116 of 122 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2004
If you're ever curious why people made such a fuss about Steve McQueen check out NEVADA SMITH, Henry Hathaway's sprawling tale of vengeance and obsession.
McQueen plays young half-Indian/half-white Max Sand, whose parents are murdered by a trio of bandits (Martin Landau, Arthur Kennedy, Karl Malden.) McQueen was 36 years old in 1966, the year NEVADA SMITH was made, and was probably a decade past the time when he could effortlessly portray a naïve young hero. There's a brief, disturbingly violent scene at the beginning of the movie where the three villains are torturing Smith's parents, and the woman portraying McQueen's Kiowa mother doesn't look much older than 35. Still, McQueen brings a wide-eyed innocence to his performance that tremendously helps us suspend disbelief. Besides, I believe I counted exactly zero close-ups in this action western. If you want to check out the crow's feet around McQueen's eyes you'll have to look hard and fast to see them.
McQueen gets a chance to play against some Hollywood professionals at the top of their games. Brian Keith is growlingly good as traveling gunsmith Jonas Cord, who plays Polonius to McQueen's Laertes, and plies the young stranger with instruction and advice. Max Sand won't be argued out of his mission to avenge the death of his parents, and the pragmatic Cord reluctantly agrees to be his mentor. It's through Cord and, later, a priest Sand comes across, that the movie is allowed to question its central theme - vengeance. Cord argues the practical ("You'll turn into one of the rats you're hunting,") the priest the spiritual. It's a tribute to the brilliance of McQueen's performance that by the time we reach the last scene we can see how both arguments have contributed to his maturation. Karl Malden plays the evil, racist Tom Fitch with sadist gusto. Malden overacts a bit in one of those rare roles that benefits when an actor takes it over the top. Watching the suspicious Fitch interrogate the no-longer-naïve Max Sand is one of the highlights of the movie.
The underrated Hathaway shot most of NEVADA SMITH on location, and the realistic look is used to great advantage. He doesn't go for the landmark shots a la John Ford in Monument Valley, choosing instead to play scenes in anonymous swamps and deserts. The realism shoots through all the way to stunts and props and costumes. Instead of elaborately choreographed fist fights with exaggerated sound effects every time a blow is struck, the characters in NEVADA SMITH scratch and claw, bite and kick when they fight. The clothes they wear are torn and dirty and they stay dirty.
NEVADA SMITH has enough going for it to appeal to those who aren't typically fans of westerns. If you are a fan this is a must-see.
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2005
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This was a film that never made it on to my radar although I am a fan of westerns and Steve McQueen. Last month, I watched a special on TMC about McQueen and they had a clip from "Nevada Smith", it looked interesting, so I ordered one from Amazon.The verdict? It is a terrific little film. Henry Hathaway, a skilled director with a long list of impressive credits, did a terrific job telling this Harold Robbins story and McQueen is great. Loads of wonderful character actors and georgeous scenery, artfully recorded adds up to a fun experience. I am glad I have it in on my shelf.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Steve McQueen plays Max Sand ( Nevada Smith ) who sets about finding his parents three killers played by karl Malden , Martin Landau, and Arthur Kenndy. But finding them and killing them is a bit harder then he thought. While on his trail he meet's Brian Keith who teaches him to be an expert marksman.Nevada Smith is a tense violent western which follows Nevada every step on his revenge crazed journey. McQueen is excellent , in this classic western.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This movie is one of Steve McQueens finest.Though one might take umbrage at McQueen playing a half white half Indian - he looks pretty white - McQueen gives an excellent performance. You see him evolve from a young hotheaded kid into a bitter and hardened killer. He becomes like the men he's hunting down in other words. this movie was made at the beginning of the "new" Hollywood Western. It's grittier then much of the dreck that was churned out during the fifties and it makes an effort to portray some technical accuracy as well. But it is still a transistional piece so the towns are clean, the clothes are tailored and the saloons are elaborate. But for the time it was made the movie stands head and shoulders above most westerns. In just a few short years Eastwood's Spaghetti Westerns and Sam Peckinpah would chance the face of the western forever so this movie has to be placed in the earlier category and in that case it's excellent.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Steve Mcqueen is excellent in this well done western revenge thriller Nevada Smith, a young half breed man seeks revenge agaisnt a lethal gang who murdered his parents. Along the way Smith learns proper gun handeling technicqes and as he draws closer to his prey he relazies that revenge isn't all what it seems. Very well played story about revenge and the conseqeunces that goes along with it and the lonliness that transpires from being consumed from the hate. A Western that also looks at the rights of indians not often seen in Westerns. Steve Mcqueen pulled off a very belivable, and powerful performence.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Nevada Smith was made at the heights of McQueen's short, but terrific career. This film, along with Love With The Proper Stranger, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Cincinnati Kid and Bullitt, proves just why McQueen was a star.
