Monday, 22 June 2015

BARQUERO - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Lee Van Cleef & Warren Oates MAN 2 MAN!!!

Barquero (1970)
Dir. Gordon Douglas
Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Warren Oates, Forrest Tucker, Mariette Hartley

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Who is Gordon Douglas? Good question. Well, he's nobody's idea of an auteur, but the man directed 70+ feature films in a career that began in the Dirty 30s, grinding out comedies for Hal Roach, then as a studio contract director for the likes of RKO, Columbia and Warner Brothers until his retirement in the late 70s.

Did he make any stinkers? Plenty!

He also directed some of the best genre pictures with good, solid, two-fisted panache including San Quentin starring Lawrence Tierney, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye with James Cagney, the sizzling McCarthy era I Was a Communist for the FBI, the truly great 50s science fiction big bug (Gigantic Ants, no less) classic Them, The Fiend Who Walked The West, the utterly insane western remake of the noir classic Kiss of Death, the supremely entertaining Elvis Presley Vs. the Mob musical Follow That Dream, the nutty Rat Pack comedy Robin and the Seven Hoods and one of the dirtiest, grittiest, nastiest crime pictures of the 60s, The Detective starring Frank Sinatra, the terrific Jim Brown Blaxsploitation picture Slaughter's Big Rip-Off (with Ed McMahon - YES! Ed McMahon as a villainous mob boss) and lest we forget, one of the funniest (and most offensive) Bob Hope comedies Call Me Bwana (wherein Bob goes on an African Safari to retrieve a valuable talisman from a "backwards" tribe in the jungle, but not before playing a round of gold with the great Arnold Palmer).

And then there's Douglas's greatest triumph, the all but forgotten western Barquero, a film which did double duty in the homage department, conjuring the disparate styles of Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch and those of Sergio Leone.

And what a rip-snorting western this is!

The always brilliant Warren Oates chews the scenery magnificently as a psychotic bandit who leads the wholesale slaughter of a western town to steal as many guns, ammo and bank money as humanly possible. His plan is to hijack a barge and destroy it after crossing a mighty river in order to thwart the posse hot on his ass.

Unfortunately, he doesn't reckon on having to square off against the tough-as-nails ferry owner, the mysterious, laconic gunfighter played by none other than Lee Van Cleef ("the Bad" of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly). Van Cleef partners with the kill-happy mountain man played by Forrest Tucker (in a hugely entertaining burly bear of a performance) and the two of then single-hsndedly wipe out Oates's entire mini-army of thugs.

The action and gunplay is first-rate and the movie even manages to settle into some casual character development on both sides of the fence due to a decent screenplay by George Schenck and William Marks.

The stunningly gorgeous Mariette Hartley made her motion picture debut in Sam Peckinpah's Ride The High Country in which, as a child-bride-to-be is married to a grizzled cowpoke inbred who plans to share her on their wedding night with his even more repulsive inbred brothers and pappy. Here, some seven years later, she's forced to spend a night of unbridled passion with the manly Van Cleef after she begs him to save her husband's life. "I'll do anything," she weeps. And anything is what she does.

Tucker delivers the performance of his career as a recluse who can only really hack the company of one man, Lee Van Cleef naturally. He always seems to show up when Van Cleef needs him most. Thank God, too (for Van Cleef and us) since he's an expert at quiet, vicious kills. A special bonus is that he's a supremely friendly fellow and bestows considerable kindness upon his victims before torturing and/or dispatching them.

And Warren Oates! What can be said about one of America's greatest actors that hasn't already been said? Oates is completely, utterly and deliciously over-the-top as the psychotic villain who refuses to acquiesce to the mighty river blocking his way to freedom. At one point, his character, increasingly under the influence of mood-altering weed, crazily looks at the deep, roiling currents, pulls his six-shooters and begins madly emptying the chambers into the river. Bravo, Warren! He might be completely overblown here, but there isn't a moment we don't believe him.

A western classic? Yes and no. Its homages seem studio-influenced, but the fact remains that director Gordon Douglas pulls them off with considerable skill and the movie is never less than engaging. It may not be a bonafide classic, but Good God Damn, it comes mighty close and it's certainly one supremely decent ass-kicker of a western.


Barquero is available on a Kino-Lorber BluRay.