The Last Challenge (MGM, 1967)
The Last Challenge, Glenn Ford’s twentieth Western (he was probably getting the hang of it by now), is a pretty formulaic oater, yet another take on The Gunfighter: young Turk Lot McGuire (Chad Everett, recently deceased, a TV western bit-part player) comes to town to provoke the quick-draw Marshal Dan Blaine (Ford) into a gunfight, to prove he is the fastest gun alive. Everett is more convincing than Broderick Crawford in the 1956 MGM farrago The Fastest Gun Alive, I will say that, but that’s about as far as it goes.
Looks like some pulp magazine
The movie does have some merit: Glenn Ford is in it, for one. He was never bad and anything he was in was lifted. Then we have Jack Elam, briefly, and it’s always fun watching One-Reel Jack. Royal Dano is an Indian. Angie Dickinson is a saloon gal (again). I spotted Vaughn Taylor in the general store; I always liked him as a townsman.
The photography is actually quite good (Ellsworth Fredericks of Friendly Persuasion and Last of the Badmen), with Joshua Tree and Old Tucson locations. And the direction, by veteran Richard Thorpe (71 Westerns 1924 – 1967; this was his last; he’d done Vengeance Valley, a particular favorite of mine) is professional and workmanlike.
Aaahh, how sweet
But the Albert Malz (as John Sherry) screenplay, from his own novel, is pretty corny. The whole plot is routine and plodding and the characters do not develop in any interesting way.
What a great place. Like Linda Hunt and Kevin Kline in Silverado, that's where I want to be
You can’t help feeling that since The Rounders, Glenn Ford had lost it. Not that he wasn’t good; he was always good. Just that he was unlucky with parts or was choosing unwisely. Maybe there just weren’t the decent Western roles around any more as the 1960s dribbled to their conclusion. Day of the Evil Gun the following year wasn’t much better. And then it was Disney and TV stuff. Sad.
Day of the Evil Gun the year after was not much better. It is pretty tedious. Thank goodness it had Glenn Ford in it; otherwise it would have been a total clunker. But Glenn was fine, always, in everything. He lifted a mediocre picture and saved a bad one.
There have been lots of ‘Day’ films. Day of the Bad Man, Day of the Outlaw, A Day of Fury, and so on. Studios seem to like Days.
This one is about two guys (Glenn Ford and Arthur Kennedy) who team up to rescue women taken by Apaches (it’s called Le Jour des Apaches in French). But The Searchers it ain’t. And you can’t really tell which of the guys is the goody and which the baddy, except that Glenn’s one of them so it’s a bit obvious. But you can’t tell from their actions. My, how Kennedy could overact.
It was filmed in Mexico by an undistinguished photographer, W Wallace Kelley. Jeff Alexander did the music so it ought to have been alright. But it wasn’t. The dialogue was by Charles Marquis Warren so ought to have been at least passable but it is wooden and ponderous. The acting, with the exception of Ford (even he looks overweight and tired; he was now 52) and John Anderson as a corrupt army officer, is universally dull. Dean Jagger, Harry Dean Stanton, Paul Fix, Royal Dano, all poor. Perhaps with the script they had and the director, they couldn’t overcome those handicaps.
The director was Jerry Thorpe. Who? I hear you cry. Well, quite. He was the director of a number of TV episodes of We Love Lucy. A real qualification for directing an exciting Western, huh?
There are scenes when they ‘ride’ fake horses. Kennedy’s teeth are equally and equally obviously false. Perhaps it’s the teeth that lead him to call them Aparches.
The women are just ciphers.
You’ll be getting the idea by now. This movie is NBG.
Tomorrow, we'll look at the closing stages of Glenn Ford's Western career.
But so long for now, e-pards!