The highlight of this excellent low-budget western filmed at Newhall, California, is a rather spectacular fight scene involving no less than 40 riders, quite an undertaking for low-budget producer (and former stunt-man) Paul Malvern. Yakima Canutt, who also plays John Wayne's Indian sidekick, performs an equally amazing leap into the lagoon at Newhall and doubles Wayne in a great fight with fellow-stunt-man Ed Parker. Much have been written in recent years about The Star Packer's horror elements -- too much, some would say -- but they are not exactly frightening. Not even to leading Verna Hillie who, when confronted with a hideously grimacing Artie Ortego outside her bedroom window, merely fires off a few shots, one of which humorously hits a fleeing henchman in his nether regions. There is also a secret passageway, a hollow tree stump (appearing out of nowhere, incidentally) from inside of which Billy Franey shoots and kills newly elected Sheriff Tom Lingham, and a mystery villain whose identity is not too difficult to spot for anyone who has seen Wayne's previous Randy Rides Alone (1934). In the end, it is not the rather hoary mystery elements but the amazing stunts that make this little western truly stand out. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi McLintock! is one of the most popular of John Wayne's movies, but it is also one of the most hated among critics and certain segments of the filmgoing audience. It pushes wildly divergent sets of buttons in different viewers, a reflection of the fact that it's a deceptively complex film. McLintock! is, on its face, a Western comedy, but it also falls in among that handful of more overtly "political" films that Wayne made, such as The Green Berets and Big Jim McLain, and additionally, resounds with echoes of his screen work with director John Ford (indeed, Ford even showed up to direct for a couple of days when the official director, Andrew V. McLaglen, fell ill). The film is a difficult one for fans of the actor to watch without feeling deep pangs of nostalgia at every turn. The first hour of McLintock! is structured very similarly to the openings of the three movies in the so-called "cavalry trilogy" -- She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, and Rio Grande -- that Wayne made with John Ford, with a leisurely (but carefully delineated) look at the characters and their inter-relationships. Its plot has echoes of both Ford's The Quiet Man and Rio Grande, dealing with courtship between two tempestuous personalities and the estrangement of a husband and wife, with an offspring between them.
Mostly, however, McLintock is about age and impending mortality and what these things do to even the strongest of men. Wayne had previously essayed two roles of this type -- in Red River as a man driven to violence by his inability, with time and age, to control the events around him, and in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, as a cavalry officer in the twilight of his career. McLintock! is a lighter film with a somewhat similar role at its center for the actor. The whole movie is filled with reminders that the circle of longtime friends surrounding Wayne was narrowing, as surely as the one surrounding G.W. McLintock.
In 1963, however, reviewers who disagreed with Wayne's politics couldn't get past the movie's digs at big government or the character of the fatuous territorial governor Cuthbert H. Humphrey, a nasty swipe at Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, who was then a living symbol of liberal government. As a result, many critics can't abide the movie's paternalistic attitude toward women or its generally conservative vision of right and wrong. Even in its overt politicking, however, McLintock! is more even-handed than it is often given credit for being -- the first act of violence depicted in the movie shows G.W. McLintock breaking up the lynching of a Native American; and McLintock, in deciding what will happen to his property after his death, arranges to leave his ranch to the government, to turn into a national park so that no one will cut down the trees and spoil the land. As surprising as it is in all of these ways, McLintock! isn't a perfect movie, to be sure -- at least one musical number could have been dropped, and the script is a little sloppy here and there -- but it's essential viewing in understanding the final evolution of Wayne's screen persona. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi