by Brad Nelson
I’ll tell ya, Westerns were made for Blu Ray. The hi-res picture really does much to show off those big vistas. And The Cowboys is no exception.
I doubt I had ever seen this film on widescreen or commercial-free. So what a treat to finally watching it in all its Blu Ray glory. Here’s the plot: A rancher (John Wayne) needs to get his cattle to market. But all the available men are off chasing gold. Wayne eventually decides that he has no other choice but to hire some local boys, ages 10 to 15. He pulls them right out of school.
Yes, that sounds like the making of a Disney Movie where kids splash around in the water, pull each other’s ears, and need their noses wiped while Wayne plays a sort of “Father Goose.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is a serious movie, and this is one of Wayne’s best roles. It’s made clear that Wayne’s character (Wil Andersen) didn’t do too well handling his own sons who are all long gone from him. But there’s no time for nursemaiding, nor does Wil know the first thing about handling kids. He more or less treats them as short adults. Luckily he has the wise counsel of Roscoe Lee Browne who plays the trail cook. And Browne is superb in that role. The entire cast is solid.
On the trail with these kids there is never the saccharine moment, and yet both Wayne and the cowboys (with the stress on “boys”) begin to warm to each other, the former learning how to be more of a father and the latter learning quickly how to be men.
Bruce Dern plays the outlaw and few have ever played a better villain on screen. And it was surprising to me that it was none other than John Williams who did the score for this film. Does that talented man have a long reach or what?
This is a film that is wonderfully photographed. See it in Blu Ray if you can. And if you like horses, there are many great scenes in The Cowboys in which the horses are central to the action. It looks as if this movie was very dangerous to film, but I guess that’s to the credit of the stuntmen. I give this superb Western 4.1 broken glasses out of 5 — an “I ought to watch this before I die” classic. • (662 views)