The War Wagon is a 1967 American Western film directed by Burt Kennedy and starring John Wayne and Kirk Douglas. The picture has the form of a light-hearted heist movie. Released by Universal Pictures, it was produced by Marvin Schwartz and adapted by Clair Huffaker from his own novel. The supporting cast includes Howard Keel, Robert Walker Jr., Keenan Wynn, Joanna Barnes and Bruce Dern. The picture received generally positive reviews.
Filming took place in Sierra de Órganos National Park in the town of Sombrerete, Mexico.
Rancher Taw Jackson returns to his hometown to settle a score, after being released early from prison for good behavior. Three years earlier, he was framed by corrupt businessman Frank Pierce and wrongfully imprisoned, while Pierce appropriated his ranch and lands, as well as the recently discovered gold on the property.
Jackson decides to steal Pierce’s largest gold shipment, worth $500,000 (approximately $12M-$13M today). Jackson learns the date of the shipment from Wes Fletcher, an elderly wagon driver employed by Pierce.
He then hires a marksman and safecracker known only as “Lomax” to assist him, even though Lomax had helped Pierce send Jackson to prison. The safe of gold dust is being transported in a “war wagon”, a heavily armored stagecoach surrounded by armed guards on horseback.
Lomax and Jackson rescue Levi Walking Bear, a Kiowa translator, from a gang of Mexican banditos. Lomax is then sent to pick up Billy Hyatt, supposedly an expert on explosives, and is dismayed to find he is a teenage drunkard. Jackson, Fletcher, Hyatt, Lomax and Levi meet up to discuss their next move, and Fletcher instantly objects to Hyatt’s presence around his teenage “wife” Kate.
Lomax rides into town and is confronted by Pierce, who offers him $12,000 for Jackson’s head. Lomax spends the night with Lola, an old acquaintance, at one point having to stop Hyatt, who has become drunk again, from spilling the beans about the robbery. Jackson and Levi return from negotiations with the Kiowas, during which the warriors agreed to help, since Pierce is starving the tribe out. Jackson sends Hyatt to wait at Fletcher’s farm. Kate, in Fletcher’s absence, reveals to Hyatt that she is not married and was actually sold by her abusive parents. Hyatt starts trying to defend Kate from Fletcher’s harsh behaviors, and Jackson has to stop Fletcher from killing Hyatt.
Levi, Jackson, and Lomax cause a disturbance in town to confuse Pierce’s men. The conspirators later sneak onto Jackson’s old ranch to steal some nitroglycerin from a safe in the mining shack. Jackson keeps Pierce distracted by pretending to collect some of his old things, while Lomax and Hyatt put the nitro in bottles.
The next day, Hyatt rigs a bridge to explode with the bottles of nitro, Levi blocks the normal route with a felled tree, and Lomax and Jackson set up a booby trap in a narrow gorge. Pierce reveals he has added a turret with a Gatling Gun to the war wagon, and he and his guards set out with the shipment. The Kiowa warriors create a dust screen and separate the guard riders from the War Wagon. The bridge explodes behind the wagon as it crosses, stranding the guards on the other side of the cliffs. Chief Wild Horse and some more Kiowa warriors attack the wagon and try to take all the gold for themselves, but many are killed by the Gatling Gun.
When the wagon is diverted into the gorge by the fallen tree, Jackson and Lomax spring their trap, killing the drivers. Pierce shoots the last two of his men when they try to desert him and the wagon, but one of them shoots back as he dies, killing Pierce. The wagon crashes into a gulch, and the conspirators quickly load the gold dust into some flour barrels on Fletcher’s cart. However, the Kiowa warriors kill Fletcher and attempt to take all the gold (and the flour) for themselves. Hyatt uses the last bottle of nitro to kill the chief and scare the warriors off, but the cart horses spook and run off. The flour barrels are lost and broken, with the Kiowa women, unaware of all that transpired, gathering up the flour to feed their families.
Jackson finds $100,000 worth of gold dust in a hidden compartment in the cart, where Fletcher had tried to steal it. Lomax angrily takes Jackson’s horse as payment, and Jackson gives a small amount of dust to Hyatt, who rides off with Kate while Levi returns to the Kiowas. They plan to meet in six months to divide the rest, when the robbery will be old news.
- John Wayne as Taw Jackson
- Kirk Douglas as Lomax
- Howard Keel as Levi Walking Bear
- Robert Walker Jr. as Billy Hyatt
- Keenan Wynn as Wes Fletcher
- Bruce Cabot as Frank Pierce
- Joanna Barnes as Lola
- Valora Noland as Kate Fletcher
- Bruce Dern as Hammond
- Gene Evans as Deputy Hoag
- Terry Wilson as Sheriff Strike
- Don Collier as Shack
- Sheb Wooley as Snyder
- Ann McCrea as Felicia
- Emilio Fernández as Calita
- Frank McGrath as Bartender
- Chuck Roberson as Brown
- Red Morgan as Early
- Hal Needham as Hite
- Marco Antonio as Chief Wild Horse
- Perla Walters as Rosita
Sources Wikipedia / youtube