MOONSHINE WAR, THE
(director: Richard Quine; screenwriter: from the novel by Elmore Leonard/ Elmore Leonard; cinematographer: Richard H. Kline; editor: Allan Jacobs; music: Fred Karger; cast: Patrick McGoohan (Frank Long), Richard Widmark (Dr. Emmett Taulbee), Alan Alda (John W. ‘Son’ Martin), Lee Hazlewood (Dual Metters ), Joe Williams (Aaron), Will Geer (Mr. Baylor), Melodie Johnson (Lizann Simpson ), Max Showalter (Mr. Worthman ), Harry Carey Jr (Arley Stamper), Teri Garr(Young Wife); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Martin Ransohoff; MGM; 1970)
“An amiable but tedious mix of comedy and drama.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Elmore Leonard adapts the screenplay (which is just awful) from his own novel. Middling filmmaker Richard Quine (“My Sister Eileen”/”The Solid Gold Cadillac”/”The World of Suzie Wong”) directs this heavy-handed comedy drama that’s set in 1932, in the South, just before the repeal of Prohibition. It’s an amiable but tedious mix of comedy and drama, without either genre benefiting from the mix except in fits and starts. It evokes a hillbilly country atmosphere of the Depression period and the talented actors give it some life and Alda some unintentional laughs over his attempt to bring on a hillbilly accent, but the pic is ruined by Quine’s failure to keep it as lighthearted madcap fun.
Corruptible revenue agentFrank Long (Patrick McGoohan) looking to make a killing before Prohibition is repealed, looks to confiscate the moonshine cache of his old army buddy Son Martin (Alan Alda), who operates a still in rural Kentucky. When Son and his black hired hand Aaron (Joe Williams) thwart Long’s efforts, the agent hires sadistic ex-convicts Dr. Taulbee (Richard Widmark), a former dentist, and Dual Meaders (Lee Hazlewood) to give them a fright so they’ll give up their liquor. When the hired killers murder Sheriff Baylor (Will Geer) and his deputy, Long makes a deal with Son to fight the out-of-control killers for a percentage of the illegal booze. As the violence escalates with Taulbee murdering Long and taking four townspeople hostage in exchange for the moonshine, the comedy plummets. It leads to the novel way the moonshiners get rid of the killers, which gives the cynical pic a happy ending and a salute to moonshiners as being better people than revenue agents.
Trying hard to be a Bonnie and Clyde rebel flick, the pic only fires blanks and might be one of the poorest moonshine subgenre flicks turned out by Hollywood.
REVIEWED ON 3/13/2011 GRADE: C