Featured Post

Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Challenge of the McKennas (1970)

Time for another western. The movie opens with the hanging of a man by some bad guys while his lady begs them to stop and cries beneath his swinging body when she is unsuccessful. Later another man stops by and helps the woman to her buggy, buries the body, and takes her to the nearest ranch for help. Turns out that ranch is her home but instead of being happy to see her the father, Don Diego, is annoyed that he buried the man on his land. Seems that Diego was responsible for his hanging because he didn’t approve of his daughter’s choice in boyfriend. The mysterious stranger Jones, played by John Ireland, quickly moves on and heads to town, but not until he annoys Diego.

In town Jones meets up with the local madam, Maggie, and runs afoul of Diego’s son Chris. Thru a series of escalating events including another rancher trying to win Diego’s approval in marrying his daughter by killing Jones, things get much worse. As the violence escalates, we also get more background to Jones, including why he can be so violent but still refuses to wear a gun. When he is finally forced to kill a man, all bets are off and things end quickly and rather bloody. 

I really liked this movie. First up John Ireland is fantastic as Jones, carrying most of the movie with his portrayal. He is rather mysterious in the fact that he keeps quoting scriptures, while casually tossing a bible away. He is also quick to anger and not afraid to use his fists or even threaten to use a pistol, though he never carries one. At least not until the end. Though the ending has him tossing it away in disgust as he realizes the folks around him forced his hand. Why is he like this? You know I’m not going to spoil that, especially since the story is slowly reveals that and gives the ending a real punch. I will say that it is very satisfying and is well thought out. I also liked that it isn’t a clone of the already iconic and much copied formula that most Spaghetti westerns were following by the early seventies.

I’ve already mentioned how much I liked Ireland’s performance. We also get another familiar face as Robert Woods, who I just covered in 4 Dollars of Revenge, plays a villain role here as Chris, the spoiled son of Don Diego. At first is seemed like he was going to be the foil to Ireland’s heroic Jones, but he is really manipulated by his father. He is so eager for his acceptance that it causes the violence and eventual deaths to occur. That was a cool twist. Woods is also a perfect blend of weasel and irrationally violent. He is good in the role.

The action sequences are exciting and range from a cool bit with some Molotov cocktails, multiple fistfights, and a climactic gunfight that while short is stylistically shot and immensely satisfying. There are a few spots where the stuntman standing in for Ireland is clearly obvious (it isn’t even close!) but that didn’t bother me much. Speaking of style this is also a beautifully shot movie with one of the highlights being the sun poking in and out from behind the hanged man’s body swinging on the rope.

There is a lot to recommend Challenge of the McKennas and I’m going to recommend that you track yourself down a copy. I think it is easy to find, but I hadn’t heard of it before finding it in my to watch pile. Though if it isn’t an Eastwood or a Van Cleef flick that isn’t too surprising. One of the reasons I’m doing this mini marathon is to correct that and find some new to me Spaghetti westerns. This one is worth finding.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

No comments:

Post a Comment