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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.

rioconchosPoster3

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.

tony in rio conchos

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.

boone rio conchos

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.

rio conchos 2

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.

rio conchos1

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.

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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.

5 Comments »

  1. There are some surface similarities to The Comancheros, which isn’t really surprising given the scripts both come via Clair Huffaker. Rio Conchos is a tougher movie though, and a more interesting one too. Boone burns up the screen in a truly visceral performance that’s rich in nuance and depth.
    That aside, the film is a perfect example of the transition underway in the genre in the early to mid 60s. If I had to pick one film which acted as a bridge between the classic golden age western and the emerging Euro versions, then Rio Conchos would be it.

    • Didn’t know about the scripts. It is indeed a tougher movie what with the Boone characters outright hatred and coming across the mutilated mother. I was going to get into the fact that it was still a big studio product vs. the low budget fodder that so many of Hollywood’s elder statesman were drifting into like Rory and Dana.

  2. A very nice choice Mike and thanks for the link to that wonderful Boone gallery.
    Boone and Whitman could have and should have been far bigger stars.
    Boone’s downfall was booze and Whitman never needed the money as he was incredibly wealthy through his
    business investments and horse breeding activities.RIO CONCHOS was a high point in the careers of both actors.
    Regarding Clair Huffaker I’m very keen to re-visit THE DESERTER (1971) directed by Burt Kennedy.
    This Euro Western has a great cast headed by Eastern European superstar Bekim Fehmiu.
    Also on board:Richard Crenna,Chuck Conners,Woody Strode,Ricardo Montalban,Brandon de Wilde,Pat Wayne,
    John Houston and Slim Pickens.Interestingly the film flies in the face of then current pro Native American Westerns
    (LITTLE BIG MAN,CHATO’S LAND,TELL THEM WILLIE BOY IS HERE)-it’s a sort of throwback to the Indian
    fighting Westerns of the Fifties.
    Kino Lorber now are releasing lots of Paramount titles but say they will not release THE DESERTER which
    has never even had a DVD release-I wonder who owns the rights.
    Something to look forward to at the end of the year Carlotta,France will release a restored and complete version
    of LITTLE BIG MAN on Blu Ray.

    • I see you to like Mr. Boone. The bottle did catch up a bit on this fun performer. I did not know that Whitman was into the business world. I have a VHS copy of The Deserter under the title Ride to Glory that is 91 min. So it’s been snipped a bit and I too should revisit it. I haven’t actually seen it since I was a kid and it would play on late night TV regularly out of a Toronto station. Great cast!
      Thanks for dropping by again.

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