As I talked to my dad moments before popping the “McLintock!” Blu-ray disc into my machine, he commented that when he was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, many adults he knew (my grandparents included) would periodically say, “I really want to go see a John Wayne movie.” Given that neither of us really considers ourselves John Wayne fans, we bantered a bit about why this occurred. He thought it might be because folks from the generation prior to his saw the most recognizable name in Hollywood westerns as a way to remember a simpler time during both film and American history. I argued it probably had something to do with his savvy, on-screen presence, and the simple fact that you always knew John Wayne couldn’t ever really lose.
One thing we did agree on pretty quickly: John Wayne often played John Wayne more often than he played any other character. And that shows itself pretty well during “McLintock!”
Made during 1963 for a pricey $2 million, “McLintock!” brings together some pretty recognizable faces in a pretty simple motion picture that doesn’t require all that much from the viewer in order to enjoy him or herself. Of course, doing so assumes that you are a Western fan and can put up with some of the slightly lenient approaches to how folks in these sorts of movies operate. “McLintock!” isn’t really polished, and the whole thing feels more scattered than it needs to, but at its conclusion is something fun and engaging.
John Wayne plays George Washington “G.W.” McLintock, a rancher who plays by his own rules and doesn’t give a rat’s behind what others think. His estranged wife Katherine (Maureen O’Hara) gets under his skin periodically, but most of the time he stumbles his way around town having had too much to drink. He decides to hire a woman named Louise (Yvonne De Carlo) to cook for him and tend his home, while her son Dev (Patrick Wayne…yes, there is a relation) starts to trail McLintock with his hot head and fists in tow.
After butting heads with local government and pushing back on an Indian attack, McLintock’s daughter Becky (Stefanie Powers) comes home from college along with her man friend Junior (Jerry Van Dyke). After some coal shovel spanking and a proposal, everyone gets around to making nice and pretending like they enjoy each other’s company. It’s not exactly graceful, but “McLintock!” ends with a chuckle and everyone getting exactly what they deserve: each other.
The dialogue here is a little choppy. Lines are delivered with force, but the timing feels more forced than it probably needs to. John Wayne is the film’s star, no doubt, but he isn’t the kind of actor who was ever really capable of bringing those around him up a notch or two on the ladder. Such is the case during “McLintock!” when others clamoring for screen time are indirectly forced to step aside.
“McLintock” has been scanned in 4K for the very first time with this Blu-ray release (more on the visuals soon), but that isn’t really enough to make it the most outstanding film the press release would like you to think it is. It’s probably too long at 127 minutes, and given that the last 25 minutes or so revolves around spanking, you’re stretching to find true entertainment value. I suppose, given the way those leading the charge during “McLintock!” behave around each other, you could lean on the tagline provided in the press release of “…the biggest mudhole brawl this side of the Mississippi in this wild, raucous and hilarious Western comedy!” But I’m not convinced that such petty banter about silly, trivial issues was nearly as relevant during this era as “McLintock!” likes to make it seem. Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped movies and television shows from coming back to said banter over and over again, but that’s probably another conversation for another time.
I imagine that a John Wayne fan would probably want to make room in his or her movie library for “McLintock!” even though it comes up shorter than most of his other titles. There simply isn’t enough to offer here at day’s end, but the periodic bright spots such as O’Hara and John Wayne fighting consistently are mildly entertaining. “McLintock!” double bogeys every single hole, ultimately coming up well over par.
“McLintock!” looks very sharp, especially given it was made several decades ago. Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the film looks very sharp in 1080p High Definition video visuals. The colors are ever so bright and vivid, yet also soothe the eyes as they depict the old West with clarity and sharpness. It’s a visually appealing work, if nothing else. Film grain is a minimal problem, and HD is very good to the truly crisp edges that “McLintock!” does a good job projecting forward.
The sound isn’t a problem in any regard, especially with the default English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio soundtrack to help your ears pick up on every one-liner, spanking and punch thrown. Everything is pretty audible with little to no difficulty. It isn’t a flashy audio track in any sense of the word, but you can appreciate it. Other options include English Mono Dolby TrueHD, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1s. Subtitle choices are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
There is a lot to offer here: an introduction by Leonard Maltin, audio commentary with some of the film’s stars, several featurettes, trailers and a photo gallery. Both John Wayne fans and film fans will drool with joy.
A Final Word:
The visuals, audio and extras are so good! The film itself is only a notch above average. I’m likely in the minority here, which won’t be the first time and probably not the last, either.