Rio Conchos



20th Century Fox

Directed by Gordon Douglas

Produced by David Weisbart

Screenplay by Joseph Landon and Clair Huffaker

Based on the novel “Guns of Rio Conchos” written by Clair Huffaker

Music by Jerry Goldsmith

You tell me that there’s a movie or television show with Richard Boone in it and I’m watching it. Period. Richard Boone was probably the first man crush I ever had, thanks to “Have Gun With Travel.” My father never missed an episode and when it came on he would holler for me to come watch it with him. I fell in love with the show and with Richard Boone. It took me a long time to figure out why I enjoyed watching him on screen. He is a hero that looks, sounds and sometimes has to act like a villain. Take his character of Paladin in “Have Gun Will Travel.” He dresses all in black and that, along with his thin mustache and air of quiet menace he looks like the classic Western villain. But Paladin is truly a heroic, noble man on a knightly quest in the Wild West. Yes, he hires himself and his gun out for pay but his aim is to see that justice is done. A lot of the DNA of Paladin is in my character of Dillon, that’s how much I admire and like the character and Richard Boone.

Richard Boone is also among that brotherhood of actors I call Old Time Tough. Before he found success in acting, Mr. Boone worked as an oil rigger, a bartender and served in the United States Navy during World War II, seeing combat on three ships in the Pacific. He’s a guy who very easily can convince you he’s a tough guy on screen because he was one in Real Life.

It’s a damn shame he never became as big a movie star as he deserved to be because every movie performance I’ve seen in him has been entertaining and when he’s on screen I simply cannot take my eyes off him. RIO CONCHOS is his movie from start to finish and it’s one of the best Westerns I’ve ever seen. It’s a favorite of mine and I take every opportunity to turn people onto it whenever I can. Hence this here review. Now attend while I serve up the obligatory plot synopsis:

Jim Lassiter (Richard Boone) is an ex-Confederate Major waging his own private one-man war against the Apache Nation. Apaches raped and murdered his wife and daughter and since then he has slaughtered Apaches with such viciousness that they sing songs and tell stories about him to scare their children. Lassiter kills a raiding party of Apache and acquires from them a U.S. Army repeating rifle. Soon after Lassiter is arrested by U.S. Army Captain Haven (Stuart Whitman) and his second-in-command, Buffalo Soldier Sgt. Franklyn (Jim Brown) who want know where he got the rifle.


Turns out that Haven was in charge of a large shipment of the repeating rifles that were stolen from him. Haven’s superior officer Colonel Wagner (Warner Anderson) makes a deal with Lassiter. If he’ll help Haven destroy or recover the rifles, he’ll turn him loose. Lassiter is uninterested until he finds out that it’s his former commanding officer Colonel Theron Pardee (Edmond O’Brien) who is making a deal with the Apache for the rifles. You see, Pardee’s contact with the Apache is one of their chiefs, Bloodshirt (Rodolfo Acosta). And Bloodshirt is the Apache who desecrated and killed his family. Lassiter figures that if he helps Haven get to Pardee that will get him to Bloodshirt. Lassiter agrees to the deal. But only if he can take along Juan Luis Rodriguez (Tony Franciosa) a Mexican outlaw whose clownish demeanor disguises an extraordinary resourceful and dangerous man with both knife and gun. When they’re in the guardhouse together Rodriguez tries to defend his killing of a man as self-defense. Lassiter snorts in derision and says; “A man who can shoot the way you do, its murder.” Lassiter’s argument if that Haven can have a man of his own to watch his back, he should have one as well.


And so the four men set out on their damned, doomed mission to find Colonel Pardee and Bloodshirt with a wagon of gunpowder and repeating rifles. The plan being that they let Pardee find them under their guise of being Army deserters looking to make a quick buck. Pardee didn’t get the nickname of ‘The Gray Fox’ for nothing, though. Our boys find that out real quick when their plan goes south even quicker.


RIO CONCHOS is an uncompromisingly brutal Western. The protagonists don’t particularly like each other a whole lot and spend most of their time together trying to figure out how to double-cross each other to achieve their own goals. It is interesting to see how Lassiter and Franklyn grow to respect each other, to the point where they join together to make the ultimate sacrifice. Richard Boone owns this movie from start to finish and commits to the truth of his character. There’s a startling scene where he’s prepared to let Apaches burn to death and when thwarted, attempts to murder an Apache baby. But it’s a testament to his acting skill that while we don’t identify with Lassiter or his murderous blood rage, we can understand it.


Stuart Whitman is one of those actors who have never much impressed me but he does here. Haven is a straight up Army man, committed to his duty from start to finish. Tony Franciosa, who is an Italian, has the decidedly un-PC role of playing a Mexican here and if you watch the movie you’ll just have to overlook his attempt to do a Mexican accent and go with it.

Even though this is Jim Brown’s first movie you can see here why he became a major movie star as his career progressed. Even when he’s in a scene where he has nothing to say or do he’s a presence that radiates power and confidence. We know he’s in the scene even though he’s just standing there. That’s a quality that can’t be taught. It’s just something you have or you don’t and Jim Brown definitely has it. RIO CONCHOS is worth seeing not just for Richard Boone’s performance but Jim Brown’s as well. It’s a movie that should be better known to Western fans and I hope that my review will steer you in its direction if you’ve previously passed it by. Highly Recommend.


