(US - 1974)
Directed by John Sturges. Written by Lawrence Roman. Cast: John Wayne, Eddie Albert, Diana Muldaur, Colleen Dewhurst, Clu Gulager, David Huddleston, Al Lettieri, Jim Watkins (Julian Christopher), Roger E. Mosley, William Bryant. (PG, 111 mins)
67-year-old John Wayne tried to belatedly hop on the post-BULLITT/DIRTY HARRY bandwagon with this cop thriller from MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and GREAT ESCAPE director John Sturges, the first of two such contemporary departures for the screen icon. The Duke moves a little slow and his rug is terrible, but he's a lot of fun as Lon McQ, a plays-by-his-own-rules Seattle detective out to nail drug kingpin Santiago (Al Lettieri, best known as the treacherous Sollozzo in THE GODFATHER) after his partner (William Bryant) gets ambushed and later dies. What follows is a pretty standard cop movie material, with corrupt cops, McQ getting info from a Huggy Bear-like informant named Rosey (Roger E. Mosley), and eventually quitting the force in disgust when he's busted down to desk duty by his boss (Eddie Albert).
(UK - 1975)
Directed by Douglas Hickox. Written by Christopher Trumbo, Michael Butler, William P. McGivern and William Norton. Cast: John Wayne, Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, Mel Ferrer, John Vernon, Ralph Meeker, Daniel Pilon, Lesley-Anne Down, John Stride, James Booth, Barry Dennen, Arthur Batenides, Brian Glover. (PG, 111 mins)
BRANNIGAN is much more lighthearted than MCQ, with a mid-film pub brawl that's played completely as a comedy set piece. Wayne, sporting a toupee that's somehow worse than the one he had in MCQ, is once again enjoying himself and has a terrific camaraderie with Attenborough and with Judy Geeson as a young female officer charged with driving Brannigan around and keeping him out of trouble. BRANNIGAN was a box-office disappointment as the Duke's fans made it clear they didn't like seeing him doing this geriatric DIRTY HARRY routine, even with a requisite smartass catchphrase ("Knock knock!"). Wayne returned later in 1975 with the western ROOSTER COGBURN, where he reprised his Oscar-winning TRUE GRIT character, and finished his career with 1976's THE SHOOTIST before retiring from the screen. He died in 1979. A few decades removed from the shock of seeing an aged, slow-moving Wayne try to be Steve McQueen or Clint Eastwood, MCQ and BRANNIGAN aren't Duke classics by any means, but they're entertaining departures that are well worth seeing, particularly BRANNIGAN, which is much better than its reputation.