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TOM HORN (director: William Wiard; screenwriters: Thomas McGuane/Bud Shrake; cinematographer: John Alonzo; editor: George Grenville; music: Ernest Gold; cast: Steve McQueen (Tom Horn), Richard Farnsworth (John C. Coble), Linda Evans (Glendolene Kimmel), Katherine Stevens (Gvil Biographer), Billy Green Bush (U.S. Marshal Joe Belle), Slim Pickens (Sheriff Sam Creedmore), Geoffrey Lewis (Walter Stoll); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Fred Weintraub; Warner Home Video; 1980)
“Beautiful to look at but the story never develops into the elegant and hard-hitting film it could have been.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Steve McQueen’s penultimate film, based on an idea he had, is beautiful to look at but the story never develops into the elegant and hard-hitting film it could have been. The problem is that Thomas McGuane’s screenplay suffered from too many rewrites, the film was poorly edited due to studio interference and there were too many directors fiddling around with it–starting with James William Guercio, Don Siegel, Elliot Silverstein, McQueen and ending with television director William Wiard. A run-down looking McQueen’s performance, though lacking his usual high energy level, is nevertheless a courageous one since he was suffering from an incurable cancer during the shoot.

Tom Horn (Steve McQueen) is a legendary ex-cavalry scout, tracker and the man who brought in Apache Indian chief Geronimo. Now working as a bounty hunter, Tom is secretly hired to be a stock detective and stop rustlers and homesteaders any way he can in 1901 by the Wyoming “ranchers’ association,” headed by John C. Coble (Richard Farnsworth). Tom begins a romance with gentle school teacher Glendolene (Linda Evans) that not only lacks chemistry but is hardly given any screen time. When Tom puts a stop to the rustling the association members inform a surprised Coble that they are put off by Tom’s violent methods and wish to disassociate themselves from him. The ranchers hire politically ambitious corrupt U.S. Marshal Joe Belle (Billy Green Bush) to frame him for murdering a teenager, and instead of arguing his case in court a resigned Tom accepts the unfair hanging conviction. In the disjointed ending Tom, realizing that like Geronimo he’s part of a dying breed, faces his death bravely, which is supposed to mark the end of the lawless Western frontier period and a beginning period for civilization’s brand of ‘law and order.’


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”