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The Train Robbers

Despite its horses, hats, and wide-open spaces, The Train Robbers (1973) is an insignificant Western with little to add to the genre. John Wayne plays a Civil War veteran who gets two of his buddies (Rod Taylor and Ben Johnson) to help him track down a cache of hidden gold for a train robber's widow (Ann-Margret) who wants to return the loot and clear her husband's name. Once it's established that there's a horde of the robber's ex-partners and hired guns following them, the movie lopes along without anything else going on for 90 minutes. They ride horses. They camp for the night. Despite having started out later the same day and riding much faster, the bad guys take the length of the film to catch up. They ride. They camp. Ann-Margret has a badly acted drunk scene and all the men ogle her. Ricardo Montalban occasionally shows up as a silent gunman chewing on a cigarillo. More riding and camping. The music by Dominic Frontiere is designed to fool the viewer into thinking something exciting is happening, with screechy-loud strings and trumpets and fifes 'n' drums accompanying all those riding scenes, but the music is more appropriate to a charge into battle than these endless establishing shots of horseback travel. There's finally a showdown between the baddies and our heroes, horribly shot — the ambush is set about 15 feet away from the campsite, giving the impression that a well-thrown rock could do the job as easily as a rifle. Written and directed by Burt Kennedy — the man responsible for such delightful genre flicks as Support Your Local Sheriff, Dirty Dingus Magee, and Hannie Caulder — this title lacks the charm, humor, and even plotting of his better efforts. The actors — especially Taylor, Johnson, and Christopher George, who's established as the requisite young hothead character but never given any reason to be — are utterly wasted. There's not even a romance between the two principals, with Wayne spurning Ann-Margret's advances, telling her "my saddle's older than you are." A huge waste of horseflesh. Part of Warner's "Legendary Heroes Collection," the DVD release of The Train Robbers offers a very good, bright, rich anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with excellent DD 5.1 audio (in English, with optional English, French or Spanish subtitles) Also on board are two featurettes, "Working with a Western Legend" about the appeal of Wayne, as seen by actors and stuntmen who worked with him (10 min.), and "Wayne Train," a promotional piece on the film that made it look far better than it turned out to be (4 min.). Trailer gallery, keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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