In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”


Steve Jobs

The fact that he doesn’t try to redeem these flawed, fascinating figures—or even try to make you like them in the slightest way—feels like an…



Every once in a while, a movie comes along that is so punishing to one’s mental and physical being that the narrative should be divided…

Other Reviews
Review Archives

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…


Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives


The War Wagon


"The War Wagon" is that comparative rarity, a Western filmed with quiet good humor. It is also a point of departure for John Wayne, who plays a bad guy for just about the first time in his career.

His success here raises the question, What was old Duke waiting for, anyway? Wayne has exhausted the possibilities in those noble movies where he plays the archetype of Western Civilization. Ever since he gave Chill Wills that pompous speech about What My Country Means to Me in "The Alamo" (1960) ("It kinda makes a choke come into ma throat"), he hasn't been the same.

But now Duke's back in form, playing the leader of a band out to capture the War Wagon. He hitches up with an old enemy (Kirk Douglas) and a crew of assorted castaways to capture an armored wagon protected by a Gatling Gun and 32 guards.

The elaborate wagon itself is one of the film's top attractions even though, every time it rattles onto the screen Dimitri Tiomkin bursts into a theme that sounds like "Clang, Clang, Clang Goes the Trolley" played backwards.

Wayne and Douglas have a lot of sardonic dialog. At one point, they enlist some Indians to drag branches behind their horses, an old Indian trick to make lots of dust so Bruce Cabot will think his wagon is being attacked by Indians. "You don't suppose they'll fall for that old Indian trick again, do you?" Douglas asks Wayne. It's the first Western I've ever, seen in which they even admit it's an old Indian trick. "They'd better," Wayne says. They do.

Howard Keel plays the Indian (that's right, Howard Keel plays the Indian) with broad humor, sticking with the conspirators until the other Indians fall into possession of the gold, and then nobly deciding to rejoin his people. Robert Walker improves on his Nervous Drunken Kid role, which he introduced in "The Happening" (1967).

And, in new firsts for movie nudity, Wayne plays a scene in his long johns, and Douglas appears wearing nothing but his gun belt. Now we've seen that, I guess there's nothing to look forward to but Jane Fonda with her clothes on.

Popular Blog Posts

Of Rats and Men: “Black Mass” vs. “The Departed”

A comparison of Frank Costello in The Departed and Whitey Bulger in Black Mass reveals weaknesses in the latter.

The Unloved, Part 22: "My Soul to Take"

Our monthly series digs into the career of Wes Craven and comes out with his 3D 2010 film, "My Soul to Take".

The Ghost Comes: Michael Shannon on “Freeheld,” “99 Homes”

An interview with Michael Shannon on Freeheld, 99 Homes, Boardwalk Empire, and more.

NYFF 2015: "No Home Movie," "Microbe & Gasoline"

A NYFF report on new films from Chantal Akerman and Michel Gondry.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus