Saturday, August 15, 2015


"I've got saddles older than you."

The other day, TCM ran an Ann-Margret movie marathon. Good thing I had plenty of space on my DVR as I recorded quite a few of these films because, you know, you just can't ever have enough of Ann-Margret.

One of the films I recorded and watched was THE TRAIN ROBBERS (1973), which I recall seeing on first release with my buddy Terry Porter at the old Fox Theater on Airport Boulevard. Hadn't seen it since and it was fun to revisit this western adventure.

Ann-Margret is Mrs. Lowe, a widow woman whose late husband stole half a million dollars in gold from a train years earlier. On his deathbed, he tells Mrs. Lowe the location of the buried treasure. She's the only one who knows where the gold is and she hires Lane (John Wayne) and his men to help her recover the treasure. She aims to clear her husband's name by returning the gold to the railroad while Lane and his men stand to share a $50,000 reward.

Lane's men include Grady (Rod Taylor), Jesse (Ben Johnson) and Calhoun (Christopher George). Lane, Grady and Jesse are all Civil War veterans (the Union, of course), who have been together since the war. They set out from Liberty, Texas (a flyspeck of a town on a rail line) and journey into Mexico to find the gold. They are pursued by a band of riders led by a mysterious man (Ricardo Montalban), whose true identity is not revealed until the end of the film.

The scenery is spectacular and the action scenes, including a nighttime gun battle involving a train and lots of dynamite, are well staged. Director Burt Kennedy pays homage to the title sequence of Sergio Leone's masterpiece, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1969) in his opening scenes with Ben Johnson alone at a deserted train station waiting for a train. The action is underscored by a nice, rousing score by Dominic Frontiere.

The twist at the end redeems THE TRAIN ROBBERS from being just a routine western but even a routine western with John Wayne, Ben Johnson, Rod Taylor and, or course, Ann-Margret, is well worth my time. Thumbs up.

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