Sunday, Sep 2020
Director: Tom Gries
Screenwriters: Tom Gries
Length: 108 mins.
Released: 1968

will penny posterCharlton Heston thought this his best film, but moviegoers were much more taken with his apocalyptic, gut-wrenching portrayal in "Planet of the Apes", which came out at the same time. "Will Penny" is considerably more deliberate and nuanced than the monkey movie, and audiences preference for science-fiction over a solid western certainly must have predicted the decline of the cowbot movie to many producers at the time.And that is a strong aspect of "Will Penny" as a western: it is a real Cowboy movie. This film does a good job of showing the struggles and hardships of the cowhand's life, realistically depicting the difficulties of finding work and combatting loneliness. As such, the movie can be slow, with one scene showing Heston darning his own socks, though fortunately we are spared watching him repair all the holes. It is a rare Winter Western, with most of it shot during the cold weather months in the Rocky Mountains.

The cast is strong, featuring the reputable Western sidemen Bruce Dern, Ben Johnson and Slim Pickens. Donald Pleasance may occasionally go a bit over the top with his drooling, squeaking bad guy, and it is clear he is looking to challenge Strother Martin for such future roles. Joan Hackett is perfectly good as the lovely mother heading west who almost permanently sidetracks Heston from his cowboy life. Also you won't miss the high-pitched man who played Patty Duke's father on TV as the weary, sarcastic Old West doctor, who for once doesn't drink.

This is a slightly slow, though very respectable Western. Watch for the rare, Western Christmas caroling scene. However, there is some good action, particularly in episodes in which the young Lee Majors handles himself well. Will Penny, Heston's character, is a good, simple, honest uncompromising Cowboy facing several seductions trying to pull him off the range. ". . . no self-respecting cowhand should be caught dead milking a cow," he protests. And, "I'm a cowhand, I've been a cowhand all my life. . ." The viewer who appreciates Westerns will enjoy watching him battle temptation. For its updated look at the cowboy's life and other novel attributes, we consider "Will Penny" a MUST SEE.

Cast:

  • Charlton Heston....Will Penny
  • Joan Hackett....Catherine Allen
  • Donald Pleasence....Preacher Quint
  • Lee Majors.... Blue
  • Bruce Dern.... Rafe Quint
  • Ben Johnson ....Alex
  • Slim Pickens....Ike Walterstein
  • Clifton James.... Catron
  • Anthony Zerbe.... Dutchy
  • Roy Jenson.... Boetius Sullivan
  • G.D. Spradlin.... Anse Howard
  • Quentin Dean.... Jennie
  • William Schallert.... Doctor Fraker
  • Robert Luster.... Shem Bodine
  • Dal Jenkins.... Sambo
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