Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Rare Breed

The Rare Breed (1966)
Dir. Andrew V. McLaglen
Starring: James Stewart, Maureen O'Hara, Jack Elam, Juliet Mills, Brian Keith, Don Galloway

Sam Burnett (Stewart) takes on a quest to aid Martha Price (O'Hara) on a mission to successfully breed Vindicator, a prized Hereford bull in the American west.

It's interesting that the movie feels like 2 different halves, at first setting the characters up with an antagonist named Simons played by Jack Elam, setting it up like a movie where he will be menacing the heroes as they try to get Vindicator where he needs to be. But midway through the film it quickly introduces Jaime Bowen (Galloway), has a pretty exciting stampede scene in a gorge, and then a brief action scene where Sam quickly dispatches Simons. Then the characters retreat to Jaime's ranch home where Brian Keith enters the picture as Alexander Bowen, Jaime's Scottish father. From there the film is more dramatic and comedic, as they deal with injuries, finding lost cattle, if and how they should breed Vindicator, and the coming winter storm.

At first the shift is a bit jarring, but after a couple of minutes I ended up enjoying the back half more than the first half. It's one of those cases where the story shift works, because it helps the film from being too predictable. The more typical route would involve more protracted scenes with the heroes eventually getting the best of Jack Elam's character at the end of the film, and would probably lose things like Brian Keith's Alexander Bowen and all of the story bits in the later half of the film.

The scene at the midpoint where Simons causes the stampede in the gorge, and the ensuing fight between Sam and Simons is the most exciting section of the film. The scene is exciting, and the shot where Sam and Simons ram each other on horseback is jaw dropping, The most interesting moments in the movie is the stunt where the wagon gets knocked over with Martha and Hilary in it, the scene was supposed to have them thrown clear, but it accidentally flipped over on top of the stunt women. Luckily there was a pit where the wagon flipped that allowed them some space to keep from being crushed by the wagon.

Stewart and O'Hara are both good in the movie, but their relationship seems a little forced. You know that their characters are going to end up together because that's how things go in the films from this era. They apparently didn't get along on set but you can't really tell in the finished film. Jack Elam is good in his brief experience in the film, but he mostly gets to scowl and be Jack Elam. But Brian Keith runs away from the movie, stealing every scene as the boisterous Alexander Bowen. It's the most fun of the roles in the film, and giving it it's most memorable character.

This is a perfectly fine and entertaining film, but it's not some classic that everyone should track down. I enjoyed it while I watched it, but at the same time it's not something that I can see myself revisiting.

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