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The Cowboys (Deluxe Edition)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Roscoe Lee Browne, John Wayne, Bruce Dern, Colleen Dewhurst
  • Directors: Mark Rydell
  • Writers: Irving Ravetch
  • Producers: Mark Rydell, Tim Zinnemann
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Dubbed: French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: September 7, 2010
  • Run Time: 134 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (467 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000O599WQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,831 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Cowboys (Deluxe Edition)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Commentary by director Mark Rydell
  • New cast/director reunion featurette: "The Cowboys: Together Again "
  • Vintage featurette: "The Breaking of Boys and the Making of Men"
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Collectible behind-the-scenes photo set

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Cowboys, The: Deluxe Edition (DVD)


Almost in spite of itself, The Cowboys has taken its place among John Wayne's most beloved films. It wasn't always that way: When it was released in January of 1972, the film was widely criticized for appearing to promote the notion that boys become men through violence. From a politically correct perspective, this apparent message is arguably deplorable (and some interpreted the film's young fighters as a reflection of young draftees into the Vietnam war), but there's no denying that The Cowboys remains as invigorating as it ever was, no matter how dubious its thematic implications. Based on a novel by William Dale Jennings, and adapted with Jennings by the married screenwriting team of Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. (whose impressive credits include Hud, Hombre, and Norma Rae), the movie opens with aging ranch owner Wil Anderson (Wayne) desperate for ranch-hands to herd 1,500 head of cattle across 400 miles of dangerous territory. With no better options, he reluctantly hires boys from the local schoolhouse (including Robert Carradine in his screen debut), and an experienced, worldly-wise cook named Nightlinger (played to perfection by Roscoe Lee Browne) joins the cattle drive--the first black man the boys have ever seen.

A Hollywood liberal who initially felt at odds with Wayne's right-wing politics, Mark Rydell (On Golden Pond) originally sought George C. Scott for the lead, but studio executives urged him to convince Wayne to take the role. It was a happy outcome for both, as Rydell directs Wayne with an enjoyable mixture of Old West humor and grizzled trail-hardiness, and The Cowboys is a top-drawer production with gorgeous cinematography (on location in Mexico and Colorado) by veteran cameraman Robert Surtees. Colleen Dewhurst appears briefly but memorably as the madam of a traveling troupe of prostitutes (in a scene often cut from earlier TV broadcasts and some home-video releases), and the young A Martinez (who would later star in several TV soap operas and the indie-hit Powwow Highway) makes a strong impression in a prominent supporting role. But the real reason for the film's lasting popularity is the hiss-worthy villainy of Bruce Dern (as "Long Hair," leader of the rustlers), who earned a dubious place in movie history for his character's cheating approach to gunplay. No matter how you interpret its themes of fatherly influence and justified vengeance, The Cowboys (later the basis of a short-lived TV series) is undeniably entertaining, dominated by Wayne's reliable presence and bolstered by a rousing, Copland-esque score by John Williams. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews

One of the best Movie John Wayne made.
I watched this movie when I was about 5 years old for the first time and loved it!
D. Johnson
What can you say bad about a perfect movie!
Terri M. McFarland

