Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Duke Wayne film shows he's human

Cleveland Press February 15, 1973

Just when you think there couldn't be anything new in a John Wayne Western, along comes "The Train Robbers" to prove you wrong.

Oh, there's nothing so new that the picture would deserve such labels as "innovative,' or "milestone" or anything quite that grand.

It's just that this one offers a bit more humor, a bit more suspense and a lot more speed than most Westerns have had lately.

Take the matter of villains, for example.

VILLAINS of late have been of the psychotic variety. The eyelid twitches and the mouth droops sort of funny. Then, all of a sudden he guy is kicking the hero in the groin, carving initials on his chest for fun and firing bullets through his arms and Iegs -- all the time laughing hysterically.

"The Train Robbers" has villains but they're the most anonymous villains you've ever met. Just a bunch of bad guys in pursuit of the good guys. They show up on yonder ridge and they get in closer for a shoot-out but you never meet them, never get to know their faces, never hear them say a word. Kind of nice, actually.

THE RESULT is greater concentration on the handful of characters involved.

The story is fairly simple. Wayne rounds up a bunch of hard-shooting buddies for a job. He's been hired by this pretty widow lady (Ann Margret) to find some buried gold -- the loot from a train robbery her husband pulled off.

She wants to give the gold back to the railroad so as to clear her name and that of her six-year-old son. Wayne, true blue, is touched by this, especially the part about the six year old.

SO THE PARTY -- five men and the widow lady -- gallop off to find the gold. They're hard]y out of town when these other fellows show up -- maybe 20, 30, who knows? -- and gallop off in the same direction.

Funny thing about the chase. The good guys just lope along nice and easy. Those bad guys gallop along real fast. But they don't catch up.

Silently watching all this is a cigar-smoking dude, a real fancy chap played by Ricardo Montalban. Apparently he knows all and sees all but isn't talking, not until the last reel of the movie.

JOHN WAYNE is a trifle more human in this picture, even admits to a failing or two. There's an easy-going banter, rather funny, between Rod Taylor and soft-spoken Ben Johnson that nicely fills in the gaps between the action moments.

No, old Duke Wayne doesn't romance Ann-Margret He's too smart for that. When at one point she suggests that after this is over he might want to see her again he looks at her and drawls: "I've got a saddle that's older than you are." How's that for admitting your age?

The picture has a red herring or two and ends with the classic double cross. It's fun and as Westerns go rather pleasant and entertaining.