The sparks soon begin to fly, but the question soon becomes: will these two exes simply burn each other up, or are the sparks merely a prelude to renewed romantic fireworks?
The film definitely has its ups and downs. The chemistry between the two leads is immediately obvious, and they are backed by a supporting cast that not only includes Powers and Wayne's son Patrick and daughter Aissa, but also the lovely Yvonne De Carlo (yes, Lily Munster herself), Jerry Van Dyke, Bruce Cabot, Strother Martin, and Chill Wills as Mclintock's right hand man Drago.
The high point of the movie has to be the oft highlighted "mud fight scene," which begins with Drago trying to calm his boss down. "I know, I know. I'm gonna use good judgment," Mclintock says through gritted teeth. "I haven't lost my temper in 40 years, but pilgrim you caused a lot of trouble this morning, might have got somebody killed... and somebody oughta belt you in the mouth. But I won't." He begins to turn away. "I won't... The HELL I won't!"
And with that he belts the other man, knocking him down a hill and into a mud pit. Donnybrooking soon ensues:
On the negative side, the movie is definitely a product of its time and attitudes. One of the reasons that I chose to feature the poster above is that it highlights one of the scenes that has been, in later years, highly criticized. Actually there are two spanking scenes in the movie, one in which Mclintock turns Katherine over his knee, another which involves Becky and her fiancee. For those who are offended by that kind of thing, I can only say that it seems to me sort of part-and-parcel with the whole Taming of the Shrew theme, and also that throughout the movie it seems that both women for the most part give as good as they get.
Then there is the portrayal of Native Americans. I'm not even going to try to defend this one, though I will say that it seems at least a bit more enlightened than some of Wayne's earlier "Injun fighter" westerns. Yes, the Native Americans are presented as more interested in finding alcohol than anything else, but at the same time, at a couple of points, McLintock is shown as a fighter for Indian rights and rescues a Comanche friend from hanging for a crime he didn't commit. The attitude towards the natives is even called into play as one of the characters is given the dialogue "Yes, I know I'm an Indian. But I'm also the fastest runner in town. I've got a college education and I'm also the railroad telegrapher. But does anybody say 'Hello, Runner' or 'Hello, College Man' or 'Hello, Telegrapher'? No! Not even 'Hello, Knothead'! It's always 'Let the Indian do it.'"