James Stewart as Sam in The Rare Breed (1966)

A Generic and Eccentric Breed

If it wasn't for the fact that John Wayne's "True Grit" came 3 years after I would say that "The Rare Breed" is a movie which tries to imitate many of its characteristics. It has James Stewart playing this tough talking legendary cowboy who whilst escorting a bull and its owners, across country warms to them despite initial antagonism on both sides. The trouble is that the story to "The Rare Breed" ends up a little generic and also eccentric with James Stewart seeming to be going through the motions playing a character he's not quite sure how to tackle. It is entertaining but only in an average way with the pairing of James Stewart and Maureen O'Hara making it worth watching.

Following the death of her husband, widower Martha Price (Maureen O'Hara - McLintock!) and her daughter Hilary (Juliet Mills - Carry on Jack) decide to carry out his dream and try to introduce hornless Hereford cattle into the American West. With the help of Sam "Bulldog" Burnett (James Stewart - The Flight of the Phoenix) they take their prized Hereford Bull named Vindicator across danger ridden country to a breeder in Texas but no one including Sam believes that this rare Bull has what it takes to survive the changeable weather in the West.

Maureen O'Hara, Brian Keith and James Stewart in The Rare Breed (1966)

So as already mentioned the story to "The Rare Breed" feels rather generic with the antagonistic relationship between Sam and Martha as well as her daughter Hilary making up much of the first half. And as you would expect the tough talking Sam slowly warms to both Martha and Hilary causing a change in his character as he starts to favour them. It's not plain sailing, there are sub plots surrounding whether Sam will do the dirty on them and help someone else steal their prize Hereford Bull but they have no impetus as they float in and out in an almost cliche way. And as such this first half feels all very generic, a movie which is going through the motions of a well worked routine, rarely serving up anything different to what had been done in other movies.

It has to be said that whilst the first half of "The Rare Breed" is generic the second half is eccentric as the drama moves to the Bowen ranch and the completely over the top Alexander Bowen whose accent goes from deep Scottish through to Irish making it all quite comical. And that is probably the best way to describe the second half as whilst there is more drama surrounding the breeding of the prize Hereford bull as well as the predictable romantic undertones it's all so over the top. And as such it feels just daft, daft that this red haired beast of a man lives on his ranch looking like a highland relative of Captain Caveman yet falls for Martha the moment he sees her.

And this is part of the issue which affects "The Rare Breed" it tries to mix comedy with drama yet the mixing doesn't work. So what you end up with is a mild dramatic storyline which regularly breaks off to deliver a supposedly funny scene yet the comedy of it rarely delivers the laughs it sets out to. It again has that feeling of a movie going through the motions, delivering prescribed comical scenes because that's what so many other westerns did at the time.

To top all this feeling of going through the motions is the acting and whilst even on his bad day James Stewart is entertaining it has to be said that he had a few bad days whilst making "The Rare Breed". The problem really boils down to the character being wrong for James Stewart as it's basically a bad guy who ends up showing his good side, but because there are those comedy interjections the bad side never really gets delivered leaving Stewart to try and create a character which ends messed up. Saying that there are some nice touches to the character, some trademark James Stewart moments as he gets to deliver some emotion but otherwise it feels like he is also just going through the motions.

And as already mentioned the eccentric character of Alexander Bowen doesn't help matters, although Brian Keith seems to be having a hoot playing such a larger than life character. Which basically leaves Maureen O'Hara as Martha and Juliet Mills as her daughter Hilary who sadly also fall prey to the mess of one moment trying to deliver drama then the next comedy.

What this all boils down to is that whilst "The Rare Breed" is entertaining it is all rather generic and stereotypical. There is nothing new in the movie and the mess of comedy and drama makes it a movie which doesn't know what it wants to be. As such the storyline and acting coasts along as it goes through a series of cliche scenes before finally reaching an equally cliche climax which is exactly as you expect.