Catlow is directed by Sam Wanamaker, and stars Richard Crenna (Rambo Series), Yul Brynner (The Ten Commandments (1956)), and Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek - The Original Series.) The film's musical score is composed by Roy Budd, and the film is based on the novel of the same name by Louis L'Amour.
Catlow is a Western, featuring a marshal (Crenna) determined to bring Catlow (Brynner), a cattle rustler he was once acquainted with in the Civil War, to justice, after turning to a life of crime. His past feelings of friendship and camaraderie, and legalities prevent him from killing his old acquaintance in cold blood, so he stands determined to take him in for a fair trial. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to take the criminal in alive. A ruthless bounty hunter (Nimoy) is hot on his trail as well. Now Catlow is wanted by at least two men - one who wants him alive, and one who wants him dead. And with Catlow's deadly gun skills and a massive posse of criminals, it won't be easy for anyone hunting him to succeed.
Catlow is a fairly obscure Western that never rode off into classic status. Two weeks ago, I didn't even know the film existed. And despite its relatively-obscure status, it's not a bad film. This is no classic, but it's a movie any fan of Westerns should see once.
The best thing about this movie is its three leading men - Richard Crenna (Colonel Trautman from the Rambo movies) as the marshal, Yul Brynner (Ramses in the 1956 version of The Ten Commandments) as the title outlaw, and Leonard Nimoy (Spock from the original Star Trek series) as a bounty hunter out to kill the title character. These actors are clearly having fun with their roles, and playing them very well. A supporting cast of unknowns actually plays all their parts quite well, too. My only real complaint cast-wise is that, while Nimoy got top billing along with Crenna and Brynner, he just isn't in the film that much. If you're watching this movie to see Nimoy do something other than be Spock, you'll get that here - but not for a whole lot of time. Curiously, Nimoy stated in later years that making this movie was one of the best acting experiences he'd ever had, since it let him break away from Spock, the role that more-or-less typecast him (like so many other Star Trek stars.)
The movie has a lot going for it - in addition to the aforementioned stars, there's a riveting musical score that suits the Western setting perfectly, some interesting scenery and cinematography, and good writing and direction that usually keeps the movie moving along at a good pace
Unfortunately, the movie isn't perfect, and if you watch it for the first time, you'll see firsthand why it isn't a classic. The first (and most major) flaw is the pacing and length. At around 100 minutes, this isn't exactly a short film, but it feels longer than it really is. At times the action does to tend to grind to a halt. This is most noticeable by an attempt at a romantic subplot between Crenna's character and a female relative of a young Mexican soldier he rescues. Some scenes feel like they are only in the movie as fillers, just to show something happening (which doesn't always contribute to the plot in the long run.) Long story short, the movie could have been about 20 minutes shorter - and a better product as a result. Also, the ending is laughably bad.
But no matter how much I can complain about Catlow, it IS a good film. I seriously doubt any fan of Westerns will be disappointed by the performances and the story told here. It's an entertaining film, and while I certainly won't be adding it to my list of favorite movies anytime soon, I give it a solid recommendation to any fan of Westerns or these actors.
Image and Sound:
Ugh. This film was not remastered in the least and just "slapped on" a disc. It seems like Warner was more determined to release the movie on Region 1 DVD and cash in than to take the time and do any sort of restoration. The film is laden with faded, often excessive grain, and plenty of damage and dirt on the film. To add insult to injury, the transfer is terribly inconsistent - one shot can be filled with excessive grain and damage, and the next can look almost pristine. The audio track gets the job done, but you can tell it too didn't get any sort of restoration. I'm shocked that Warner Bros., a company who has given us films with some of the finest restorations of all time, would have committed this unrefined transfer to a disc. This feels like one of those "first wave" of DVDs that came out ten years ago.
Just the theatrical trailer. That's it. Disappointing, because I'm sure the surviving cast and crew would have had a lot of interesting things to say - it would have been great to hear from Leonard Nimoy, at least.
Catlow is a fun Western, and it really showcases the talents of its three leading men, even if Nimoy doesn't get a ton of screen time. Unfortunately this release is plagued by a poor transfer and no bonus features whatsoever. Still, since I can't imagine a fairly obscure title like this getting the royal treatment anytime soon, I'm going to go ahead and recommend it to fans of Westerns and these actors.