• Glory Guys, The



    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: August 16th, 2016.
    Director: Arnold Lavin
    Cast: Slim Pickens, Andrew Duggan, Senta Berger, James Caan, Tom Tryon, Harve Presnell, Michael Anderson, Jr.
    Year: 1965
    Purchase From Screen Archive

    The Movie:

    On the excellent freewheeling yet informative audio commentary that accompanies this film by "the Peckinpah posse", 1965's THE GLORY GUYS comes in for a fair amount of deserved stick. Trite. Badly paced. Melodramatic (and not in a fun way) are just a few of the charges leveled. At one point the cast is described as sub-varsity league (aka the B-list). The most chucklesome exchange however revolves around actor Harve Presnell's impressive coiffure. "Like Elvis!" says one posse member. Pregnant group pause. "Well, it's a look" says another. Only sublimely relaxed moderator Nick Redman seems inclined toward to give this uneven production a glimmer of support.

    I think I'm with Nick on this one.

    Well known in Western film aficionado circles for its connection to the legendary Sam Peckinpah, THE GLORY GUYS was only written by the master - he had nothing to do with its direction. As noted in the audio commentary, Bloody Sam was at that time too tied up in his own private war, the postproduction clusterfuck that was MAJOR DUNDEE. Sorry conspiracy theorists: this one really does belong to Arnold Laven. And he has nothing to be ashamed of.

    Stiff but good-looking Tom Tryon stars as Captain Demas Harrod - the absurdly square jawed, four square and upstanding cavalry leader tasked with shaping up and shipping out to battle a woeful group of freshly enlisted misfits in America's latest Indian War. Most of this pathetic bunch don't even know how to ride a horse. The cliches fly faster than a coordinated American Indian arrow attack - green barely ready to shave recruit with no heart for battle, drunk amusing Irishman (James Caan in an early role) and frontier widow pursued by two male admirers.

    THE GLORY GUYS is two films. One is an undercooked melodrama that in many respects wouldn't pass muster on an upper tier "Little House On The Prairie" episode. This is the film with silly barroom fights and a love triangle where the object of desire is a cypher (and the problem isn't lovely actress Senta Berger, it's the writing). Harve Presnell's Sol, a scout, is the other part of that snoozer. The other film, the one worth discussing, is an interesting cavalry Western that deals with Custer's Last Stand using characters under assumed names. This film is MAJOR DUNDEE's slightly dimwitted but nonetheless compelling half-cousin.

    The Custer stand-in here is Andrew Duggan's General Frederick McCabe - a ruthless bureaucrat/soldier obsessed with victory and personal glory. This is the kind of rat who thinks nothing of sacrificing an entire regiment of "expendables" in a decoy maneuver so he can swoop in from the rear, wipe out the enemy and collect the medals. He's had a previous run-in with Demas where he pulled his stunt and it looks like he's about to do it all over again in the upcoming battle with "the largest number of enemy hostiles ever accumulated in one area". Peckinpah's best writing in the film deals with Demas and how he reconciles his loyalty to his men and respect for military duty with his distrust and loathing of McCabe.

    At 112 minutes, THE GLORY GUYS spends far too much time farting around with a lot of silliness like James Caan's wandering Irish accent and Michael Anderson Jr.'s puppy eyed hick mooning over a dewy farm girl (Laurel Goodwin). The most impressive acting comes on the margins: Jeanne Cooper's (she of massive later soap opera fame on "The Young And The Restless") shrewd wife of General McCabe and Slim Picken's gruff but loyal Sergeant. But when the group of recruits saddle up and get into battle, things perk up. The film, which had previously mostly looked like faceless well-shot mediocrity, comes to life. The battle sequences - the best one is set in a river (a nod to DUNDEE perhaps?) - are exciting and visceral. The film's final resolution isn't particularly satisfactory, but those dangling plot threads do capture some compelling ambiguity.

    A quick shout out for Riz Ortolani's superlative score. Ortolani's specialty seemed to be great music in the truly transgressive cinema of films like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and MONDO CANE. He's always been a bit of a hidden gem overshadowed by the likes of Ennio Morricone which isn't fair. He was a quirky master musician equally comfortable with synths and disco stylings and ethnic music and pretty melodies. And this is one of his best works.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Twilight Time's 2.35:1 AVC encoded MGM sourced transfer is a visually snappy affair. Fine detail is excellent here with fabric, landscapes and facial close ups faring particularly well. THE GLORY GUYS was shot by legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe and while his craftsmanship on the indoor scenes on this tended towards the mundane, on the copious outdoor sequences his work really shines in this organic transfer. No digital trickery is evident either. This looks about as good as any other top title in the Twilight Time catalog.

    I find THE GLORY GUY's theme song pretty goofy, but it sounds fairly robust blasting out of this disc. Call this one boilerplate DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono that gets the job done and go home. There's some very minor occasional high end distortion on musical cues but that's about it. Age related damage has been fixed so there are zero dropouts or crackling/popping.

    The main extra, which I addressed a bit in my opening paragraph, is the sterling audio commentary. Dulcet toned moderator Nick Redman and Peckinpah experts Garner Simmons and Paul Seydor have a lively chat that covers all the questions about the director's chair, casting and all manner of informational tidbits. One of the most fascinating parts comes near the end when the group start disassembling the various military fictions so prevalent in Western cinema like head on American Indian attacks against cavalry with firearms. This is one of their more irreverent commentaries but this group always delivers the goods.

    Next up is a subtitled 30 minute interview with actress Senta Berger who discusses her three collaborations with Peckinpah. Despite never having particularly well-written roles in her films with him, Senta is gracious and conveys affection for the tempestuous director. Cinematographer James Wong Howe gets a period promotional piece. This fascinating almost nine minute artifact was filmed as a promo for THE GLORY GUYS on the day the film's climactic battle scene was shot. Narrated by actor Tom Tryon, it's a neat curio. THE GLORY GUYS' promotional materials - lobby cards et al - get a 3 1/2 minute slideshow and there's also a separate large art gallery of stills from the set with images that can be viewed singly. Finally, theatrical and MGM 90th anniversary trailers are included.

    The Final Word:

    THE GLORY GUYS may be a failure but it's a noble one and with its Peckinpah connection, compelling third act and stunning scenery, the sub-LOVE STORY plot strand and flashes of cornpone humor can be overlooked. It also contains an excellent Julie Kirgo set of liner notes that compromise one of the most rousing defenses of actor James Caan ever written.

    Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!