Five Card Stud (1968)

Directed by Henry Hathaway

One of the things you discover watching older movies, especially Hollywood movies, is that some of the tricks and strategies we see now are not so new. They’ve been used many times before.

For example, 1968’s Five Card Stud could almost be a contemporary film in that it attempts to be at least two types of movie at the same time and makes a big mess doing it. It’s a strategy generally used when there are no ideas left, which appears to be the case with this movie.

This ain’t no Rio Bravo. Or El Dorado, for that matter. It’s a western that tries to be a murder mystery as well. The result is a movie that doesn’t know what direction it’s going in. (I think this movie might even be trying to be a comedy, though it has all the humour of asphalt.)

The problems just aren’t in the script though. The characters are all cliches – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, actually, given the western and mystery forms.

But there has to be at least something more to them, even if just a smidgeon. Even if only the merest hint of someone or something behind the lines.

You can’t help wondering why anyone bothered casting Dean Martin or, more particularly, Robert Mitchum. Anyone could have played these roles since there is really nothing to play. As for Inger Stevens … if ever a movie used an actress as window dressing, this is the movie. Why is she there?

Compounding things is the annoying, over-the-top soundtrack. Good grief! Hearing it, you can’t help but wonder if the director was making one film and the composer was scoring another.

So what do we have … a western that tries to be a mystery (or vice versa). Possibly a comedy, though if so, an extremely lame one. And a soundtrack for a soap opera.

What a mess!

What was discouraging for me was the fact I really was in the mood to see an old style western. Well, this ain’t it. Frankly, I don’t know what this is other than a huge waste of time, money and talent.

(Originally posted in 2003.)

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  1. Pingback: 20 Movies: Destry Rides Again (1939)

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