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In the mid-'70s, John Wayne proved himself cinematically irrelevant. His best directors (Howard Hawks, John Ford) were retired, and The Duke already was weakened by cancer — he had a lung removed in 1964, and the disease finally caught up with him in 1979. The western genre had been reinvented by the Italians and Sam Peckinpah for the Vietnam era, and these newer movies made Wayne's attempts look antiquated. Nonetheless, John Wayne still was a box-office draw, and he kept working, churning out efforts until his all-too-aware cinematic adieu in 1976's The Shootist. John Sturges's McQ (1974) was one of Wayne's final screen efforts, one that attempts to make his persona more contemporary by casting him in a Dirty Harry-esque role, to no real returns. He stars as Vaughn McQ, a Seattle PD detective whose partner dies at the outset of the film and who feels it's his responsibility to find the culprit — especially since the men who killed his partner attempted to assassinate him on his houseboat. McQ's main suspect is Manny Santiago (Al Lettieri), since he's Seattle's biggest drug dealer. But soon it appears that these deaths were caused by internal police corruption. Of course, his captain (Eddie Albert) doesn't like McQ's rogue cop, rough-stuff antics, so he leaves force and become a private gumshoe. Wayne wasn't the only one out of sorts, this was director John Sturges's penultimate film, and it's more Marooned than Magnificent Seven — at this point in his career, Sturges seems to have given up the ghost, and it would be generous to call the film anything more than competent. Wayne exhibits the casual sadism that may have been acceptable in his westerns but seems desperately out of place in a procedural that doesn't offer the thematic grays of the first Dirty Harry, while the mystery plotting is routine. The film also casts the aged Wayne as a ladies man, as snitch Myra (Colleen Dewhurst) and his partner's widow Lois Boyle (Diana Muldaur) throw themselves at him. The film does spring to life in the final scenes when a beachfront car chase exhibits some exciting stuntwork, but otherwise it's as embarrassing as something can be without becoming camp. Warner presents McQ in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and DD 1.0 audio. Extras include a Wayne-centric "making-of" featurette (7 min.), and a John Wayne trailer gallery (including the theatrical trailer for this film). Keep-case.

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