“OK kid, where do I go and how do I get there?”
One doesn’t think of Marlon Brando as a Western movie actor, but he had his share, just as Jimmy Stewart and Fred MacMurray had theirs. Brando also directed “One Eyed Jacks” in which he starred, though my personal favorite would be “The Missouri Breaks”, even if he didn’t make it to the end of that picture. “The Appaloosa” came in between those two in a stretch that lasted well over a decade.
This is a serviceable Western with Brando’s character Mateo seeking revenge on the Mexican outlaw that shamed him with a rope drag through the mud and stole his horse, the appaloosa of the title. Surprisingly, John Saxon makes for an effective bandido with his well coiffed mustache, surrounded by henchmen who do his bidding without question. Anjanette Comer portrays Chuy Medina’s (Saxon) less than willing woman, using whatever screen time she has planning a break from the bad guy with or without the help of Mateo.
Probably the most interesting scene here is one that’s pretty unique and just as creative. With Mateo a virtual prisoner, Medina offers him his freedom if he can beat the Mexican outlaw at an arm wrestling contest. This would have been bizarre enough given the dynamic of the story, but it’s given added appeal by the placement of scorpions on the challenge surface, with the loser facing a poisonous sting of disappointment when his arm hits the table.
The description of the film on the cable channel where I saw it listed Brando as former buffalo hunter Matt Fletcher; where all that came from I have no idea. Don’t confuse this film with 2008’s “Appaloosa” with Ed Harris and Viggo Mortenson, the latter one is not a remake. Given the title of this story, I had to marvel at the fact that the actual horse for which it’s named doesn’t have a lot to do or have a very prominent role in the picture. But he did have his moment when the appaloosa nodded his approval after the dust cleared and Mateo out shot the Mexican bully on the hillside. Come to think of it, Brando’s character pulled off two lucky shots that day.