Cattle King (1963)
“LAND-ROBBERS! HIRED KILLERS!…the whole Wyoming territory wasn’t big enough to hold those gunslingers and the “CATTLE KING””
The Cattle King (1963)
Director: Tay Garnett
Cast: Robert Taylor, Robert Loggia, Joan Caulfield
Synopsis: Cattle rancher Sam Brassfield engages in a war of wills with power-hungry Clay Mathews, whose allies include the brother of Brassfield’s betrothed.
WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!
Former idol Robert Taylor’s best years were behind him when he made this routine B-western for MGM. He hadn’t aged well – because, perhaps, of a 3-pack-a-day smoking habit that would result in death from lung cancer in 1969 – and looks much older than his age of 52. He plays Sam Brassfield, a cattle rancher who locks horns with fellow cattlemen over his decision to fence off his land. Chief amongst his opponents is cattle baron Clay Matthews (Robert Middleton – Red Sundown, The Law and Jake Wade), who employs a hired gun (Richard Devon – 3:10 to Yuma) to stir up mistrust between Brassfield and his neighbours.
Made in 1963, Cattle King is something of a throwback to the early/mid-fifties when movies like this were churned out by studios big and small at a rate of dozens per month. It certainly adds nothing new to the genre, although it does contain a few things worth mentioning. The cast includes a young Robert Loggia (Scarface, Independence Day), sporting a full head of hair as Johnny Quatro, Brassfield’s loyal right-hand man, and Robert Middleton as a big fat grinning Cheshire Cat of a villain. Middleton’s good, but Robert Devon fails to convince as his hired gun; he looks like an accountant in fancy dress, and his character is ineffectual, if not incompetent. The only thing he manages to achieve is to accidentally shoot Sharleen (Joan Caulfield), the woman Brassfield has his eye on. She dies an odd death, falling backwards with a carefully neutral expression, like a cartoon character who has just run into an invisible wall.
Taylor could always be relied on for a professional, if unimaginative, interpretation of any role handed to him, and no doubt his fans won’t be disappointed by him here. The film is capably directed by Tay Garnett whose career never seemed to amount to as much as could have been expected after producing such classics as The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). The plot seems a little laboured at times, and may have benefited from a shorter running time.
(Reviewed 16th March 2012)