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McLINTOCK

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Patrick Wayne, Stefanie Powers, Yvonne De Carlo
Director:  Andrew V. McLagen
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Mono
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  See Review
Length:  127 Minutes
Release Date:  October 11, 2005

"Don't say it's a fine morning, or I'll shoot you."

Film ***1/2

Not many faces represent American movies the way John Wayne's does.  From westerns to war films and back again, the Duke personified the American male...rough, tough, rugged, loyal, and unapologetic.  The ladies loved him, and the lads wanted to BE him.

Interestingly enough, despite his indelible catalog of film classics, one of his most sought-after titles was a comedy.  For many years, McLintock lay in recluse in some vault in the Wayne family estate, while fans eagerly queried day after day:  when would it come to video?  I remember it well...I managed a video store back when, and I seriously doubt that a day ever went by without somebody asking about McLintock.

Eventually, with the VHS version on the shelves, the question inevitably turned to, "when will it be on DVD?"  Paramount has answered that inquiry, not just with the title itself, but with a fantastic looking and packaged disc that will have fans head over heels with joy.  More on that further down.

It's easy to see why Wayne fans love McLintock.  This is a big, bawdy, crowd-pleaser of a film that returned Wayne to his western roots, but with a comic twist.  It's kind of a loose take on The Taming of the Shrew, but with energy and laughs owing less to the Bard than to the Duke.

He plays the title character, George Washington "G.W." McLintock.  He's a prosperous cattle baron with a bit of a problem...namely, his wife Catherine (the luminous O'Hara).  They've been estranged for awhile, and during that time, she went off and got "citified", taking on highbrow manners and an elitism that doesn't fit well in the country.  She returns to seek divorce, while welcoming home their daughter Becky (Powers) from school.

In the meantime, McLintock hires a family of farmers who lost their homestead, and his new ranch hand Devlin (Patrick Wayne, John's son) can't help but take a liking to Becky, who turned out nearly as erudite as her mother.  Meanwhile, Devlin's mother (the radiant De Carlo) seems like a good match for G.W., much to the displeasure of Catherine, who maybe not so willing to let go of her man after all!

The film manages to touch on a couple of serious social themes amidst the laughter...namely, racism and class structure.  McLintock becomes involved on the side of some Indians in a dispute that threatens to dispel them from their land, and also helps ease the tensions between the "lofty" cattleman and the "lowly" farmers.  But don't get the idea anything heavy-handed is at play here.  These are moments that help define the characters, so we can enjoy laughing with them more down the line.

The big centerpiece is an all out brawl around and in a giant mud hole, with some great group fighting and hilarious slapstick.  Word is that even John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara wanted in on the fun, so look for them to do a messy stunt or two of their own!

This has always been one of my favorite Duke films, mainly because it showcases a side of him I don't think we got to see very often, which was his sense of humor.  Sure, there was always a touch of it in many of his pictures, but never to the level of fun and hilarity as in this movie.  With McLintock, John Wayne showed he was more than a leading man, a solider, a cowboy or an Oscar-winning actor.  He could play comedy with the best of them.  The fact that fans clamored for years to get their hands on this movie is proof enough.

Video ****

Simply stunning...I would have never believed a classic film could look so good, but Paramount pulled out all the stops with this DVD release.  This was my first chance to see the movie in widescreen, which was a treat in and of itself, but I was totally unprepared for how gorgeous the transfer was from start to finish.  The colors are vibrant, lovely and natural looking, and leap of the screen with a splendor like never before.  Light to dark scenes show equal integrity and sharpness with no bleeding, softness or compression interference.  The print itself has been cleaned up nicely, with hardly a speck or spot to show for its 40 year plus age.  Simply glorious.

Audio ***

A new 5.1 mix awaits the adventurous, or for the more cautious, the original mono is included as well.  The Dolby Digital offering is well done; not too extreme, but tasteful in making a few of the bigger scenes sound more boisterous.  The music by Frank DeVol is the biggest benefactor; his tunes and score sound better than ever.  Nicely done.

Features ****

Hold that hog leg, folks...we've got a loaded disc here.  Critic Leonard Maltin introduces the film, as well as taking part in the commentary with Frank Thompson.  Their thoughts are lively and joyful, and are intercut with comments from Maureen O'Hara, Stefanie Powers, Michael Pate, Andrew McLagen and the late Michael Wayne (producer).  It's a listen almost as fun as the movie itself.

Several featurettes are included, starting with one on Michael Wayne and the Batjac production company.  There are also remembrances from O'Hara and Powers (both as lovely as ever), a look at the big fight scene, and even a take on the history of the corset (in which Ms. O'Hara looked extremely divine...yum).

There is a "fight school" lesson, a photo gallery, and a couple of trailers to round out.  An outstanding package!

Summary 

You don't have to love John Wayne to love McLintock.  In fact, this is probably one of the best films to win over new fans to the duke.  It's a big, joyful, sexy and funny romp through the old west with some terrific characters brought to life by some legendary actors.  Movies don't get much more fun than this.

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