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After enjoying success — and having such a good time shooting — the 1960 comedy/adventure North to Alaska, John Wayne wanted to make another film in the same lighter vein. The actor had been appearing in westerns for over three decades and was one of America's top box office draws. So, in the middle of one of the most productive periods of his career (the Duke made 16 films in the '60s, including How the West Was Won, Hatari!, Donovan's Reef, El Dorado, and True Grit), he assembled his favorite screenwriter, James Edward Grant, director Andrew V. McLaglen — son of actor Victor McLaglen, he'd served as second unit director on several of Wayne's previous films — his usual crew of secondary character actors and stuntmen, and told them all exactly what he wanted: a big, brawling, colorful comedy-western with a Taming of the Shrew theme, co-starring Maureen O'Hara. Through his own Batjac production company, headed by his son, Michael, Wayne made McLintock! in 1963, which turned out to be one of his biggest box-office successes. Wayne stars as George Washington "G.W." McLintock, a wealthy rancher and landowner who's having the standard land squabbles and white man-versus-Indian squabbles that ranchers tend to have in Wayne films. That plot takes a back seat, though, to a couple of very politically incorrect romantic triangles — the main one involving G.W.'s estranged wife, Katherine (O'Hara), who's grudgingly returned to the ranch after two years living as a socialite in the big city. The reason for her return is to serve G.W. with divorce papers — and to keep an eye on her beloved daughter, Becky (a very young Stefanie Powers), who's returned from college with her own citified ways and a foppish, banjo-playing beau (Jerry Van Dyke). Meanwhile, a sexy new housekeeper (Yvonne De Carlo) and her ranch hand son (Patrick Wayne) provide a bit of romantic triangulation for G.W., Kate and Becky, and the whole thing comes down to uppity women having to be put in their place — in the case of Wayne/Powers and Wayne/O'Hara, it's the witnessing of bare-knuckled fistfights and a couple of spankings that ultimately lead to the women respecting their macho menfolk. With a healthy nod to the John Ford school of story construction, McLintock! is an enormously fun film — unless you're extremely sensitive to sexism — involving all sorts of feudin', fightin' and drinkin'. And no one, but no one, could stand toe-to-toe with Wayne like O'Hara, and some of their best work together is on display here — along with a number of spectacularly complicated (and hilarious) fight scenes involving Wayne, O'Hara, and a crowd of stuntmen. One of Wayne's more underappreciated films, McLintock! preceded the equally funny Support Your Local Sheriff! by six years, and equals that film as a true comedy that manages to include all the classic elements — and many of the classic actors — of the western film genre.

*          *          *

Long available only on disappointingly ugly video transfers made on the cheap (originally produced by United Artists, Wayne's Batjac company contracted to own the rights after five years and previous video versions — whether legitimately licensed or not — have been awful pan-and-scan knock-offs), Paramount's presentation of McLintock!, part of their "John Wayne Collection," is superb. Beautifully remastered from original film elements and presented, for the first time, in its original Panavision ratio, the transfer here is simply stunning — gorgeous rich color, striking contrast and clarity, and it's jaw-droppingly clean. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (with optional English subtitles) is also very good, with both dialogue and music coming through clean and clear. The DVD offers a big menu of supplements, almost all of them introduced by the grinning mug of film critic Leonard Maltin. There's an introduction to the film by Maltin (2 min.) and a rather crowded commentary track with Maltin (naturally), film historian Frank Thompson, Maureen O'Hara, Stephanie Powers, Michael Pate, Michael Wayne (who died in 2003), and Andrew V. McLaglen. Maltin and Thompson do most of the talking — with commentary by the others, recorded separately, edited in — and it's information-packed, if a little dry. Also on board are three "making-of' featurettes, staring with the "The Batjac Story, Part II" (one assumes Part I is on another disc in the John Wayne Collection) on the history of Wayne's production company, most notably the career of his producer-son Michael (16 min.); " Maureen O'Hara & Stephanie Powers Remember McLintock!" is a sweet bit of nostalgia (13 min.); and "A Good Ol' Fashion Fight" features stuntmen Tom Morga and Wayne Bauer looking back at the film's fight sequences (11 min.) . The pair also host "Two Minute Fight School," your standard discussion of how to fake a punch for the camera. Elsewhere, there's "The Corset: Don't Leave Home Without One!", a history of the foundation garment that's mainly filler (8 min.), plus an extensive photo gallery, the theatrical trailer, and a promo for the entire John Wayne Collection of films. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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