Saturday, April 25, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Rare Breed (1966) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

James Stewart, Maureen O'Hara, and Brian Keith star in THE RARE BREED (1966), recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

The rambly plot concerns Martha (O'Hara), a recent widow who has arrived in America with her daughter Hilary (Juliet Mills) and a Hereford bull named Vindicator. Martha intends to fulfill her husband's dream of cross-breeding the Hereford with Texas longhorns.

Vindicator is sold at auction, and here the plotting gets extremely murky as far as who has bought Vindicator, who's going to deliver him where, and who's going to try to steal him. David Brian makes a brief appearance in these early scenes as a buyer for rancher Alexander Bowen (Keith), and Jack Elam is (what else?) a bad guy.

Ultimately Martha, Hilary, and Vindicator travel to Bowen's ranch with Sam Burnett (Stewart). Along the way they rescue Bowen's son Jamie (Don Galloway) who is trampled in a stampede and...well, it's all a long, complicated story.

Bowen is a rough-edged Scot who lives like a pig, but once he gets used to Martha cleaning up his "fort" he comes to like her enough to propose; she's uncertain, seeming to have a yen for Sam instead. Sam, meanwhile, isn't around much as he's preoccupied with trying to make sure there will be little Vindicator calves come spring.

While all this is going on, Hilary and Jamie fall for one another...

I've always heard this film wasn't particularly good but hoped I might like it more than expected, given the leads. However, the first half of the film is quite confusing and hard to follow, compounded by the fact that the movie is all over the place and doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. It randomly shifts tone from light comedy scenes such as Stewart's repeated brawls to Jack Elam being a disturbingly cold-blooded killer.

It's also got pointless characters who come and go, such as Ben Johnson playing a friend of Sam's. He vanishes early on, as does David Brian. Harry Carey Jr. has a little more to do, but not much.

The film settles down a bit in the second half, once everyone arrives at the Bowen ranch, but even here it's rather baffling. It's hinted that Stewart and O'Hara's main characters are in love, yet they're apart for most of the second half of the film, while she spends screen time with Keith. There's zero relationship development here between Stewart and O'Hara; everything we know about Sam and Martha is predicated on the time they spent together in the first half of the movie.

Fortunately Galloway and the charming Mills are on hand to keep things somewhat more interesting, but the film really suffers from a poorly planned script (by Ric Hardman). I can see this film being on in the background while doing chores some lazy Saturday, just for the cast, but all in all it's a pretty drawn-out 97 minutes which just barely makes sense.

The movie also has an odd "mixed" look, blending excellent location shooting with soundstage exteriors and some truly awful back projections which reminded me of some poor shots from live-action Disney films of that era. THE BRIDE WORE RED (1937), seen a couple days ago, had some of the same issues trying to blend locations and studio backdrops, but one expects a film made three decades later could do better in this regard.

The best thing going for the film is simply spending time with the cast. The film was a reunion for O'Hara and her male costars, as in 1961 she had costarred with Keith in THE PARENT TRAP (1961) and the following year she and Stewart appeared in MR. HOBBS TAKES A VACATION (1962). This was also O'Hara's second time to play the mother of a Mills sister; in THE PARENT TRAP she was the mother of Juliet Mills' younger sister, Hayley.

THE RARE BREED was directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and filmed by William H. Clothier in Panavision. The score was by John Williams, billed as "Johnny" at that point in his career.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray picture is wonderful, a sharp print which is one of the best reasons to watch. The disc also includes a commentary track by Simon Abrams and the movie's trailer, along with a trailer gallery for nine additional films available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger john k said...

