Based on one of the five-kajillion novels western writer Louis L’Amour published in 1969 alone, 1971’s Catlow comes off like just about every other western movie from the '70s: nothing special. Sam Wanamaker directs the movie with an overly lighthearted tone (“forget about Nixon, folks, and enjoy some dusty western fun instead”) and Yul Brynner smiles all the way to the bank as Jed Catlow, the happy-go-lucky outlaw who is on the hit-list of just about every ethnic group in Northern America from the Mexican Federales to a Native American war party.
After Catlow and his band of merry men rustle an entire herd of unbranded cattle, some high and mighty business folk enlist the aid of a bounty hunter (Leonard Nimoy, who took the part to break away from the Star Trek stereotype — a lot of good it did, eh?) to hunt him down and kill the bastard. Marshal Ben Cowan (Richard Crenna) is also on Catlow’s track, determined to bring the renegade in for trial — not an easy thing to do considering he’s also Catlow’s best friend.
Escaping from his friend the Marshal, Catlow and his posse (including Jeff Corey) head down to Mexico, intent on raiding a two million-dollar stash of gold. Cowan chases the bandit all the way down, and, as a matter of fact, most of the story has Cowan capturing Catlow and Catlow escaping from Cowan (it happens at least three times throughout the entire 101-minute runtime, and the joke grows old awful quick). As Catlow’s girlfriend Rosita, Daliah Lavi lends her busty body to the fun — but her screeching, cheese grater-like voice manages to annoy the audience more than anything. Jo Ann Pflug co-stars as Richard Crenna’s love interest. But it’s the sight of a nude Leonard Nimoy jumping out of a bathtub to fight Yul Brynner with his junk in relatively plain view for all to see (or at least in plainer view than most people would care to see). Scary.
The DVD from Warner presents the MGM-made movie in its original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio with a very good-looking transfer that is almost completely devoid of debris. The English mono stereo sound comes through fine (except when Daliah Lavi is shrieking, in which case it’s too loud). English subtitles and closed captions are also available. The only extra included here is a theatrical trailer (taken from video by the looks of it) that can’t decide if it’s standard or widescreen.
While it certainly isn‘t a memorable western, Catlow is entertaining enough fare for a boring afternoon and Brynner and Crenna have a pretty good chemistry together and seem to enjoy tormenting each other onscreen. Best advice: save it for a rainy day.