Mark Rydell shows some fine touches in his third feature, but the result is an overlong and often-dull movie that had the rare distinction of being one of the few John Wayne westerns that gasped at the box office. Eleven youths, ages 9-15, are hired by rancher Wayne when his regular hands
desert him in search of gold that's been discovered nearby. They drive a herd of cattle 400 miles before Wayne is shot by nutty Dern, who is angry that he wasn't hired. The young boys become a revenge-driven gang under the eye of Browne, a wagon-train cook. They go out and nail Dern and his gang.
All of this takes more than two hours to tell, and that's twenty minutes too long. Ravetch and Frank have written many memorable films (CONRACK, HUD, HOMBRE, NORMA RAE, and more), but this is not one of them. Dewhurst has a nice moment as the madam of a bordello, and it's Pickens who gives Wayne
the idea of using kids in lieu of adults. Other than those two, the bit roles aren't much.
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