Fifth about The Seventh

The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder: Henry Hathaway’s Western may look straightforward, but it’s more richly nuanced than a simple revenge story (which it is) or the story of a fight against the large, ruthless land-owner (which it also is). The film opposes multiple ghosts: the ghost of the saintly mother and the ghost of the man that was; it shows the struggle of what the sons of such a beloved woman should be, and not only what they actually are, but also what they want to be. In other words, past against future. John Wayne does his usual as an extremely competent gunslinger, a man with a doubtful past; Dean Martin is not too far from his métier either, as the charming rascal; George Kennedy is maybe a bit excessive as the maniac villain. Cinematographer Lucien Ballard’s work is efficient and simple; the action sequences are relatively scarce, but interesting and somewhat unusual. The musical score is rousing, and it takes a couple of bars to realize it’s the work of legendary Elmer Bernstein.

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