Rio Conchos (1964)
One could argue that this western lacks an “A” list Movie Star, but in my world Richard Boone is a whole lot more fun to watch then plenty of those so called stars that movies are built around. Not only do we get Richard Boone, but the always reliable Stuart Whitman, flashy Anthony Franciosa and a debuting Jim Brown. Throw in an eccentric Edmond O’Brien and you’ve got a cast worthy of one’s attention.
Boone stars as Lassiter. He’s a man with a powerful hatred for the Apache. Previously before the start of our adventure, the Apache had killed his wife and child. The film from director Gordon Douglas opens with Boone shooting down a group of Apache warriors then finding himself in trouble with Stuart Whitman. Whitman is leading a platoon of Union soldiers through the territory and finds Boone in possession of a new rifle from a shipment gone missing. Boone being a soldier for the confederacy during the great war, puts the two on opposing sides.
Locked in the stockade, Boone renews acquaintances with death row inmate Franciosa portraying an unsavory Mexican bandit of sorts. One not to be trusted. Boone begrudgingly gives in to the camp commander and tells of the man named Pardee who has the guns. The intent is for Boone to lead Whitman and soldier Jim Brown to find Pardee (Edmond O’Brien) and offer to sell a wagon loaded with gun powder in order to get close enough and take him down. The reason? O’Brien’s intentions are to sell the guns to the Apache warriors led by Rodolfo Acosta. Acosta was no stranger to playing Indians on screen having had a solid role as Buffalo Horn in Flaming Star.
Boone’s request? A man of his own, thus saving Franciosa from the gallows. And so the adventure begin.
The quartet head deep into dangerous territory where they’ll encounter Mexican bandits of the Sierra Madre type led by a heavily made up Vito Scotti which allows for an action sequence to wet the appetites of the viewing audience. With no one exactly trusting the other, this foursome makes for an explosive quartet. By the time they get to meet up with O’Brien’s very Quantrill like Southern commander, the level of respect for one another will have been reached to get the job done.
A rugged western here and a good one. Thanks in large part to the performers involved and the outdoor location filming in what appears to be Monument Valley.
Boone plays a character that seems a cross between his famed Paladin and perhaps one of his screen villains like John Fain in Big Jake. He was obviously at one time a proud man with a family who has let hate into his persona which leads to the best scene in the film when confronted and subsequently goaded by Apache chief Acosta. The scene is heightened by Jerry Goldsmith’s score. For more on Richard Boone, just click here.
Method actor Franciosa digs his teeth into his role as Rodriguez, the loose cannon of the bunch and one who we are never quite sure of as to where his sympathies lie. It’s a flashy role for Franciosa billed here as Tony as opposed Anthony. He makes the best of his screen time and plays well off the low key style of Boone and his way of growling his lines. Jim Brown admittedly seems a bit stiff here but as this was his first film, his lines are few and rather short when he does get his chance. He does of course look quite imposing and figures prominently in the final battle and heroic deeds. Brown would actually work with director Douglas again after solidifying his acting career when the two teamed for 1973’s Slaughter’s Big Rip Off.
As for Stuart Whitman, he’s in a role very much like the one he played in 1961’s The Comancheros. As a matter of fact, Rio Conchos mirrors that film much like El Dorado does Rio Bravo. This makes me wonder if perhaps Duke was approached to take the lead role here at some point. As much as I appreciate Boone, I have to almost believe he wasn’t the casting director’s first choice. Either way, Boone fits the role of Lassiter and plays off Whitman perfectly.
Rounding out the cast of this big screen adventure are Wende Wagner as an Apache woman the quartet come upon, Kevin Hagen in a customary bad guy role before he found fame as the gentle Doc Baker on Little House and an unbilled Timothy Carey as the owner of a dive bar where Boone and Franciosa find themselves at odds while looking for the man named Pardee.
Solid western here and one well worth tracking down.