Friday, September 16, 2016
Wayne plays Lon McQ (McHugh?), a Seattle police detective looking for his partner’s killer. What he doesn’t know, but we do (in an aces prologue set during the opening titles), is that his partner, Stan Boyle (William Bryant), was dirty, so McQ starts harassing Manuel Santiago (the very Italian Al Lettieri of MR. MAJESTYK), a drug kingpin he and Boyle have been investigating.
The original screenplay by Lawrence Roman (SLAUGHTER ON TENTH AVENUE) is surprisingly cynical for a John Wayne film and portrays most of the Seattle Police Department as either corrupt or incompetent. Except for McQ, of course, who gives up his badge to flinty superior Eddie Albert (THE LONGEST YARD) after he’s taken off the case.
The direction by John Sturges (THE GREAT ESCAPE) is a little flabby and could have used some post-production tightening by editor William Ziegler (THE OMEGA MAN). However, his staging of the action sequences is darned good, the highlight being a climactic shootout and chase along a Moclips, Washington beach that includes an amazing Gary McLarty car roll.
Wayne is backed up by a solid supporting cast, including David Huddleston (THE BIG LEBOWSKI), James Watkins, Roger E. Mosley (MAGNUM, P.I.), Joe Tornatore, Richard Kelton, and Julie Adams (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON). Elmer Bernstein’s jazzy score works, but sure sounds a helluva lot like David Shire’s memorable THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (which came out after MCQ).