This name; those three syllables–that’s what Twilight Time has pinned all its hopes on, in terms of selling The Glory Guys, an otherwise largely indistinguishable western that came and went without raising so much as a dust cloud upon its release in the summer of 1965–but more about that later.
It’s the late 1870s, the Indian wars are raging and the U.S. Army is looking for a few good men. Imagine his despair when Third Cavalry Capt. Demas Harrod (Tom Tryon, In Harm’s Way) discovers that his latest batch of recruits are “Mostly misfits…Japes, louts, rag-tags and bobtails.”
Harrod certainly has his work cut out for him, getting these greenhorns battle-ready in order to join what company commander Brevet General Fredrick Chase McCabe (Andrew Duggan,The Chapman Report) calls “a campaign to force all hostiles to designated reservations for now and always.”
“While six regiments of infantry and cavalry will be hunting the enemy, it will be the Third Cavalry that will find it and destroy it,” McCabe instructs his officers. “This is my chance and I won’t lose it.”
Vainglorious and ruthlessly ambitious–any resemblance to George Armstrong Custer is fully intentional–McCabe clearly comes from the “big risks, big rewards” school. Solely focused on the effect such a heroic victory would have upon his career, the General stubbornly ignores orders to wait for backup before engaging, all the while discounting the estimates of enemy troop counts reported to him by his trusted scout, Sol Rogers (Harve Presnell, Fargo).
Coincidentally, Harrod and Rogers are battling for the affections of Mrs. Lou Woodard (Senta Berger, Cast A Giant Shadow), an indecisive young widow. “Is it possible to be in love with two men, both at the same time?” she wonders aloud.
Though he essentially fathered the modern adult western with The Wild Bunch in 1969, Sam Peckinpah was still jobbing as an episodic television writer a decade earlier, when producer-director Arnold Laven (The Rifleman, The Big Valley) hired him to adapt Hoffman Birney’s novel “The Dice of God” for the big screen.
Under Laven’s direction, The Glory Guys amounts to pretty much your standard hash of thundering hoof beats, whooping Indian savages and boozed-up barroom brawls, resulting in a pile of shattered glass and breakaway set pieces, but a minimum of bumps, bruises and blood-letting–thus allowing the principals to toddle onto the next scene, good as new. Any romantic subplots are purely perfunctory, suiting cinematic purposes of the day (no such love triangle exists in Birney’s novel) and–don’t worry, Ma–suitably chaste enough for general audiences.
In fact, were it not for the masterful work of double Oscar-winning cinematographer James Wong Howe (The Rose Tattoo, Hud), you’d be forgiven for assuming this were a TV-movie, especially given Laven’s pedigree, though The Glory Guys was in fact, his ninth feature. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, either–if there was any genre that television had mastered by the mid-sixties, it was the Western. In most cases, what separated big screen from little screen Westerns were issues related to budget and marquee value. O.K., The Glory Guys didn’t exactly boast an all-star cast, but there’s no discounting this ensemble’s valiant efforts.
That goes double for a young James Caan (The Way of the Gun), stealing all his scenes as the irrepressible Anthony Dugan, who isn’t fooling anyone about where he got off the boat from–not with that thick Irish brogue of his. There’s no doubt in my mind that had The Glory Guys been a box office hit, Caan’s ascent to super stardom would’ve begun years before he landed the role of Sonny Corleone in The Godfather.
The Glory Guys (Blu-ray) transfer features two (fleeting) moments where the image tends to softness. Otherwise, this 2.35:1/1080p presentation is breathtakingly beautiful and the DTS-HD 2.0 mono track passed muster, even with my battered ears. English subtitles are also available–better safe than sorry, right?
The limited edition–of 3,000 copies–release also boasts a fine collection of extras. Twilight Time’s in-house historian Nick Redman joins authors Garner Simmons and Paul Seydor–forming a self-described “Peckinpah Posse”–for a spirited, info-stuffed audio commentary track. There’s also an Isolated Score track, standard issue for Twilight releases, as is the set’s handsome four-color booklet, highlighted by a fine Julie Kirgo essay.
But wait! There’s plenty more, including a screening of the original trailer, a still photo gallery and an interesting featurette called Promoting The Glory Guys, which focuses on advertising campaigns from other countries. And finally, there are the set’s two biggies: a loving eight minute tribute to James Wong Howe (narrated by Tom Tryon) and “Passion & Poetry: Senta & Sam,” a fascinating twenty seven minute interview with the gorgeous Viennese actress–speaking in (subtitled) German–who ruminates on her years long friendship with the iconic film maker, who cast her in Major Dundee and Cross of Iron; two films shot a dozen years apart.
Odds are you’d never heard of The Glory Guys before and while it’s hardly the lost Peckinpah film the packaging would lead you to believe you’re getting, this well-written, visually stunning programmer– which successfully (for the most part, anyway) juggles romance, comedy and the brutality of warfare–should not only please Western fans, but warrant multiple viewings, as well.