Chisum (1970) – Review

As one of the original founders of the town of Lincoln, John Chisum (John Wayne) is increasingly worried as Lawrence Murphy (Forrest Tucker) moves in on the local stores, bank and general land, using questionable means in the process. Chisum, along with a fellow rancher, tries to use the law to stop this from happening, but confrontation starts weighing in on the feud, which then involves characters such as Pat Garrett (Glenn Corbett) and Billy the Kid (Geoffrey Deuel). A visually appealing movie that features an effective storyline too.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Writers: Andrew J. Fenady
Starring: John Wayne, Forrest Tucker, Christopher George, Glenn Corbett, Geoffrey Deuel

After recently re-watching The Searchers (1956) I decided it would be a good idea to delve further in John Wayne’s filmography and opted to watch Chisum, directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and released to audiences in June of 1970. It’s worth noting that Chisum is based around the story of the Lincoln County Cattle War of 1878 and although numerous details were changed when adapting the story to a screenplay, many of the historical figures in the film such as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid were around the area of New Mexico at the time and played a part in the actual conflict.

In terms of the story, it certainly didn’t come across as a typical American western flick that naturally pitted the good against the bad, instead it took a dive into various different subplots with the filmmakers making the very most of the modest one-hundred and eleven minute runtime. There was also a surprising number of action-based scenes, with the character of Billy the Kid predictably playing center stage in many of those.

At times, the cinematography and general scenery of the flick was striking, with some beautiful shots being captured on location at Durango, a state in the northwest of Mexico. Something particularly noteworthy was the Chisum Ranch, a house that was extremely easy on the eye, overlooking acres of vast open desert. The Chisum Ranch was also used for Big Jake (1971) which also starred John Wayne and will be reviewed in the near future.

As previously mentioned, John Wayne starred as the lead man, John Chisum, while the support cast was extremely extensive and featured a wealth of actors, including Forrest Tucker, Christopher George, Glenn Corbett and Geoffrey Deuel who appeared as Lawrence Murphy, Dan Nodeen, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, respectively. There were also appearances from Lynda Day George and Pamela McMyler who adopted the roles of Sue McSween and Sallie Chisum.

All in all, Chisum features an all-star cast and could be regarded as much more than a traditional American western flick and certainly one you should give a shot, especially if pictures based on historical events, such as the Lincoln County Cattle War, interest you greatly.

“It says in the Bible, the candle of the wicked shall be put out.”

Billy the Kid – Chisum


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