Saturday, October 26, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Trackers (1971) - A Kino Lorber DVD Review

THE TRACKERS (1971) is a TV-movie recently released on DVD by Kino Lorber.

THE TRACKERS is one of a trio of early '70s TV Westerns now available from Kino Lorber, along with THE DAUGHTERS OF JOSHUA CABE (1972), reviewed here a few days ago, and THE BOUNTY MAN (1972) with Clint Walker, which will be reviewed here at a future date.

Ernest Borgnine and Julie Adams play Sam and Dora Paxton, farmers who are on a shopping trip to town when raiders hit their farm. The Paxtons' teenage son (William Katt) is killed and their daughter Becky (Connie Kreski) is missing.

A posse fails to find the girl, and the local sheriff (Jim Davis) and a scout (Arthur Hunnicutt) the sheriff hires to help in the search are of limited help. Sam writes to an old friend who is a U.S. Marshal for help, but the man is unable to come. In his place he sends Deputy Marshal Ezekiel Smith (Sammy Davis Jr.) with his highest recommendation.

The ungrateful Sam is offended by the idea of working with a black man to track his daughter, but Dora will accept any help offered and eagerly answers the Deputy Marshal's questions. Sam grudgingly accepts the Deputy Marshal's offer of help, in order to placate his grieving wife, and the men set off on their search.

The racial angle provides an unusual spin to this story which is somewhat reminiscent of THE SEARCHERS (1956). Unfortunately, the racial animus aggressively expressed by Sam makes him so unlikeable and goes on for so much of the movie that it can be hard to watch at times.

It's probably not a surprise that the men eventually coming to terms is a major theme of the story, but Sam's previous behavior has been so obnoxious that it's almost unbelievable when he has a significant shift in attitude late in the film.

Julie Adams, looking appropriately worn and sporting what might have been her native Arkansas accent, is always a welcome screen presence. Most of the actors don't have enough screen time in the movie's 73 minutes to really develop characters, but faces like Davis, Hunnicutt, Leo Gordon, and Ross Elliott give the film more weight than it otherwise might have had.

In the end THE TRACKERS is not a particularly good film, being difficult to watch at times for the stated reasons, but Western fans will find it worth a look just to check out the cast.

The film was written by Gerald Gaiser from a story by Sammy Davis Jr. and Aaron Spelling; Davis and Spelling were also two of the film's three producers.

The film was directed by Earl Bellamy and shot by Tim Southcott. The score by Johnny Mandel did not impress, with the orchestrations sounding too modern for the film's time period; at times the music was also too jaunty, seeming mismatched with what was happening on screen.

The picture is a bit iffy at times, with a thin colored line across the top of the screen at one point, but it's about what one would expect for a TV-movie of its time period which has probably been sitting on a shelf for decades. I think it's great that Kino Lorber is making these films available once more.

The disc includes a gallery of trailers for three additional films available from Kino Lorber; the trailers do not have separate menu listings but run one immediately after the other.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this DVD.


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