Although the film is your average revenge-story, McQueen's performance along with Karl Malden, Martin Landau, Brian Keith and Susanne Pleshette, make it worth watching. McQueen stars as a young man (the script mentions that he's a boy and half-Indian, but so what?)who witnesess his parents' murder at the hands of Karl Malden's blood-thirsty gang. From there he goes on a year's long quest to hunt down each and every one of the killers, until his parents' death is avenged. He even goes so far as to land himself in a Louisianan chain gang to get one of them. What makes this movie stand out from other films in this genre, is McQueen's maturation during this process. He goes from young boy, to seasoned, cool killer by the time he reaches Karl Malden. McQueen, known for extensively underplaying a scene, gives away all kinds of subtlelties that most people missed (indeed this is why some in Hollywood didn't consider him a good actor), but that upon closer inspection one would see that he's "in character" every step of the way. The scene when he's in the swamp with one of his parents' killers and Susann Pleshette is chilling, because you see all of his rage at finally finding this man and exacting his revenge. What is more poignant is when he, at long last, has Karl Malden, and instead of killing him, leaves him there to die. You see in McQueen's eyes all of the pain, and sorrow, at his parents' loss, but you also see the pity that he has for this weak, pathetic man who is nothing without a gun on his belt. McQueen simply looks at the man, shrugs and walks away. In the hands of another actor this scene would've been overplayed to the point of melodrama, but McQueen said everything that needed to be said in a few simple gestures. That's what makes a star.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Forget completely that the title character's name is incidently derived from Harold Robbins' trashy "The Carpetbaggers". This film is more of a piece with John Ford's "The Searchers" or the psychological westerns of Anthony Harvey. The film poses the question as to the cost vengeance does to a man's soul. Steve McQueen, whose character ages from green teenager to hardened criminal, subtlely suggests the toll of blood vengeance to one's person. McQueen may have been a tad too old for the role but his expertise as an actor makes you suspend disbelief. The film has a vast and impressive supporting cast. I was most taken by the two women in the film, the late Janet Margolin ("David and Lisa") as an Indian dancehall girl and Suzanne Pleshette as a paddy girl who facilitates McQueen's escape from a Louisiana work farm. Look and listen quick for Strother Martin who plays "Strother". Also noteworthy is that the film was lensed by longtime Sam Peckinpah collaborator Lucien Ballard.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This movie is a great study on revenge. Steve McQueen plays Max Sand who chases the killers of his father and mother. Along the way he meets Brian Keith, in what is possibly one of his best roles, as the gun dealer Jonas Cord. Jonas takes Max under his wing and plays mentor to help him find the killers. This is after trying to get Max to realize the challenges that he must face in order to find, survive and shoot the killers. The dialogue and friendship between Jonas and Max is the best part of the movie.
I enjoyed the ending very much but wished they would have gone a little bit further in showing what becomes of Max. This is another movie that not many know about but should.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
This was one of the very first westerns I ever saw as a kid, so it has a certain amount of nostalgia for me.
The story is excellent & McQueen portrays his morally ambiguous character, out for revenge against the men who murdered his parents, with sensitivity. We see that he slowly becomes like the killers he's after, living only for vengeance, walking away from one potential love interest & losing the respect of another while she dies from a snake-bite. (This one was played by Suzanne Pleshette.) We sympathize with him, but he's no hero. He participates in robberies & associates with killers in his quest, so in that sense, as another reviewer stated, this is the beginning of the "modern western."
Other reviewers, however, have also missed out on another intersting aspect of this film. It's a pre-quel. Most viewers don't realize this. "The Carpetbaggers", written as a novel by Harrold Robbins & released almost two years before "Nevada Smith" was a huge hit back in the '60's. That film starred George Peppard as a millionaire tycoon & Alan Ladd as his close friend & mentor. Peppard's character, "Jonas Cord Jr.", is really a fictionalized Howard Hughes. His father (and namesake) had gone insane & Cord The 2nd lives in fear of turning out like his father. So much so, that he becomes so ambitious in his quest for wealth, becoming both an aviation industrialist & a film-producer (just like his real-life counterpart, Howard Hughes), that he turns away from any & all real, meaningful relationships. His best friend, Alan Ladd's character, saves "Cord" from himself, by making him face what he's become. This character, portrayed by Alan Ladd, is a cowboy/western film-star during the early days of Hollywood & is a top billing star in "Cord's" (Peppard's) movie-studio. He knows how a single-minded obsession can destroy ones' humanity because he himself had gone through it as a young man, growing up in the Wild West.....
You guessed it. Alan Ladd's character is "Nevada Smith", the very same character portrayed by Steve McQueen in the movie of the same name. If you watch "The Carpetbaggers" & "Nevada Smith", then you can really enjoy the characters more, seeing their backgrounds & how they came to be. In "Nevada Smith" it is Jonas Cord (Sr.) (portrayed by Brian Keith) who teaches McQueen's character how to fight. This relationship gives us the reason why the Alan Ladd character ("Nevada Smith" as an old man) is so devoted to Peppard's Jonas Cord Jr. It also shows how relationships & behaviors repeat themselves.
Both movies are classics. Both movies are also somewhat dated ("The Carpetbaggers" could be re-done today & improved upon, as a mini-series on tv while "Nevada Smith", though excellent, does contain some historical innaccuracies which today's westerns would never allow), but the writing, the characters, the direction, & the acting in both films are still good enough to hold up to today's audiences.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
This is a great movie, and I just want to know why it has not been released yet on DVD????? Widescreen, remastered, the whole works!!! Real widescreen, none of this 1:85 stuff.....at least 2:35 and the full version. Please let the movie producers know about these movies that should be getting released on DVD. There are so many really dumb movies that have been released. This is a CLASSIC!!! Please pass on my message!