The War Wagon


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From the novel Badman by Clair Huffaker

Huffaker, an excellent novelist, wrote the screenplay, and then the director added some funny stuff because Huffaker’s script was ‘too serious’…so it’s not pure Huffaker, but has some 60s yoks thrown in.

Five guys (John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Howard Keel, Keenan Wynn, and Robert Walker) get together to steal a gold delivery in an armored wagon with outriders.

A mildly amusing heist movie, with Wayne just starting to gain way too much weight (his walk isn’t quite so mincing in this one…in later movies the contrast between his tiny butt and huge torso gave him quite a sashay from behind!) and Kirk Douglas doing his best to be roguish and charming. A very young Bruce Dern is (as always) killed soon after appearing onscreen.

Reality police: Well, for starters, a gatling gun in that wagon would probably destroy the eardrums of the guy with his head in the turret. And cutting a telegraph wire, attaching it to a pistol, and sending morse code? I’ll check with Mr. Otter, but I don’t think so!
Double penalty for inappropriate behavior: Howard Keel, a serious honey, as the ‘comic Indian’ (sic). AND he doesn’t sing. Not even the silly theme song, which Ed Ames sings instead.

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