Joe Kidd

While it might not be as pronounced on this blog, I'm a big fan of the Western. It dates back to an "Eastwood period" that started with the obvious Leone trilogy and went on from there. Then I went into the obvious "Wayne period" and once I gained access to Turner Classics, as the channel we know today, old westerns that hadn't been available to me were right there on the television screen, the tube before the flatscreen. High Plains Drifter, Hang 'Em High, and others were gobbled up by my enthusiastic desire to see every damn movie Eastwood had made. The Eastwood-Obama "talking chair" debacle at an GOP event aside, I've remained a devotee of Clint's work since the early 90s.

For a number of years, TBS (Turner Broadcasting) had a Clint marathon on Thanksgiving. You got to see 24 hours worth of his movies. You get them all the time when AMC decides to run a marathon of movies involving him. Encore Westerns, when able to show them, also does so. It seems, since the 90s, Joe Kidd ('72) has just always been on. TBS surely used to show it all the time. I think it was like two or three years ago, I actually watched Joe Kidd twice on Encore Westerns in one complete day.

You know, I've asked myself about what it was about Joe Kidd that made it so easy to just watch repetitiously. The plot isn't any great shakes. It is an oater, through and through. It outlines a land dispute between the Mexican people (Luis Chama, played by John Saxon, is the vocal leader of a revolt with his men following behind him in support passionately) and Anglo developers (Robert Duvall's land baron leads hired guns in a pursuit of Chama, to shut his revolt up so that it wouldn't kick up any more dust that it had), with a former bounty hunter (Clint Eastwood) becoming central to the ultimate victor. Obviously, if the film is named for the character your portray, your role has to be of significance. Kidd is basically a ne'er-do-well with a piece of property, and two Mexican helpers who tend to his land. He cares for them, and when one of them is hurt and barb-wired out of revenge because Kidd shot one of Chama's men (who had been arrested and refused to give a hand-cuffed Kidd a cup of coffee meant for him in the jail) in defense within a saloon. It was a confluence of events that brought Kidd into a dispute he wanted no part of but felt compelled to get involved despite the possible ramifications.

Duvall has money and prominence, land that truly belongs to the Mexican people, unlawfully taken, with deeds burned by a supposed accidental fire in the courthouse. Chama sees the injustice and with charisma and rage stirs up able-bodied and like-minded Mexicans to attack the corrupt system.

Duvall wants Eastwood to guide him and his hired cold-blooded gunmen to the territory where Chama and his boys might be hiding. He's reluctant until his rancher was barbwire tied.

I think Eastwood besting a nasty piece of work played by Stroud over and over is the film's primary amusement. Stroud is a blustery blowhard who likes to rub his automatic gun in Eastwood's face. Looking for a duel, Stroud unceremoniously dies by a fall from a watchtower thanks to Eastwood. Wainwright is the expert sniper with his long range rifle who "hardly ever blinks" while the devilish-grin Koslo, who always looks like the cat who swallowed the canary, has plenty of jokes ("The fun is over and he's gone to church!") when there aren't Mexican revolutionaries to kill. They all pick a fight with the wrong man. Duvall is confident and so sure of himself... Eastwood will certainly humble his ass.

Stella Garcia is Helen Sanchez, a Chama devotee and lover who Eastwood grows quite fond of. Because Chama refuses to surrender to Duvall, his people who are residents of a church village are in danger of execution. Helen realizes Chama could care more about his own hide than those who follow his cause but are innocent and unworthy of dying by firing squad. This is where Kidd intervenes and Helen realizes he's not such a bad guy after all.

The train through the saloon, Kidd mimicking Stroud's Lamar on the watchtower and escaping through the use of a carefully harmful jug of water, a clean rifle shot on a master of the clean rifle shot, soup and pan to the face, taking ten days in jail instead of paying a small fine, and helping out a judge during a potential hostage situation; Joe Kidd is certainly if anything unpredictable! Makes for quite an Eastwood character.

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