(director: Mark Rydell; screenwriters: Harriet Frank, Jr./Irving Ravetch/based on the novel by William Faulkner; cinematographer: Richard Moore; editor: Thomas Stanford; music: John Williams; cast: Steve McQueen (Boon Hogganbeck), Sharon Farrell (Corrie), Ruth White (Miss Reba), Will Geer (Boss McCaslin), Mitch Vogel (Lucius McCaslin), Rupert Crosse (Ned), Juano Hernandez (Uncle Possum), Lonny Chapman (Maury McCaslin), Clifton James (Sheriff Butch Lovemaiden), Lindy Davis (Otis), Ruth White (Reba), Vinnette Carrol (Aunt Callie), Allyn Ann McLerie (Alison McCaslin), Burgess Meredith (Narrator); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Irving Ravetch/Robert E. Relyea/Rick Rosenberg; Paramount Home Video; 1969)
“Fine adventure tale.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Reivers is an old-fashioned Scottish word for rogue or thief. This fine adventure tale (not exactly a wholesome Disney pic, but still wholesome enough to be a family entertainment film) is adapted from William Faulkner’s final novel (published a month before his death in 1962)by writers Harriet Frank, Jr. and Irving Ravetch. The writers capture the spirit of Faulkner’s novel and include the accessible social commentary. It’s about three playful characters getting into trouble in 1905 Mississippi. Former actor turned director Mark Rydell (“The Rose”/”On Golden Pond”/”The Cowboys”), who before had datedSteve McQueen’s wife Neile, found himself at odds with the star during the shoot and the two fierce rivals had heated arguments throughout and vowed to never work together again (a vow that was kept). The Reivers did a respectable enough box office to please the suits. Though it’s somewhat disappointing that popular star McQueen, going against type by playing a hayseed, couldn’t give this indie (made by National General) a bigger jolt.
The McCaslins, of Jefferson, Mississippi, get their first automobile–a new 1905 yellow Winton Flyer. This most excites their spunky 11-year-old son Lucius McCaslin (Mitch Vogel), as the family makes Boon Hogganbeck (Steve McQueen) their driver. He’s an irresponsible but loyal and cheerful hired hand.
When theelder McCaslins–Maury (Lonny Chapman), the father, and Boss (Will Geer), the grandfather–are called away to a funeral in St. Louis, they leave the feisty Lucius in the care of old Aunt Callie.This prompts thene’er-do-well Boon to talk Lucius into letting him take the car on a drive to Memphis (80 miles and nearly 24 hours away). On the road, they discover that Lucius’ alleged distant cousin Ned (Rupert Crosse), a mixed-race young man found as a baby on the McCaslin property, is a stowaway. When the adventuress trio reach their destination, Ned goes on his own while Boon takes Lucius to Miss Reba’s bordello. The whore Corrie (Sharon Farrell), who has a heart of gold, is Boon’s favorite, but she talks of marriage and quitting her profession which catches Boon off-guard. Meanwhile Corrie’s nephew, Otis (Lindy Davis), sleeps with Lucius that night. Friction arises when Otis calls his aunt a whore and the innocent Lucius defends her honor. For his troubles, Lucius receives a superficial knife wound.Ned arrives the next morning saying he traded the car for a racehorse named Lightning, which makes Lucius fret about retribution from his elders. It’s further explained that the car is the prize in a race between Lightning and another horse, Coppermine.
When the temperamental Lightning wrecks the stall after being fed sardines (which makes the horse become speedy) and the slovenly racist sheriff (Clifton James) curses Ned out with racial slurs, Boon comes to his defense and the trio are arrested. It ends justifiably with the aforementioned horse race, as winning brings everyone together.
This is far from top-notch Faulkner, and it seems more the type of story that a Mark Twain would spin in his Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn novels. Nevertheless it works as an entertaining coming-of-age film that has some serious underlying messages about Southern mores and racism.
It’s narrated by Lucius as an adult, with Burgess Meredith doing the narration.
REVIEWED ON 9/13/2010 GRADE: B-