Saturday, April 22, 2017


The people who produced "The Return of Josey Wales" should have changed the hero's name. "Return" went straight to video in 1986 without significant theatrical release, while "The Outlaw Josey Wales" was released in 1976. Ten years is a long time to delay a sequel, though "Star Trek" fans weathered decades before their cult NBC-TV show finally reached the big-screen. Reportedly, Clint Eastwood had considered making Forrest Carter's second Josey Wales novel "The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales" as a sequel. Nothing came of the project. Anyway, only the fictional characters from the original show up in "The Return of Josey Wales." None of the original cast members reprised their roles, and Clint Eastwood had nothing to do with the low-budget oater. Forrest Carter, author of both "Josey Wales" western novels received screen credit for both story and screenplay.  The producers changed the ending.  Several characters from the original novel reappeared in the second novel in an early chapter.  Nevertheless, “The Return of Josey Wales” is at best generic from fade-in to fade out compared not only with the previous movie as well as Carter’s novel. 

Producer/Second Unit Director R.O. Taylor received credit as "writer: special scenes."
"The Outlaw Josey Wales" qualified as an indisputable magnum opus. Meanwhile, "The Return of Josey Wales" (* OUT OF ****)npales by comparison, more of a drab, saddle-sore, horse opera with little to distinguish it. According to IMDb.COM, the produced lensed on location at the Alamo Village, in Brackettville, Texas, where John Wayne filmed his own magnum opus "The Alamo" in 1960. A large percentage of the cinematography is master shots. Master shots are typically long shots with actors shown from head to toe in their environment.  Star/director Michael Parks, who graces himself with an adequate number of close-ups, should have known he was setting himself up for a fiasco. The original "Josey Wales" overshadows this threadbare sagebrusher. Had the protagonist's name been altered, "The Return" wouldn't have found itself at such a tremendous disadvantage compared to its lofty predecessor. The Internet Movie Database lists no release date, but I remember a trailer at a drive-in movie theater advertising it. Like another reviewer, I bought a VHS copy through Amazon so I could say that I have seen it.  The picture quality is mediocre, and the film may have been cropped to accommodate the standard 1:33.1 screen ratio.

Despite the somewhat brutal events in the prologue, you're going to feel like you're watching a conventional television western. Tame, lame, with little of the same from the original, "The Return of Josey Wales" ranks as an uninspired sequel. Repeated viewings of the Eastwood original allow you to appreciate its perfection. Eastwood did a marvelous job when he condensed the entire Civil War in the prologue after Union sympathizers slaughtered Josey’s wife and son, and later he joined Bloody Bill Anderson. "Return" doesn't raise the stakes, boasts few surprises, breaks no new ground, and doesn't leave you wanting more. Character actor Michael Parks—an outstanding thespian in his own right—replaced Clint Eastwood. Indeed, some resemblance appears between the two, and Parks looks persuasively authentic in his black sombrero, white shirt, and dark britches. Aside from preserving Josey's tobacco spitting routine, Park's Josey Wales isn't as interesting as Eastwood's character. He has no love interest in this film, and he doesn’t have any memorable showdown scenes. Parks packs one revolver in a standard, low-slung, right-sided holster, like a prime-time, TV cowboy, and wields an occasional Winchester. Eastwood's Josey Wales armed himself to the teeth with as many as four revolvers. Eastwood knew how to make an entrance, whereas Parks ambles into and out of scenes as if by accident without a trace of charisma. He mumbles in his dialogue scenes like Marlon Brando. Occasionally, he says something insightful.

As director, Parks stages the western shenanigans without fanfare.  Watching it once is probably more than enough. I've seen it several times for this review. You'll have to wait patiently about 20 minutes for the first gunfight. The gunfight is minor like something out of a Randolph Scott western. Rafael Campos is the only other recognizable cast member.  Campos gives the best performance as a liquor-loving vaquero.  Everybody else, even in speaking parts, looks and sounds like amateurs. Some of the male extras wear atrocious hats that resemble party favors instead of Stetsons. Basically, like Clint Eastwood's "The Outlaw Josey Wales, "The Return of Josey Wales" has a savage prologue involving a heinous atrocity. The hero's extended family of friends suffers at the hands of the slimy villains. "The Return of Josey Wales" doesn't deliver an eye for an eye western with an icy-cool looking hero. Parks can be heroic.  Happily, he does handle himself acceptably in the first shoot-out both on foot as well as horseback. Appropriately enough, the villains—Mexican Rurales who scalp Indians for the bounty--are unrepentant devils.

The Rurales rape a defiant saloon girl, Rose (Suzie Humphreys of "Deep in the Heart") and beat a poor bartender to a pulp, while a one-armed Mexican peon, Pablo (Paco Vela of “The Job”), witnesses these horrific acts. Later, Paco relays his information to Josey Wales. Predictably, Wales saddles up and hits the trail, but with considerably less gusto compared to its predecessor. Furthermore, one of Josey's friends, a tin-horn gambler named Ten-Spot (Robert Magruder of “Five Days from Home”) has been taken. Mexican Rurales commander, Jesus Escabedo (Everett Sifuentes of "Selena"), plans to hang Ten-Spot, and Josey tracks them down with his Mexican vaquero, Chato (Rafael Campos of "The Appaloosa"), but Chato gets himself shot-up.  Sadly, Ten-Spot catches a bullet in the finale. Josey leaves Escabedo buried up to his neck in the ground as he rides off with his friends.  In Carter’s novel, Wales repeatedly shot and killed Escabedo during a face-to-face confrontation in a canyon.  Furthermore, in Carter’s novel, real-life Apache chieftain Geronimo played a peripheral role.

Josey Wales desired better than this grubby little western delivered.