The Reivers

  • 1969
  • Movie
  • M
  • Comedy, Drama

Whenever a picture makes no sense, add a narration. This film, based on Faulkner's final novel (which was close to being unreadable), needs Meredith's voice to tie up all the loose ends in order to make it comprehensibile. The title doesn't refer to a family name; it's an archaic designation for "thieves" and aptly describes the protagonists. THE REIVERS...read more

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Whenever a picture makes no sense, add a narration. This film, based on Faulkner's final novel (which was close to being unreadable), needs Meredith's voice to tie up all the loose ends in order to make it comprehensibile. The title doesn't refer to a family name; it's an archaic

designation for "thieves" and aptly describes the protagonists. THE REIVERS looks as though it was produced by Robert Radnitz from a tale by Tennessee Williams. It was neither. The time is 1905 in rural Mississippi (it was actually filmed in Carrolton, Mississippi), and the family of patriarch

McCaslin, played by Geer, await the delivery of their new Winton--a big, gaudy car that represents adventure and excitement. Geer's young grandson, the preteen Vogel, is more excited about it than anyone else, and he's delighted when McQueen, a hired hand, gets the job of chauffeur. Geer and his

son, Chapman, who more or less run the town, must attend a funeral in St. Louis, so they entrust Vogel's care to Carroll, the black woman who has been with the family for many years. Once Chapman and Geer have left, McQueen gets Vogel to lie to Carroll so that they can take the car on a spin to

Memphis. As soon as they ride off, up pops Crosse in the back seat. He is a black man who is distantly related to the family through a former master-slave connection. Crosse was found as a child in the family's yard; but since he is related, he is not treated poorly. The trio travels to Memphis,

and the 80-mile jaunt takes almost two days. Once in Memphis, Crosse leaves to seek his own pleasure, and McQueen drags Vogel along with him to a bordello run by White. McQueen favors Farrell, a veteran of the establishment, and she lets him know that she is no longer interested in plying this

trade. She'd like to give it all up for the love of a good man. Vogel has to spend the night with Farrell's nephew, Davis. When the youth insults his aunt, Vogel jumps to her defense and Davis cuts him with a knife. It's not a bad wound, but Vogel backs off after that. Next day, Crosse shows up

with some startling news; he's traded the Winton for a racehorse! McQueen is seething, but Crosse explains that they will get the car back because their horse is scheduled to race, and the Winton is the prize for the winner. They test the animal, and he's a definite prospect for the glue factory

until Crosse takes out a sandwich made of sardines. At the smell, the horse responds by running like Man o' War. James, a typical redneck lawman, utters several racial insults in Crosse's presence, so McQueen hits the sheriff in the snoot. The whole bunch is clapped in the clink. Farrell comes to

the jail, uses her well-worn wiles on James, and gets them out, but McQueen is offended by her technique and hits her in the face. Vogel can't stand seeing his idol with fists of clay, so he decides to go home instead of riding their horse in the race. When the prized Winton arrives at the track

and Vogel remembers that he is responsible for this trip, he changes his mind and sets out to make every effort to win the car back on pain of his behind. The race takes place, and the other horse wins by jumping a rail. Of course, that's illegal, so the race is run again, and this time their

horse takes the prize. Geer arrives; he will help them bring the car and the horse back to the small town. Once home, Chapman is about to take a switch to Vogel, but Geer intervenes and tells the grandson that they'll forgive him this time but that he'll have to do a lot of truth-telling before

they ever believe him again. Vogel is relieved that his backside hasn't been reddened and is even more elated when Farrell and McQueen announce that they are to tie the knot and plan to name their first child after the boy.

Crosse steals the picture with his characterization. He died a few years later, after having been in "The Partners," a TV comedy show, and after appearing in one of the best "Monkees" episodes ever (a satire of Robinson Crusoe in which he played his man "Thursday"). Crosse could make any line

sing, even his turning to the camera in a TV show and saying, on three occasions, "Can you believe someone actually writes this stuff?" Meredith's narrative helped to keep the proceedings together but could not circumvent Rydell's ordinary direction and the silly script. McQueen could do a lot of

things well, but comedy wasn't his forte. Crosse and composer Williams received Oscar nominations.

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  • Rating: M
  • Review: Whenever a picture makes no sense, add a narration. This film, based on Faulkner's final novel (which was close to being unreadable), needs Meredith's voice to tie up all the loose ends in order to make it comprehensibile. The title doesn't refer to a fami… (more)

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