in this movie is totally not convincing.

The story is awful - it is totally predictable and makes no sense psychological. Characters act weird and are absolutely unrealistic. Especially our hero hurt my brain. He turns from some idiotic, naive, half-Indian with blonde hair, into a ruthless murderer that only cares about revenge. In the end of the movie he changes his mind, and does not kill his 3rd victim (after shooting him 4 times). This change of mind is totally not explained... One of the worst endings I have ever seen.

If this movie wouldn't look so nice, and have such a nice atmosphere, it would have gotten 1 point from me. This movie has one of the poorest scripts ever.
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More than a Western.
Spikeopath4 March 2008
More than a Western indeed, perhaps a straight forward revenge drama in substance? But it is also a fine character study of a man coming to terms with growing up faster than he ever thought he would have to. What makes the film real good and lifts it above average is its structured segments, director Henry Hathaway weaves a potent and interesting story by making each part of Nevada Smith/Max Sand's journey an involving character piece that puts you firmly on side with the protagonist and his vengeful quest.

Credit has to go to McQueen for putting much gusto into the character when it was badly needed, because to save the film from being standard fare we need the leading man to involve us in his troubled and confused state, luckily he does this with bells on. The locations and sets put gloss on the story and in the main the rest of the cast do very well, however, I'm one of the few on this site who feels that Karl Malden just doesn't cut it as the chief villain of the piece, I feel the character who carried out these vile crimes should have been far more menacing than the shaky overplayed villain that Malden gives us.

Great action sequences, a memorable story, and an ending that brings the character full circle. All things that combine to give us a very good film that stars a great leading man and is directed with very professional and genre knowing hands. 8/10
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A solid western...
dbdumonteil6 July 2006 Henry Hathaway who had a wonderful sense of space ("Niagara" "River of No return" "legend of the lost" ) .A very elaborate screenplay takes us to many places ,from the swamp where prisoners sweat to the Indian village "where Max should stay cause it's here that he belongs" .However, McQueen is not very plausible as a person of mixed -race ,Robert Blake would have been a better choice.

The story is constantly absorbing (McQueen getting deliberately arrested recalls Truffaut/Irish's "the bride wore black" turned western)and the supporting characters give the movie substance:Karl Malden and Arthur Kennedy as the villains,Suzanne Pleshette as Pilar ,the gorgeous Mexican girl , Raf Vallone as the priest with a painful past;let's not forget Martin Landau ,the third villain,who works as a dealer in a saloon.

Two hours+ and never a dull moment!
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Josh Randall Returns.
eaglejet9821 May 2002
After two plus years of uninspiring movies, McQueen returns to one of his two fortes, westerns (the other being war movies).

I found the film's early sequences hard to believe, but only because we know this is Steve McQueen; Josh Randal and "Vin"...a man born on a horse, shooting a gun, not a defenseless half breed kid. But as soon as he kills Jesse Coe (Martin Landau) in a knife fight, his familiar screen persona emerges and the rest of the film is vintage McQueen.

Suzanne Pleshette is superb as the beautiful Cajun girl who risks everything to help Max escape a Louisiana prison in her quest to go west, where it is "clean and dry". She is the first victim of his unrelenting use of people to help him get vengeance on his parents' murderers.

The rest of the supporting cast is believable and the villains are nasty enough to justify Max's quest for blood. All around good entertainment.
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Not a complete waste of time, but close
rpawliko2 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Westerns, Revenge, Steve McQueen, Karl Malden, Martin Landau and Arthur Kennedy - this sounded like a great way to spend an evening. I was sadly disappointed.

McQueen's performance is good, although in my estimation, not his best (I award that to "The Sand Pebbles" - also done in 1966). I would have to say the same for almost everyone else in the picture.

I lay the blame at the feet of the director. Here you have a great deal of talent, beautiful scenery and a story that has the potential to be compelling, but it meanders almost as much as the central character - from Nevada and parts west, to the Lousiana bayou and back west again.

I never fully believed McQueen's murderous desire - a desire so intense that it takes him all over the West and a number of years. He is not so much dispassionate as distant - he sheds not a tear nor bears a smile, he just works on trailing the bad guys to kill them, and he does that with all of the emotion reserved for getting an oil change.

The ending too is less than satisfying. Presented with the opportunity to kill his final adversary, he merely maims him extensively, leaving the man to demand that McQueen kill him. "You're not worth killin'" he says, and then rides into the sunset.

But the character's motivation is unclear - did he reach an epiphany from his time spent with a Spanish Priest? Did he finally have a sense of closure by having the man in his sites? Or was it just enough to shoot a man in the hand and both legs and leave him to die in a freezing mountain creek? If someone could re-edit this film down to the 100 or so minute level it deserves, it could have been very good. As it is, pass on this movie unless you're a die hard McQueen fan.
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Classic Western with Great Actors!
whpratt126 February 2004
Every time this film is shown on TV, I just have to watch this amazing Western with many great actors too long to mention. Steve McQueen (Nevada Smith),"The Hunter",'80 went from a Work Camp in the Swamps to the Cowboy Country trying to track down a great actor Karl Malden(Tom Fitch),"On The Waterfront",'54, who played a hateful person who destroyed Nevada Smith's family and forced him to seek revenge. Suzanne Pleshette (Pilar, Cajun Girl),"Hot Stuff",'79 helped Nevada obtain a boat to help him through the swamps despite a horrible snake bite and many horrible encounters. Howard DaSilva (Warden of the Work Camp),"1776",'72(Ben Franklin), was a horrible Warden with many cruel ways and definitely out for Nevada Smith's blood. If you love good Westerns with great Classic actors, don't miss this film!
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Revenge without commitment
eklund-par23 August 2013
I can't agree with those who say that "Hey, Steve McQueen, being 36 and blonde, is perhaps miscast as a young 16 year-old half-breed but it's still a great movie". You may as well argue that John Wayne at the age of 70 could have made this part. Or maybe Sidney Poitier. Well he couldn't. The young boy who loses his parents and has to grow up fast, eventually becoming a killing machine is the key element of the story. If you remove this, there just isn't much left except for the standard revenge scenario. Steve McQueen is so far from his character that he just can't pull it off. And he doesn't even try. In fact he looks mostly embarrassed throughout the movie. And I shared his feelings.
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