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Lee H. Katzin
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An old man looks back 60 years to a road trip from rural Mississippi to Memphis, a horse race, and his own coming of age. Lucius's grandfather gets the first automobile in the area, a bright yellow Winton Flyer. While he's away, the plantation handyman, Boon Hogganbeck, conspires to borrow the car, taking Lucius with him. Stowed away is Ned, a mulatto and Lucius's putative cousin. The three head for Memphis, where Boon's sweetheart works in a whorehouse, where Ned trades the car for a racehorse, and where Lucius discovers the world of adults - from racism and vice to possibilities for honor and courage. Is there redemption for reivers, rascals, and rapscallions?Written by
"Oh, Reivers that's an old-fashioned word from my childhood," explains narrator Burgess Meredith, "In plain English, I'm afraid it meant thieves!"
The narrator is fondly recalling an adventure he had as an 11-year-old boy, "coming of age" in Mississippi. Young Mitch Vogel (as Lucius Priest) is the lad; he accompanies father-figure/handyman Steve McQueen (as Boon Hogganbeck), who steals the family's first automobile - a brand new, yellow-colored 1905 Winton Flyer. Rupert Crosse (as Ned McCaslin) makes "The Reivers" a trio by stowing away in the car's trunk. Their main destination is a bordello, where Mr. McQueen wants to hook up with prostitute girlfriend Sharon Farrell (as Corrie). Meanwhile, Mr. Crosse swaps the trio's prized vehicle for a slow horse named "Lightning"
Mark Rydell's direction of William Faulkner's final novel is a qualified success. The principal cast members work very well together, with Vogel and Crosse exhibiting as much star presence as the more famous McQueen. The supporting cast is great; the participation of Will Geer, Burgess Meredith, and Juano Hernandez add to the film's old-world charm. Richard Moore's Mississippi photography is beautiful.
Although it doesn't ever go quite far enough, "The Reivers" main strength is in its depiction of real, flawed characters. Faulkner's portrayal of race and gender, as much as they show, are noteworthy. The most touching moments occur when young Vogel learns that women are not viewed the same way, after adolescence. His obvious difficulty accepting the degradation of women (through prostitution and beating) portends a different future for the younger generation.
******* The Reivers (12/25/69) Mark Rydell ~ Steve McQueen, Mitch Vogel, Rupert Crosse, Sharon Farrell
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