Thursday, June 05, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Joe Kidd (1972) ***

PG, 88 min.
Director: John Sturges
Writer: Elmore Leonard
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, John Saxon, Don Stroud, Stella Garcia, James Wainwright, Paul Koslo, Gregory Walcott, Dick Van Patten, Lynne Marta, John Carter, Pepe Hern

I did my part this past weekend to pass on the great tradition of the western. I feel I haven’t instilled it enough in my first three children, so I decided to start early with our latest edition. This weekend I sat down with my youngest (2½ mos) and watched a Clint Eastwood western.

“Joe Kidd” is the only one I had yet to see. One of those films that’s been sitting on my nightstand for decades in the “to see” pile. I don’t really know why it has escaped me for so long. The pedigree behind it is phenomenal. Director John Sturges was responsible for such classics as “The Great Escape” and “Bad Day at Black Rock” as well as western classics like “The Magnificent Seven”, “Blacklash”, and “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”. Screenwriter Elmore Leonard is a legend of American literature whose stories were responsible for such westerns as “Hombre” and not one, but two excellent versions of “3:10 to Yuma”.

Then there are the stars. Of course there’s Eastwood, who was well established by the release of this film as the premiere star of the western genre. John Saxon was a popular heavy throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, although his heavy here isn’t quite so heavy. Robert Duvall was hot off “The Godfather”—released earlier that year—and is still a frequent western collaborator.

Yet somehow, all this pedigree leads to a merely good movie. I knew “Joe Kidd” wasn’t some sort of classic of the genre, otherwise it wouldn’t have taken me this long to see it, but it’s hard not to think it should’ve been better considering the parts of the whole.

Still, it is a good western. It shows a little bit of Eastwood’s thinking about social matters. It tackles prejudice shown against Mexicans living in the United States. It gives us some good gunfights, an interesting use of a train and plenty of Clint’s disdainful sneers. Harris quite enjoyed it from the other side of his eyelids. C’mon, the kid’s only 10 weeks old.

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