Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Monte Walsh is dirty, dusty and dull

Cleveland Press October 9, 1970

A couple of years ago Charlton Heston made a movie called "Will Penny," all about an ordinary, illiterate, unbathed cowboy. It was honest and appealing and had class and did no business.

"Monte Walsh" looks like another attempt to do a "Will Penny," but it is "Will Penny" without the class.

THIS TIME it is Lee Marvin who knows no other trade than being a cowboy and it is a time when cowboying is going out of style This business of a man out of joint with his time has been pursued endlessly and better by director Sam Peckinpah.

No matter. "Monte Walsh" had possibilities that never were realized. It has the appropriate unprettied scenery -- the ramshackle town with muddy streets; the bare, bleak saloon; the dusty, gritty working conditions; the soiled, grimy bunkhouse The men are bearded and grubby.The women look drawn and tired.

IT TRIES SO hard to be honest that it finally gets very pretentious and; dull its honesty. It's as though someone forgot that atmosphere isn't enough; that there has to be a story.

And then, because the filmmakers realized it was dull, they livened it up with cliches from more conventional westerns.

There is a saloon fight and a bunkhouse brawl and a chase and: even a final gundown. The last low key and unconvincing.

And there are strange events, as when Marvin rides a bucking bronc through town late at night resulting in the literal destruction of almost everything in sight, yet hardly anyone steps outside to see what is going on.

MARVIN PHYSICALLY fits the role of the tough cowboy who is good enough at his calling to keep gong as others drop out or drift away. But Marvin has become too much of a character in his own right to be completely submerged in a role.

This results in Marvindsms, little tricks and inside jokes of his own that do nothing to further the role.

JACK PALANCE is strangely gentle and convincing as his sidekick who decides to marry the widow lady who has a hardware store.

Jeanne Moreau is saloon hostess, presumably a prostitute and Marvin's mistress. While Jeanne Moreau would be out of place in a any western, and this one in particular, the movie has some of its better moments when she is on screen.

But even with her they had to drag in cliche. When she starts coughing half way through the picture you know this is going to be "Camille Out West."