107 Minutes

A Face In The Crowd


Warner Brothers

Produced and Directed by Elia Kazan

Written by Budd Schulberg based on his story “The Arkansas Traveler”

Every once in a while I’ll run across a movie that’s a real eye-opener in terms of subject material and acting. Usually it’s a movie I’ve heard or read about but rarely shown on television or available on DVD. A FACE IN THE CROWD is a movie I’ve never heard about and when it was shown on Turner Classic Movies the only reason I watched it was because the excellently informative and engaging host of Turner Classic Movies, Robert Osborne made the movie sound so interesting that I decided to give it a try, even though it was starring Andy Griffith who had never impressed me as a dramatic actor.

Two hours later the movie was over and I was sitting in my seat trying to believe if what I had just seen was really made in 1957. A FACE IN THE CROWD is so mature and fearless in attacking its subject matter and the portrayal of the characters it could have been made yesterday. The movie is as surprising and startling as a safe dropping on you out of the clear sky. As a satire on the dangers of hero worship, television and the influence it has on our lives it deserves to be ranked along with “Network” and “Bamboozled”.

Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) works at a radio station in an Arkansas town that is so small it ought to be ashamed to lay claim to the designation. She tirelessly hunts up local oddballs and eccentrics for her daily 15-minute spot “A Face In The Crowd”.  One day she discovers a hobo named Larry (Andy Griffith) locked up in the town jail. This Larry is an engaging rascal, full of outlandish jokes; down home philosophy and amusing songs he makes up right on the spot. Marcia smells talent here and by the next day has the hobo out of jail, cleaned up, renamed Lonesome Rhodes and on her show as a regular. By the end of the week, Lonesome has become such a hit that he’s got every woman in town sending him home made apple pies, he’s brought in three new sponsors for the radio station and he’s even begun to influence local politics which doesn’t make him best friends with the local sheriff.

It isn’t long before Lonesome has begun to attract the attention of a new entertainment medium called television.  With frightening speed he has his own weekly show where he’s dispensing folksy humor along with his unique views on life. The country charm that Lonesome has over people is almost hypnotic and it seems that there is nothing he can’t get his rapidly growing audience to do, whether it’s sending in $20,000 in quarters to pay to build a homeless black woman a brand new house (and trust me…in 1957 Arkansas that IS something of a feat) or starting a riot outside of the office building of his sponsor. Lonesome attains the status of a modern day rock star as he goes on to sell-out concerts, hit records and a top rated television show where he hawks a product called ‘Vitajex’ that promises everything but is actually made up of nothing.

And while his power grows so does his insatiable lust for power. Soon Lonesome has the confidence of powerful government men and he is in a position to become a truly major player. He personally coaches a weak-willed senator into becoming a media darling like himself because Lonesome realizes it’s much more profitable and powerful to be the man who makes kings rather than being king yourself. And Marcia watches Lonesome’s rise to power with growing horror as he goes from an amiable moonshine sippin’ gentleman loafer to ambitious madman.  And like all fools careless enough to ignore the warning label on the bottle she has to figure out some way to put the jinni back in the bottle…or trick him into doing it himself without getting destroyed herself in the process…

There are a few things that just amaze me about A FACE IN THE CROWD. If, like me you only know Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor from Mayberry, his performance here is going to blow you away. This is a savagely demonic Andy Griffith who is nice and pleasant as sweet potato pie one minute and a raging monster the next.  I couldn’t believe he could make a character this depraved so likeable and yet so despicable. That Andy Griffith didn’t win an Academy Award for this movie is absolutely inexplicable to me. Matter of fact, A FACE IN THE CROWD was not nominated for one single Academy Award, which makes me wonder did anybody even see this movie that year.

Patricia Neal is wonderful in her role as Marcia and one of things I really like about this movie is that the story doesn’t let her off the hook. In order to keep Lonesome under her control she uses a variety of underhanded tactics including sex, a fact that the movie doesn’t shy away from dealing with. In another movie Marcia might have been a victim but not here. The tough, mature script makes it clear she’s an adult who knew full well who she was getting into bed with, both literally and figuratively and she deserves what she gets. As does the rest of the excellent supporting cast: Tony Franciosa plays Lonesome’s agent who is lower than a snake’s stomach and he’s just like everybody else in the movie: out for whatever he can get.  He’s the first one to sell out Lonesome, both on a personal and professional level with a calculating callousness that’s almost as scary as Lonesome’s. Lee Remick plays Lonesome’s teenage wife and Walter Matthau plays Mel, one of Lonesome’s writers. This movie is another example of Walter Matthau’s versatility. Sometimes I think I prefer him as a dramatic actor than a comedian. His performance here is sharp and full of verbal wit.

What else did I like about the movie? I gotta mention the ‘Vitajex’ commercial, which is one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life. I must have watched that damn thing a dozen times and every time I howled with laughter. I defy anybody to watch it and not think of our modern day Viagra and the claims it makes. It’s just yet another way in which A FACE IN THE CROWD proves that despite being made almost 50 years ago, it deals with issues of sex, money, fame, power and the price men and women are willing to pay for them in a manner that is so fresh and so willing to treat viewers with intelligence and respect that it makes a whole lot of today’s movies look ridiculously adolescent by comparison.

125 min.
They didn’t rate movies back in 1957 but if I had to give one to A FACE IN THE CROWD I’d assign it PG-13. The characters do screw each other over emotionally and psychologically in a pretty raw manner and the sexual relationship between Lonesome and Marcia is handled with surprising bluntness and honesty.