i’m not going to say this is the best wayne/hawks collaboration, but i kinda want to. it really grabs you from the opening scene and doesn’t let go. it’s a gold heist that the rebels are performing on the union army. there are all these nice details that add interest and realism to the picture (reminiscent of michael mann’s “thief” and “heat”). it shows them greasing the tracks on the uphill portion of the ride so that the train stalls. then they use a hornets nest to get the guards to jump out of the train and they slow down the train on the downhill side by stringing ropes across the track and tying them off to trees. it really appealed to the logistics side of my brain.
after the heist there is a hunt on wayne’s (a union officer) part to find the informer who ratted out the location of the gold to the rebels. after the war ends he befriends two of the soldiers who were part of the heist and they help him find the turncoat. as he puts it: it was war and you (the rebels) were doing your job, the guys i’m hunting down were traitors. it’s kinda cool to see union and confederates banding together to fight those who don’t have conscience enough to not stab their own in the back during the war.
jack elam is really good as the crazy mountain man type who is fighting the good fight and ends up joining forces with wayne and his buddies. he’s in a walter brennan-esque role here, but more wacky and he does a real good job with it. jennifer o’neill and sherry lansing are both super hot and have a feisty side to them that makes them even better. great cast overall.