Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Catlow (1971)


Who knew the world needed a grisly Louis L’Amour adaptation featuring a nude scene by Mr. Spock? What’s that you say? The world didn’t need a movie like that? Well, too bad, because for better or worse (mostly worse), Catlow exists. And forty years down the road, I’m sure Leonard Nimoy is thrilled. Yul Brynner plays the title character, an outlaw who gets wind of when and where a group of Confederate soldiers are transporting a shipment of Mexican gold. Catlow’s decision to make a play for the loot puts an understandable strain on his friendship with a U.S. Marshal (Richard Crenna), so chrome-domed Catlow finds himself in the crosshairs of the law, the Confederates, and even a hired killer (Nimoy). Seeing the once-and-future science officer of the starship Enterprise in an offbeat context is about the only novelty value that Catlow offers, because it’s a shoddily produced and thoroughly mean-spirited Western made at a time when such films were churned out by the dozen, especially in Europe. Brynner does his usual stoic bit and Crenna delivers his standard clenched-teeth performance, so only Nimoy gets an opportunity to do something outside his wheelhouse. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do anything with that opportunity. For all of about five minutes, it’s a kick to see him in a full beard, grimly mowing down everyone in his path, but he doesn’t have a character to play, and his performance is restrained to the point of catatonia. (I blame the circumstances, because he was great in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.) The only moment Nimoy gets lively is the aforementioned bare-ass bit, a nasty brawl that begins when his character is taking a bath, but Catlow is so poorly made that in half the shots of this scene, Nimoy’s wearing an anachronistic black Speedo, while in the other half sloppy editing leaves Nimoy adrift in compromising angles. When a scene filled with technical errors is the only one that makes an impression, that’s generally not considered a good sign.

Catlow: LAME

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