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SHADOW RIDERS (TV) (director/writer: Andrew V. McLaglen; screenwriters: from the novel by Louis L’Amour/Jim Byrnes; cinematographer: Jack Whitman; editor: Bud Friedgen; music: Jerrold Immel; cast: Tom Selleck (Mac Traven), Sam Elliott (Dal Traven), Katharine Ross (Kate Connery), Ben Johnson (Uncle Jack Traven), Geoffrey Lewis (Major Ashbury), Jeff Osterhage (Jesse Traven), R.G. Armstrong (Sheriff Miles Gillette), Gene Evans (Holiday Hammond); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Dennis Durney/Verne Nobles; Columbia TriStar Television; 1982)
“So dull that it passes for family value entertainment.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This made for cable film is based on a story by Louis L’Amour and directed without imagination by Andrew McLaglen (“Shenandoah”/”McLintock!”/”Chisum”). It’s set at the end of the Civil War in 1865. Texas brothers, Union Captain Mac Traven (Tom Selleck) and Confederate Sergeant Dal Traven (Sam Elliott), return home together and discover their siblings were abducted–sisters Sissy and Heather and younger brother Jesse– by renegade Confederate Major Ashbury (Geoffrey Lewis), who is a white slaver, planning to take his victims to Mexico to sell the men for slave labor in the silver mines and the women to pleasure men. Also kidnapped is the beautiful Kate (Katharine Ross), the ex-girlfriend of Dal, who ditched him for local Frank King when she received word he died in battle. The maniacal major doesn’t want to admit the war’s over and wants to use the money gained in this trafficking to buy guns to fight the Union.

The brothers break their rascal outlaw Uncle Jack Traven (Ben Johnson) out of jail, figuring he knows his way around Mexico. It then moves predictably along to the heroic rescue climax, as the trio ride together to rescue their sisters and Kate on a train heading to Mexico with their new owner Holiday Hammond). It relies on Uncle Jack to break the tedium with his ‘aw shucks’ humor of I’m a horse thief and I’m having an affair with the sheriff’s wife.

Filled with charm, an easy going pace and the usual oater clichés, the story never manages to be anything but routine and unbelievable and its characters sketchily drawn. It somehow is so dull that it passes for family value entertainment, showing a family that sticks together through thick and thin, no gore in its gun play and no sex in its hints of sex.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”