One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

Running from the law after a bank robbery in Mexico, Dad Longworth finds an opportunity to take the stolen gold and leave his partner Rio to be captured. Years later, Rio escapes from the prison where he has been since, and hunts down Dad for revenge. Dad is now a respectable sheriff in California, and has been living in fear of Rio's return.

Flashes of greatness standing out in chopped messy Western.
I was never that smitten with this film many years ago on my first viewing, but now, with the advent of time, I like to think I view films with newer and wiser perspectives. Sadly I can't say that One-Eyed Jacks has left me anything other than frustrated and cold with disappointment.
Marlon Brando took over directing duties from Stanley Kubrick after the two giants fell out about the direction the picture was taking, this let Brando loose to shoot for 6 months on a film meant to be wrapped in two. Now this may be the main problem to me because the film is painfully devoid of major fleshing out of the characters, scenes are not expanded and there are obvious gaps due to mass editing cuts. It reads on the screen that our protagonist gets sentenced to 5 years in jail, two seconds later we see a bearded haggard man escaping prison chained to another inmate, next shot he is clean shaved and it seems we have missed some important chat between the two escapists. On it goes throughout the picture, I'm sure that the final elongated cut (rumoured to be between 4 & 6 hours) would have been a joyous experience, but as it is we get a cut down 141 minutes of film that rather outstays it's welcome. And to get through it you really need to believe in patience being a virtue.
Brando of course holds court and is never less than interesting, and at times he sizzles and dominates the screen in the way that Marlon was want to do. But the whole performance has the reek of over indulgence about it. Making it more about the actor than the actual narrative. Along side him, Karl Malden is solid and gruff as the villain of the piece, but Katy Jurado is badly underused and seems like an afterthought to be an important character. Sadly, too, Pina Pellicer struggles to convince in her only American film, but naturally that is not important in the context that she was to take her own life at the woefully young age of 29 (depending on what site you believe as regards age at death). The bright spot here is the cinematography from Charles Lang Jr at the various sites in California, it is simply gorgeous, check out the coastline shots and take it all in. I personally feel that this film is one that Brando fans choose to ignore the major flaws with. His name some how making the end product seem better than it actually is. In its longest form I'm sure it "could have been a contender" in the great Western stakes, as it is it remains average and something of an unfulfilling disappointment. 5/10

Paramount, Pennebaker Productions by Marlon Brando, Guy Trosper, Calder Willingham, Charles Neider, Sam Peckinpah, Rod Serling.
Stars: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Pina Pellicer, Katy Jurado.

Genres: Drama, Western

Keywords: ambush gold stolen gold

03/30/1961

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