By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Con-man finds apprentice.
Curley (Michael Sarrazin) is a young army deserter living in an over-turned and abandoned freight car in the rural regions of Kentucky. By chance he meets up with Mordecai Jones (George C. Scott) a traveling con-man who decides to use Curly as his apprentice as well as his assistance in some of his more elaborate schemes. At first Curley goes along with it, but when he fall in-love with Bonnie (Sue Lyon) one of Mordecai’s intended victims he decides he wants out much to Mordecai’s reluctance.
Scott really shines and this may be his best comic performance. Although he was only 38 at the time he looks and acts like a genuine old man even though his gray hair looks like it was frosted on much like what is done to white Christmas trees. In some way it might have been more authentic had an older actor played the role, but Scott is so much fun in the part that the movie may not have worked as well.
Sarrazin is solid in support. His quiet demeanor and understated performances never allowed him to get the recognition that he deserved, but he was always effective in these types of roles and having the character walk the moral tightrope and sometimes fall off makes him interesting and believable. Lyon is also good as the romantic interest. Although I felt the romance bogged things down a bit I still enjoyed her natural acting style that is devoid of any pretension.
Harry Morgan is fun as the headstrong sheriff who chases after Mordecai and Curly as is Albert Salmi as his dim-witted deputy. Salmi’s blank looking facial expressions are tops and the car chase that they have with the two culprits features some impressive comical stunt work and seems to tear-up the entire main street of the town.
The soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith has wonderfully soothing melody with some great harmonica and trumpet solos. The on-location shooting in Kentucky captures the countryside and the hazy late summer sunshine of the region well. For the most part the film is quite amiable and amusing, but predictable. The script lacks the unexpected twist or unique insight that would elevate it above being just the fluff that it is. The ending, which features Curly rigging the courthouse with dynamite and threatening it blow it up has a touching quality to it, but proves frustrating as it doesn’t show us what ultimately becomes of the characters.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: August 22, 1967
Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes
Director: Irvin Kershner
Studio: 20th Century Fox