Joe Kidd. Released 1972 by Universal Pictures; Directed by John Sturges; 88 minutes; Cast: Clint Eastwood (Joe Kidd), Robert Duvall (Frank Harlan), John Saxon (Luis Chama), Don Stroud (Lamarr), Stella Garcia (Helen Sanchez), James Wainwright (Mingo), Paul Koslo (Roy), Gregory Walcott (Mitchell), Dick Van Patten (Hotel Manager), Lynne Marta (Elma), John Carter (Judge), Pepe Hern (Priest), Joaquín Martínez (Manolo).
Joe Kidd, a lesser Clint Eastwood movie, should be in every western movie collection. It’s based on an Elmore Leonard screenplay and it benefited from having him as a technical adviser to the film. It stars Clint Eastwood of course but he does not portray his man-with-no-name character in this movie. He stars as Joe Kidd, a former tracker and scout who now owns his own small ranch outside of Sinola, a small town in New Mexico Territory. He reluctantly becomes involved in tracking down the leader of a band of Mexican land owners known as Luis Chama. Wealthy absentee landowner Frank Harlin believes eliminating Chama will end the Mexican’s efforts to contest their land claims. Harlin and his hired guns hire Joe Kidd to help them track Chama. Joe joins up with this team after Chama’s gang steals several of his horses but later finds himself on the opposite side when Harlin reveals his true, violent intentions. Much of the movie takes place in a small mountain village where Harlin takes the townsfolk hostage (and Joe too) in order to flush Chama from the surrounding hills. The conflict is settled back in town when Joe brings Chama back to have his day in court and Harlin launches his ambush.
This movie rings “authentic” in just about every scene. I believe much of this is due to Elmore Leonard’s influence. (Also the director has a magic touch. John Sturges directed The Magnificent Seven–another splendid, well done western.) The cinematography is beautiful and captures the New Mexico high country in all it’s splendor even though it was filmed near Yosemite National Park . Acting of course is great. I love how Joe treats Lamarr throughout the movie. Both the town of Sinola and the small Mexican village are well constructed for the story. I’ve posted some screenshots of the buildings below.
There are plenty of gaming plot hooks in Joe Kidd:
- A manhunt in the hills against a charismatic bandit leader
- The same bandit gang raids the town to make a statement
- A standoff with poor villagers caught in the middle
- Fighting off an ambush in town while trying to get the “bounty” into jail or the courthouse
- Utilization of some non-standard weapons: the broom-handle Mauser and scoped hunting rifles.