Yep, another movie based on a Louis L'Amour novel. I didn't plan it this way, it just sort of happened. I needed something to watch and had a DVD of this movie handy, so I sat down and took a look at it for the first time since the fall of 1971, when I was a freshman at what was then Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. I remember watching it at a theater on the courthouse square with my friend Dennis, who was a big L'Amour fan.
Yul Brynner plays the title role in this one, a charming outlaw named Jedediah Catlow. An old friend of his from the Civil War, Ben Cowan, is now a U.S. marshal and has a warrant for Catlow's arrest. A vicious hired gun named Miller is also after Catlow. They all wind up south of the border chasing after two million dollars in Confederate gold that was stolen and taken to Mexico.
There's a certain repetitiousness to this movie: Cowan captures Catlow, Catlow escapes. Catlow captures Cowan, Cowan escapes. Shootout, fight, Indian attack, dalliance with one of the two beautiful women in the film, a fiery revolutionary (Daliah Lavi) and a Mexican general's daughter (JoAnn Pflug). Then back to the cat-and-mouse game between the two adversaries/old friends.
CATLOW is a pretty lightweight film with quite a bit of humor that I don't remember from L'Amour's novel (although it's been even longer since I read it than it has since I'd seen the movie). Even though this was a feature film, the production values are more TV level. But the scenery is nice, Yul Brynner was always oddly effective in Westerns, and Ben Cowan, who's actually the hero of the movie, is played by Richard Crenna, an actor I always liked. Jeff Corey is Catlow's Gabby Hayes-like sidekick. The villainous Orville Miller is played by Leonard Nimoy, and during one fight scene that interrupts his bath, you get possibly your only chance to see Spock his own self buck naked, if that sort of thing interests you. It's some pretty graphic nudity for 1971.
CATLOW is available on DVD in a multi-disc set called The Louis L'Amour Western Collection, along with a couple of better films, CONAGHER and THE SACKETTS. It's very much of its time, but it's an entertaining little movie.
Verdict: Mark Twain wrote some good stories
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