Combustible Celluloid
Stream it:
Download at i-tunes iTunes
Own it:
With: Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, John Saxon, Don Stroud, Stella Garcia, James Wainwright, Paul Koslo, Gregory Walcott, Dick Van Patten, Lynne Marta, John Carter, Pepe Hern, Joaquin Martinez, Ron Soble, Pepe Callahan
Written by: Elmore Leonard
Directed by: John Sturges
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 88
Date: 07/13/1972

Joe Kidd (1972)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Kidd' Gloves

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

To date, Clint Eastwood has made only ten Westerns, and some of them are exemplary entries in the genre. So though Joe Kidd doesn't really stack up to films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or Unforgiven, it's still a prime example of a good, sturdy bread-and-butter Western.

Director John Sturges had made Bad Day at Black Rock, The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape, and he was on his way down at this point, but his widescreen compositions are still effective and impressive. And rising star Elmore Leonard wrote the sharp screenplay.

Eastwood stars as the title role, a deadpan, scowling badass -- with a dry sense of humor -- whose reputation precedes him. (It's only a slight variation on the character he played in Leone's films.) We first meet him in jail, where he beats up a fellow inmate with a pot of beans before walking out. He's just about to be sentenced to ten days in prison (complete with chores to do) when a Mexican troublemaker named Luis Chama (John Saxon) breezes in, demanding back the rights to the land that the white men have stolen from his people.

Soon everyone is after Chama, including a wealthy landowner Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall) and his band of sharpshooters. Harlan wants to hire Kidd as a guide, and Kidd reluctantly agrees, but mainly because of his own agenda. Before long, Kidd finds himself in the middle of too many people shooting at one another and begins to take action.

All three leads are excellent, the film moves along at a good clip, and it's all effortlessly entertaining. Look for Dick Van Patten ("Eight Is Enough") as the hotel manager.

In 2020, Kino Lorber released a newly restored Blu-ray edition of the film, and it looks and sounds great, with visible film grain. It includes an audio commentary track by filmmaker and Spaghetti Western expert Alex Cox, a new interview with actor Stroud, a poster & image gallery, and a whole batch of trailers, TV spots, and radio spots for this and other Eastwood films. Highly recommended.

Movies Unlimtied