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The Sons of Katie Elder

"The Sons of Katie Elder" on DVD

Big Brother is Watching

Katie Elder, who we never seen on screen, appears to have been a virtual saint to her friends and neighbors. Despite that, she gave birth to four sons, two of whom have turned out to be no good. Big Brother John (John Wayne) is an infamous gunfighter. Tom (Dean Martin) is a gambler. Matt (Earl Holliman) is quiet and we aren't quite sure what he does, and Bud (Michael Anderson, Jr.) is a college boy who's not yet 18 years of age.

The four sons converge on Clearwater, Texas for Katie's funeral but, rather than just paying their last respects to a woman of which most of them (at least according to the townsfolk) aren't worthy being sons, they get caught up in a land battle with a sleazy gun shop owner (James Gregory) who it turns out swindled their family's land away from them and killed their father.

They don't get a lot of help along the way from a population that, while they adored their mother, aren't about to give the sons more than the time of day.

They win, of course, but at a high cost. Along the way, they also learn about family and responsibility, the lessons the townsfolk think they should have learned a long time ago.

Wayne is typically Wayne, which isn't a bad thing, and Martin also turns in a good performance as ne'er do well sibling Tom. Holliman reminds one of the Star Trek characters who get beamed down to a planet just to save series regulars from having to be shot. He plays the part well, but he seems almost an afterthought. Anderson, Jr. is appropriately fiery and feisty as the youngest brother who adores his older brothers and thinks he's old enough to make his own life decisions.

The supporting cast is also very good, especially Jeremy Slate as the sheriff's deputy and Martha Hyer as a friend of Katie's who explains a few facts of life to the brothers.

The Sons of Katie Elder is an enjoyable Western with an intelligent script and sure handed direction by Henry (True Grit) Hathaway.

The DVD is anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), with Dolby Digital mono audio. Picture and sound quality are very good. The only "extra" is the trailer.

The Sons of Katie Elder, from Paramount Home Video
121 min. widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital mono
Starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Earl Holliman, Michael Anderson, Jr., Martha Hyer, James Gregory, Jeremy Slate
Produced by Hall Wallis
Written by William E. Wright, Allen Weiss, Harry Essex, directed by Henry Hathaway


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Updated May 13, 2006