Hi Laura,
I actually thought you would enjoy this film a lot more than you did,especially the "Disneyesque" second half. As you more or less point out it's really two films in one,the first half has Stewart sorting out nasty Jack Elam and the second half more whimsical, when Brian Keith enters the film.The transfer of this film is excellent,one of the best I've seen of a vintage Universal Western,so far. During the current horrible situation I've been watching lots of vintage Universal Westerns including two starring Dean Martin ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO and SHOWDOWN both of which I really enjoyed having not seen either of them since they were first released. Not Universal, I recently watched the lovely Warner Archive Blu Ray of THE STALKING MOON it's a beautiful transfer with some truly stunning scenery.THE STALKING MOON may be a tad slow moving for some tastes but I found it a very rewarding watch.Also from Warner Archive I watched the Blu Ray of CIMARRON a film that divides opinion but as always with Warner Archive the transfer is stellar. Although CIMARRON is far from a perfect film and was by all accounts a troubled production the epic scale of the film is very impressive at times. One major flaw for me,with CIMARRON was in the first half of the film the constant flipping about from location footage to obvious studio set ups. I note your comments regarding this on THE RARE BREED although on that film it did not bother me too much. I would be very interested to hear your opinions on CIMARRON and THE STALKING MOON if you get a chance to review them.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi John!

I'm actually kind of surprised I didn't like it more myself LOL. Since I went in with pretty low expectations I figured it would be pleasant but yeah, I really had trouble warming up to it.

Glad you've been able to watch a lot of movies. Although I haven't seen the new Blu-ray, I saw THE STALKING MOON several years ago and thought it was good, although I could do done without the '60s style violence and music. I've never seen CIMARRON -- the story isn't one of my favorite Ferbers and I've kind of figured if I'm going to watch it I'd rather see Richard Dix and Irene Dunne first. ;) I like Mann and Ford but am not particularly a fan of Maria Schell (and still have bad vibes left over from THE HANGING TREE, a movie most of my friends seem to like which I thought was pretty unpleasant).

Well, anyway, keep on watching those Universal films! There will be more good Universals out from Kino Lorber later this year; they are releasing a few never-on-DVD titles and I keep crossing my fingers for a real surprise like SADDLE TRAMP, RED SUNDOWN, or FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER.

Best wishes,

7:23 PM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, like John K, I like THE RARE BREED(filmed 1965, released 1966) more than you do. I first saw it on the NBC SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES in 1968. Yes, this modest effort can't begin to compare with the Westerns that James Stewart did with directors Anthony Mann, John Ford, Delmer Daves, Henry Hathaway, George Marshal, or James Neilson. I think THE RARE BREED is a better than good entertaining Universal Pictures Western made during the mid and late 1960's. These were years when Universal Pictures was making an effort to keep the traditional Western alive in both movies and TV shows.

The movie had a great cast and it also had a good story line of introducing English Hereford cattle to the ranching West. As someone who grew up in a world of raising Hereford cattle, this movie struck a chord with me and a lot of other people that I knew at that time. Although, the scene of Sam “Bulldog” Burnett(James Stewart) with the Hereford/Longhorn crossbreed calf was unrealistic and laughable. In real life I was almost injured getting between a newborn calf and its mother.

The cattle stampede scene is very well-done and is quite exciting. Hal Needham is listed as the action coordinator and the stunt women Patty Elder and Stephanie Epper were almost killed in the scene where the wagon turned over, but they escaped with minor injuries. This was left in the final cut of the movie.

THE RARE BREED isn’t one of James Stewart’s great westerns, and it is flawed, but it’s pretty entertaining anyway and I like it and I think it is worth watching.

On another note. James Stewart saved the two Hereford bulls that were used in the movie, to portray Vindicator, from the butcher shop. They lived out their days on property that he owned. They are buried near Pie the wonderful horse that Stewart rode in so many Western movies.

Laura Keep doing what you do and stay safe.

5:41 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Walter, your comments on this film are fabulous, from remembering where you first saw it to your personal familiarity with Hereford cattle.

I was thinking when I saw that carriage overturned that it looked really dangerous. Interested to know more about it.

I had not heard that story about Jimmy saving the bulls, how great is that?! Marvelous story. (I was also bemused that he wasn't injured "borrowing" the calf!)

Your anecdotes will definitely give more depth to any future viewing of this movie. Thank you so much.

Best wishes,

10:34 PM  

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