Catlow (1971)

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Hmm, how to put it.Catlow is a rather difficult film to watch – alot happens without alot happening. Yul Brynner portrays an outlaw (Catlow) on the run from seemingly everyone in his attempts to lead his bunch on the theft of some $2M in gold. Over the course of only an hour and a half (but seems like two or three hours) Catlow and company are chased by a marshall (Cowan, played by Richard Crenna), a bounty hunter (Miller, played by Leonard Nimoy), the Mexican Army, and Apaches. Whew!

So that being said there isn’t much attempt at character development or a coherent plot – outside of the rush for the gold. Sam Wanamaker’s direction is adequate, and he does through in the required de rigeur John Fordesque panoramas- but they are of course, weak imitations.

The acting is adequate for the most part but one gets the sense almost that this would have been better served being a made-for-TV film as it has that low budget feel. There are not many long shots and the predominance of close-ups makes one wonder exactly how much of the film was shot on set versus location.

catlow12Brynner is fair but his attempts at humor are disastrous- at one point a rattlesnake is shot and Miller (Nimoy) simultaneously fires a round through Catlow’s hat. Brynner deadpans, “Why that rattlesnake shot back.” There are several other attempts at humor but they all fall as flat as that one.

Richard Crenna seems lost with his feathered hair and his repeated attempts to serve his warrant on Catlow grow tiresome – if not irksome – fairly early on. But the real suprise is Spock – er, Miller, er Nimoy.

nimoyGiven his history now in light of his long relationship with Star Trek I personally find it very difficult to get beyond type casting him as Spock. And here he is given extremely little to work with – he plays the bad guy (I think) but only has a few lines. For the most part we see him crouching behind some rocks or sitting on his horse waiting to take a pot shot at Catlow- grimacing all the while. At one point he uses what appears to be a sniper’s rifle which is nice, although how historically accurate is unclear to me.

The gem of Nimoy’s performance is his nude scene. That’s right he has a gratuitious nude scene where he tumbles out of a tub and tussles with Catlow. The visual you have at this point is no doubt better than the footage that is on the celluloid.

So for extremely light entertainment this might fit the bill, but for the most part may be reserved just for Brynner completists or diehard Nimoy junkies. Just out from Warners on DVD, this is an odd choice for release as surely there are other and better gems awaiting release. Perhaps this could have been better served with a release within Warners’ new archives collection.

The disc is pretty bare bones as one would expect for a catalog B movie of this type. We do get a trailer but that is it. The image is in pretty good shape though, but it doesn’t appear that any remastering or restoration was done.