Shadow [1994]

When the Western slipped into theatrical oblivion in the late 1970s, many of the best examples of the genre began appearing as made-for-television films. After the success of The Sacketts, from the Louis L'Amour novel, producers quickly reunited stars Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott in another fine adaptation of a L'Amour book, The Shadow Riders. As brothers Mac and Dal Traven, sporting blue and gray uniforms, respectively, they wind their way home at the close of the Civil War to discover a band of confederate rebels have ravaged their town and kidnapped their sisters and brother and Dal's feisty sweetheart (Katharine Ross). With the help of their outlaw uncle (Western stalwart Ben Johnson), whom they must break out of prison, they track the guerrillas to the Gulf Coast and down into Mexico for a final, fatal showdown. Veteran director Andrew McLaglen sets this TV movie on a loping pace and a jovial tone, defined largely by Selleck's easygoing performance and the jocular comic relief of rascally Johnson. Elliott provides the intensity, at times positively ferocious under his heavy brows and burning, sunken eyes. The mood is occasionally too comic, but McLaglen delivers the goods in a series of gritty action sequences, proving that old Western directors don't die, they just drift on over to the small screen. Western icons R.G. Armstrong and Harry Carey Jr. and 1950s leading lady Jane Greer also appear in key roles. --Sean Axmaker

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