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: The Culpepper Cattle Co. (1972)  ( 2224 )
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« : May 18, 2009, 03:58:32 AM »

Boring vaquero Western, selling the idea of a different Old West. Blank plot, many parts of it seen before (and after) in way better (and certainly more entertaining) Westerns.


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« #1 : May 26, 2011, 06:08:46 AM »

It's not that bad but it's not especially good either. I'm starting to think if you've seen one revisionist Western you've seen 'em all.

The Culpepper Cattle Co. (1972) is an understated, rather middling revisionist Western. Director Dick Richards shows a stronger directorial hand than in March or Die, his underwhelming Foreign Legion adventure, but there's little new about this grungy depiction of cowboys and gunslingers in the Old West.

Youngster Ben Mockridge (Gary Grimes) dreams of being a cowboy, and joins short-handed cattle boss Frank Culpepper (Billy Green Bush) on his next drive. Ben tries to prove himself a man, but continually lets Culpepper down. After a showdown with cattle rustlers, Ben recruits surly Russ (Geoffrey Lewis) and his gang to join Culpepper for the rest of the trip, but Russ's men don't get along with Culpepper's regulars. Things come to a head when Culpepper's gang runs afoul of a greedy cattle baron (John McLiam) and his goons. When the baron tries to evict a band of pioneers, too, Ben decides to stand up for what's right, no matter the cost.

The Culpepper Cattle Co. lacks the sermonizing of many of its peers, but otherwise fits comfortably into its niche. Everything about the film is grungy, run-down and dirty, from the towns and costumes to the punctured myths about cattle driving, cowboys, gunfights and even hookers. It's definitely more accurate than improbably polished classic Westerns like Gunfight at the OK Corral, but it doesn't make for a visually dynamic film.

Like many Westerns of its time, Culpepper is a film of moments, strong set-pieces strung around a weak narrative. The brutal shootouts owe much to Peckinpah, with the requisite bloody squibs and slow-mo, and are well-staged and exciting. But the plot never really develops, and the characters, though interesting in spurts, remain ciphers. Episodic run-ins with rustlers and crooks provide plenty of violence but little dramatic momentum, and interesting bits like an abortive showdown between Russ and the meek Pete (Matt Clark) are self-contained. The conflict with the cattle baron doesn't come into play until the last thirty minutes, and seems tacked on to provide motivation for the final showdown.

Gary Grimes (Summer of '42) makes a pretty flat protagonist, but his supporting cast is excellent. Billy Green Bush's tough trail boss makes a memorably unique Western character. Geoffrey Lewis (The Wind and the Lion) gives one of his most memorable performances as the shifty Russ. Lots of familiar faces populate the supporting cast: Luke Askew and Matt Clark must have been in every '70s Western, and Bo Hopkins (The Wild Bunch) gets a bigger-than-usual part as a trigger-happy cowpoke. Royal Dano and Charles Martin Smith have smaller parts.

The Culpepper Cattle Co. is watchable, but it offers little new to Western fans.  6/10

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