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 84 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 13, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
I'm puzzled by the negative reviews (vide supra). If the story's a little thin, then the acting more than makes up for it. John Wayne and Roscoe Lee Browne lead a cattle drive across the West with the aid of the only help they could find, schoolboys. They are trailed by some bad guys. So much for the story. But Wayne and Browne give superb performances, truly, and the boys more than hold up their end. Bruce Dern's a memorable villain who gets his. (Wayne is shot 1 hr., 50 min. into the picture--certainly not "early on"!) I rate this movie 4 stars because, sure, "Stagecoach" and "The Searchers" and the U.S. Cavalry trio rank higher; but 4 stars on the Wayne scale ain't too shabby. One day the world will come around to the realization that John Wayne was one of the greatest screen actors ever to walk through Hollywood.
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58 of 64 people found the following review helpful By DHC1775@aol.com on May 22, 1999
Format: DVD
This is absolutely one of the best of the best. John Wayne plays Wil Anderson, a rancher forced to use young boys to get his herd to market when his men desert him in search of gold. There are many wonderful messages in this film about duty, honor, and responsibility. They are messages our nation and our young people are in great need of right now. This movie contains many memorable and haunting scenes, but none more so then when Wayne is forced into a confrontation with Bruce Dern to protect the young boys he has on the cattle drive. He gives his life, and teaches them the meaning of strength, honor, and courage. I could not disagree more with Leonard Maltin's review - the message is not to seek violent revenge; the boys simply "finish the job" they were hired to do and take the money from the sale of the herd back to Wil Anderson's wife. This film captures the greatness of Wayne's legacy, and why he is so adored by millions of Americans who hold duty and courage dear. If I had to recommend only one John Wayne film to someone who had never seen one, this would be it. Truly unforgettable!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mary Ann Ward on April 25, 2006
Format: DVD
These comments will appear under my wife's name, but it's just because I don't know how to correct it, so my name appears. I had to comment on one reviewer who doubted the reality of the fact that boys function in this Western like they did. I grew up on a very large farm/ranch in the West. My father taught me how to shoot a .22 pistol when I was in the [...] to protect the family from snakes that slithered and those who wandered in from the Interstate looking for trouble. I never had to use it. Part of the lesson was never touching it unless there was a life-threatening emergency. My dad also taught me now to ride a horse when I was very young, and by the time I was in the [...] herding cattle was not a problem. I replaced a hired hand on the ranch when I was in the [...] And my father assumed those roles at an earlier age. His father, as an eighth grader, went to Denver alone on a train with a load of the family's sheep. My grandfather sold them and returned home without a problem. He did what my great grandfather expected of him. So what do I think of one reviewer's doubts about boys functioning like they do in the film? The answer to that question is obvious. This film is fantastic. And according to my own experience and family stories about myself, my father, my grandfather and his brothers, the film's message that cowboys began their work at an early age makes sense. During this time, boys learned responsibility at an early time in their lives. For those who know anything about history, think about the young soldiers who fought and unfortunately died in the Civil War. Just because our present mind set views things differently, doesn't mean that the past held the same stereotypes to be true. This film is a classic, because it shows boys becoming men as they faced a difficult taskmaster, hard work, large responsibilities and adult decisions.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Middle-Aged Professor on September 24, 2005
Format: DVD
No, this movie does not contain the distilled wisdom of the ages, but those who compare the movie against the accepted child-rearing practices of the present day are letting their post-modern self-righteousness flare to the point where they may need to take a "time out." It is unlikely that 12-year-olds would participate in a cattle drive, granted, but it was entirely acceptable for 16- or 17-year-olds to "do a man's work and make a man's wage" in those days. It was also a time when John Wayne's widow could not have filed an insurance claim for the stolen herd, or applied for Federal disaster relief, and the movie makes it clear that this herd represented the difference between a reasonable retirement and "working out her days as someone's fry cook." Justice was often swift and harsh in the Old West because real people suffered real consequences from the effects of crime. Therefore it was NOT a sense of vengence, as one reviewer asserts, that drove the later scenes, it was a sense of justice. And while the ages of the "cowboys" in the film are a little too young, the film accurately reflects what used to be "coming of age" in frontier America: A boy became a man when he accepted a man's responsibilities and did a man's work.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By dakotamoviefan on November 26, 2004
Format: DVD
Even though many of the actual filming locations were in Colorado and New Mexico, the Cowboys is an excellent western that captures the true spirit of the open range in the Montana-South Dakota region of the late 1800's. Despite the fact that John Wayne won his Academy Award as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, his performance as Wil Anderson in The Cowboys is probably his best role. Many people may like other John Wayne movies more, but The Cowboys helped him break away from the tired, typical co-stars who were so prevalent in his earlier westerns. Credit must also be given to Bruce Dern who was very good as bad guy Asa Watts, and composer John Williams for his stirring theme music. Along with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Cowboys is one of John Wayne's finest films.
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Topic From this Discussion
Typographical Error On Back Cover
It's not a typo. In 1971, the MPAA rating system was in its infancy. The ratings have changed over the years. For instance, there used to be an "M" rating (mature audiences).

GP was one of the early rating categories. It meant "For the General Public - Parental Guidance... Read More
Sep 24, 2011 by Paul Terrell |  See all 2 posts
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