Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

Junior Bonner (1972)

by  |  March 2nd, 2011  |  Western

Westerns are an interesting one.  Up till about a year ago I hadn’t ever actually seen one! Not because the movies in that genre are bad or anything, as a matter of fact, since I have been able to get in to the genre I have found that this genre is actually quite good! Now I got in to this genre through the Magnificent Seven (1960).

With that said, I recently watched again the movie Junior Bonner (1972).  I originally discovered this when my wife and I were going through a faze of being interested in watching older movies together, such as The Italian Job (1969), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).

Written by: Jeb Rosebrook (The Black Hole) and Directed by Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch) and starring: Steve McQueen (The Blob), Robert Preston (Outrage!) Ida Lupino (High Sierra), with Joe Don Baker (Fletch).

Junior Bonner… I mean the name says it all!  Junior Bonner (McQueen) is a mobile Cowboy.  He is a Rodeo Cowboy who goes from rodeo to rodeo across the country.  Junior was one of the better Rodeo Cowboys out there until an incident took him down a peg…

Steve McQueen as Junior Bonner

With his head down he heads back to his home town where he got his start.  When he gets there a lot of things have changed. His brother Curly (Baker) has bought out his father Ace’s land (Played by Robert Preston) and has it turned in to a gravel pit, and is turning his mother Elvira’s (Lupino) house in to a mobile home park.

Discovering all this Junior heads over to the Rodeo registry area and signs up for the Rodeo celebration their, and while there he is met by Buck Roan (Played by: Ben Johnson) who owns the bull that helped Junior to loose his confidence!

After signing up for the Rodeo he heads over to get a drink at the local bar and their is met by Buck again.  The 2 find a quiet corner in which to have a drink.  Where in Junior again tries to convince Buck about the merits of riding Sunshine (The wild bull that helped Junior loose his confidence.)

The Sign up area.

That evening, and with Junior still not having met with Ace, goes to his mother’s house where he, Curly, Curly’s family and his mother proceed to have a very tense dinner where Junior is mercilessly teased about being a Rodeo Cowboy by Curly and his wife Ruth (Played by Barbara Murphy) while Curly is getting rich as an entrepreneur in various areas.

After dinner Junior and Curly are out smoking a cigarette, when Junior confronts Curly about screwing the family out of their land.  And Curly in true form decides to offer Junior a job.  At one point Junior finally gets upset with Curly’s meanderings and decks him in the jaw, which throws Curly threw the front window of his mother’s house! At this point he storms in and grabs his stuff and his Dad’s dog and takes off!

Ace up to this point having been in the hospital due to a car accident gets up and leaves at the news that his son is in town and heads over to the main thoroughfare for were the Rodeo Cowboys park their trailers.  He find Junior’s trailer but doesn’t actually end up finding his son their and gets an offer from 2 lovely young ladies to ride in the parade (which is only befitting as he is the oldest living member of the rodeo which is the most popular sport in that town.) So he steals Junior’s Horse and ride’s off with the 2 women toward the parade.

During this time Junior is also hot on the trail of his father, his first stop is to the hospital room that his father had been in the previous day and to which Junior had tried to visit him the day before.  He only discovers Ace’s nurse making the bed and in a bad mood tells Junior that “Ace Bonner had slept here.”

Ace Bonner (Robert Preston) and Junior Bonner (Steve McQueen)

He ends up going back to the Rodeo Cowboy’s staging area and discovers that his father had stolen his horse, and decides to take off for the parade.  When he gets there he finds Curly with bandages all over his face from the night before riding a tractor that is dragging his float for his business ‘Riata Rancheros.’ Niether he nor Ruth are happy to see him.  Curly tells Junior where Ace is.

When Junior catches up with Ace, Ace is sitting atop of Junior’s Horse just having a great time waving at the cheering crowd.  When he sees Junior, Junior hops up on the back of the saddle and take off for a hilarious ride through the back yards of some of the various residents of the town which ultimately throws Junior off the  horse a few times!

They finally arrive at the Train station where they have their father and son bonding moment, and where Ace tells Junior about his plans to move to Australia to become a prospector, and where  Junior finally lets him know that he is ‘spent’, that he is ‘used up’.  At this point obviously Ace is obviously not happy at the news and walks off for a moment.

Ace and Junior enjoying a good drink.

When Ace comes back he finds out that he and Junior are going to be partnered up together for a couple of the events and head off to work!

Will Junior be able to ride the bull and restore his confidence?  Will he and his family be able to patch things up? That is for me to know and you to find out, but trust me it is worth the time to find out!

What do I think makes this a truly Awesome B Movie? Well a couple of things:

1. First off so far I have seen a fair number of Steve McQueen movies at this point, and I gotta say that each and every one of them are one for one, freakin dare I say it… AWESOME! Junior Bonner is definitely in that category.

2. Obviously the image that Sam Peckinpah had for this story was just utterly brilliant!

3. Speaking of the Story… I gotta say that I enjoy those stories of a person who was once great and tucks tale and heads home to find his greatness again.  I mean i find those stories to be a very powerful message!

4. Lastly I gotta say that  being able to see what life was like in Prescott AZ in 1972 to be utterly magnificent, and almost a window in to the 1970s! and early 80s!

The last thing that I thought that I would say about this film that I thought you guys might find interesting is that the dog in this movie is the grandson of the dog who played Old Yeller in the 1957 movie of the same name!

If your lookin for a fun ole time, then I highly recommend checkin this out if you get the chance… I think y’all might like it!

Enjoy the first few minutes of the movie:

Nathan Strack


Nathan Strack is a Writer/Director/Filmmaker & Owner/Founder of: Hell In Space, Strack Web Design Service & Strack Store.

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