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James Coburn Double Feature DVD Review


Two decidedly minor 70’s-era films on James Coburn’s extensive resume are now available on a single disc from Shout Factory.

Personally, I always thought Coburn was a far more effective supporting actor than a leading man, having been part of the of the greatest action films of the 60s in that capacity (The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven). He’s also been allowed to shine in a few quirky leading roles (the spoofy & campy Flint series). Over the years, he developed sort-of a tough guy persona, though he was never in the same league as the Waynes, Eastwoods or McQueens. He’s been in a lot of great films, but he also appeared in a lot of crap. The two films in this collection, The Last Hard Men and Sky Riders, fall into the latter category.

The Last Hard Men plays like a Wild Bunch wannabe. In this, Charleton Heston plays a retired lawman forced back into service when his long-time nemesis (Coburn), escapes from prison and vows revenge by kidnapping his daughter. But what made The Wild Bunch great was the theme that progress was leaving the film’s outlaws behind. The Last Hard Men briefly touches on those ideas before focusing more going ‘squib happy’ in depicting gunshot wounds. Coburn is the best part of the film, engaging in some fun scenery-chewing, but the story itself is unpleasant and often really boring.

Sky Riders is more entertaining, though it’s the type of 70’s-era movie that most people probably saw as the second half of a double-bill. In this one, Coburn is recruited to perform a rescue from one of the old standard impenetrable fortress, since time leading a team of hang-gliders onto a mountain top. It’s kind of fun, but is definitely a product of its time and instantly forgettable, and hasn’t aged all that well.

This disc is recommended for Coburn completists only, and not those who seek his greatest films. To see the man at his best (or most amusing), you’d be better off with such better films as The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, Affliction, Charade, Hell is for Heroes or one of the Flint films.

December 24, 2011 - Posted by | DVD review | , , , , ,

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