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John Chard
The Magnificent Four! John, Tom, Matt and Bud, these are the Elder boys, who upon meeting up at the funeral of their recently deceased mother, find that their father may have been murdered over a card game. The boys must cast off sibling rivalries and find out just what has been happening in their childhood town of Clearwater, Texas. Unfairly given harsh treatment upon its release by the critics and beset with behind the scenes problems, The Sons Of Katie Elder actually holds up rather well in this day and age. All the required traits are in the film to make it an oater of some worth, a splendid cast with as much macho beef as you can shake a stick at, a top Elmer Bernstein score, the wonderful use of the Casa Blanca location and a revenge driven plot of some note. So why is it hard to actually sell this picture to the staunch Western crowd? Well coming as it did in 1965 it certainly has something of a modern sheen to it, an uneasy bed fellow with the wild west theme of the picture. The casting of the brothers just about works, but Michael Anderson Jr (Bud) and Earl Holliman (Matt) do seem to be overawed by the presence of John Wayne (John) and Dean Martin (Tom), meaning as a foursome it never quite gets to being a tight acting unit. The length of the picture may also be an issue to some? Long periods of inaction work to me personally because the characters (family unit) are gaining much needed depth, but for those wanting guns a toting at frequent intervals are not exactly catered for. Yet what action there is surely more than makes it worth the viewers patience? From the Duke swinging a nice piece of hickory to a wonderful riverside shootout, Henry Hathaway's Western is not found wanting for memorable sequences, in fact if you ask me then the mere sight of the Duke blasting away with a six shooter in each hand is a truly blood pumping joy, and don't get me started on a delightful Dean Martin scene as he raffles his glass eye! So all in all it's not without its itches, but as 60s Westerns go, The Sons Of Katie Elder is a hugely enjoyable picture to enjoy by the fireside on a Sunday afternoon. 7/10

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