Yul Brynner is the titular Catlow, a jovial outlaw rounding up maverick cattle, much to the consternation of cattle barons who feel the strays belong to them. Richard Crenna is Ben Cowan, Catlow’s best friend but also a federal Marshal, who is tasked with arresting Catlow. Leonard Nimoy is the hired gun whose task is rather more lethal. Catlow and Cowan spar good-naturedly as the former plans to steal a great deal of gold in Mexico, which will have many other people annoyed with him.
This 1971 western is a lighthearted romp, or at least it intends to be. In fact, the humour is rather forced, even though everyone is grinning madly and putting a great deal of energy into convincing us that they’re having mad fun. The effect, however, is rather flat. The film also trots out unquestioningly almost every old western convention, up to and including a completely unreconstructed vision of its “Indians” as dangerous savages. In the wake of the Spaghetti Westerns and Sam Peckinpah’s elegiac orgies of violence, it seems curiously old-fashioned, and in the end functions as little more than passable entertainment.
For the most part, the print is in excellent shape, with very little grain and speckling, and strong, naturalistic (though very 1970s) colours. There are a couple of instances where the print is damaged and dirty, but these problems are limited to a couple of shots. There are a few more where the colours unaccountable become rather misty. These flaws, too, are quite rare, but pop up a bit more frequently than the more severely damaged shots.
The soundtrack is the original mono. The score (by Roy Budd, trying desperately to sound like The Magnificent Seven‘s Elmer Bernstein) sounds fine. The dialogue, however, is sometimes a bit difficult to make out. I was reduced to turning on the subtitles once or twice. Of course, my confusion probably wasn’t helped by the fact that the script makes little sense.
Some enjoyment can be had here, but only if one is completely undemanding. Seeing Leonard Nimoy as a villain (and in a nude fight scene, no less) does provide some curiosity value.