Thursday, 9 February 2017

Movie Review: McLintock! (1963)


A comedy Western, McLintock! is a tedious exercise in atrocious low brow humour.

George Washington "G.W." McLintock (John Wayne) is a tough but fair cattle baron who owns most of the land and businesses in the town that carries his family's name. The arrival of settlers creates some tension among the local cattle ranchers, as do Indians who show up to welcome incoming Chiefs. McLintock offers a job to Devlin Warren (Patrick Wayne), an enthusiastic young man, and also takes in Devlin's mother Louise (Yvonne De Carlo) as the new household cook.

G.W.'s ill-tempered wife Katherine (Maureen O'Hara) shows up after a long separation, demanding a divorce and insisting that she will scoop their daughter Becky (Stefanie Powers) back east. G.W. refuses to agree to any of her demands, and their relationship remains toxic. Meanwhile Devlin sets his eyes on Becky, while Louise is also on the prowl for a partner to take the place of her deceased husband.

Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen from a script developed by John Wayne but credited to James Edward Grant, McLintock! is an adaptation of sorts of Shakespeare's The Taming Of The Shrew. The film wallows in infantile slapstick humour, and surrenders to misogynistic and racist tendencies. Women's bottoms are spanked with coal shovels, Indians are generally treated as whiskey-loving caricatures, and the humour is anchored by increasingly tiresome and seemingly endless fistfights, people sliding into water pits and drunks tumbling down the stairs. Three times, just to make the point.

With the genre clearly reaching its nadir in terms of ideas, creativity and energy, dross like McLintock! explains the emergence of the Spaghetti Western, Sergio Leone and his cohorts grabbing the Western by the boot spurs and injecting a large dose of stylistic steroids to reinvigorate its potential.

McLintock! extends to an agonizing 127 minutes, McLaglen seemingly clueless about how to try and sharpen the focus onto any of the loose threads that attempt to pass as plot. The film just throws ideas at the screen and does exactly nothing with any of them. Cattle ranchers against settlers, incompetent politicians, Indians fighting for respect, several unconvincing romances and finally a Comanche raid during a 4th of July celebration. All of it comes and goes with barren soullessness, and the story lines disintegrate into interludes that mainly serve to interrupt Wayne's awkward soliloquies espousing his philosophies on life.

Not even the central conflict between Katherine and G.W. is given its due. She is bitter and angry, he is uncaring, and so it stays for the best part of two hours until Katherine gets her humiliating comeuppance.

Far from funny, McLintock! is boring, imbecilic, and grotesquely dated.






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