Monday, June 15, 2009

Reeling Backward: "Catlow"

Alright, here's something I didn't know existed (and probably would have been perfectly content never knowing): A Leonard Nimoy nude scene.

Yes, really.

It's from this 1971 Western starring Yul Brynner called "Catlow." I believe it's just been released on DVD for the first time. It's a moderately entertaining star vehicle for Brynner as a rapscallion cowboy bandit. There's so much humor and hijinks, in fact, that you'd almost have to call it a Western comedy.

Nimoy, fresh off the cancellation of "Star Trek," plays the heavy, a bounty hunter by the name of Bill Miller. Nimoy actually makes for a convincing villain, with his aquiline features and a full beard. He's sorta got that whole "evil Spock" thing going on.

Anyway, at one point Catlow corners Miller while he's in the bathtub, and there ensues a rather lengthy fight scene with Nimoy in the buff. I guess it's supposed to be an intense scene, but for obvious reasons I found it pretty hilarious.

And before you ask: No, you don't get see little Spock. Shame on you.

"Catlow" is based on the Louis L'Amour novel, and was directed by Sam Wanamaker with a screenplay by Scott Finch. They're both TV guys, and it shows. The level of humor is pitched right at television level, as are the production values in general. Although there are a few bloody spurt scenes, using that incredibly orange fake blood they used during that period.

The main interaction is between Catlow and Ben Cowan (played by Richard Crenna), a lawman with a warrant for Catlow's arrest. The two men are old friends -- and possibly once partners in crime -- who enjoy a bantering game of one-upmanship. Cowan repeatedly arrests Catlow, only to have Catlow escape with the aid of his gang or some clever sleight of hand.

Catlow's got a bead on $2 million in hidden gold, and Cowan is trying to recover it for the American government, with the Mexican army trying to stake its claim, too. Oh, and Catlow has a Mexican girlfriend whose loyalties are constantly in question. Nimoy is the X factor, hired by a Catlow enemy to take him out before the lawful authorities can nab him.

All in all, it's not a bad flick, although as I say the level of sophistication is pretty low. I enjoyed it in part just because I love hearing Yul Brynner talk; somehow I find it enjoyable and hoot-worthy simultaneously. Brynner was apparently mostly Russian, although he sometimes claimed Japanese ancestry in an attempt to seem more exotic.

2.5 stars

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