Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Grayeagle (1977)

Among the more intriguing participants in the assembly line that fed the ’70s drive-in circuit was Charles B. Pierce, a Hollywood set decorator who moonlighted as an auteur of schlocky low-budget features. His work generally comprised rural horror and Westerns, and while Pierce evinced a measure of cinematic skill—for instance, his compositions are almost always pleasing to the eye—his storytelling ranged from the basically competent to the hilariously inept. Grayeagle, one of several Pierce-helmed Westerns with a Native American theme, falls on the “hilariously inept” end of the spectrum. A shameless copy of John Ford’s classic The Searchers (1956), only with a more sympathetic point of view on the Indian psyche, Grayeagle is dull, melodramatic, silly, and turgid. For instance, Pierce awkwardly attempts to generate operatic levels of emotion, so whenever he lingers in slow motion on a “significant” event, the picture slips into self-parody. It doesn’t help, of course, that two of the film’s most crucial performances are outrageously awful. The story  concerns trapper John Colter (Ben Johnson), who lives in the wilderness with his adult daughter, Beth (Lana Wood). One day, Cheyenne brave Grayeagle (Alex Cord) kidnaps Beth, so John and his trusty Indian sidekick, Standing Bear (Iron Eyes Cody), begin an epic rescue mission. Grayeagle is presented as a noble warrior, so, predictably, Beth develops affection for her captor. Eventually, all the plot strands converge in a maudlin twist ending that transforms Grayeagle from an action saga to a would-be tearjerker. Johnson and fellow screen vet Jack Elam, who plays a supporting role, deliver their usual professional work. Cody, best remembered for his role in an iconic anti-pollution commercial, contributes little. As for Cord and Wood, however, yikes. Cord, an Italian, is both miscast and terrible, preening in every shot while issuing dialogue with a comic-book version of plains stoicism. It’s hard not to laugh every time he appears onscreen. Wood, the younger sister of screen legend Natalie Wood, is worse. Screaming idiotically whenever she’s not forming goofy facial expressions, the actress is undeniably sexy but otherwise unwatchable. On the technical front, cinematographer/editor James W. Roberson generates attractive shots of the film’s Montana locations (though his cutting is sloppy at best), and Pierce lends texture with his usual eye for physical detail.

Grayeagle: LAME


Tommy Ross said...

sure looks LAME by the poster, lol, oh well, there's always tomorrow!

Unknown said...

Given it's a retread of The Searchers, it's awesome they put Lana Wood in it. The Searchers was the first movie she did where she was mentioned in the credits. If you're a Lana Wood fan, here's an FYI:

Lana Wood is scheduled to appear at the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, Sept. 18-20, in Hunt Valley, Md., at the Hunt Valley Wyndham Hotel. Also scheduled to appear are Piper Laurie, Veronica Cartwright, Angela Cartwright, Lee Meredith, George Lazenby, and more. More information is at http://midatlanticnostalgiaconvention.com.