"Will Penny" made in 1967 and directed by Tom Gries portrays the cowboy life warts and all. The film is based on an episode called "The Line Camp" from the cult TV series "The Westerner" which ran from 1959-1960, and was created and directed by the legendary Sam Peckinpah. Being a cowpoke is a tough unromantic way to make a living, and for once we get the truth in this film. It is very similar to "Monte Walsh"(70), a film that portrayed two obsolescent cowboys. That too showed the rigourous life of the American cowboy.
Charlton Heston makes a good fist of playing the aging Will whose bones are beginning to creak with the strain of the life. But he knows no other and it is hard for him to change. The dynamics of his ordered life are changed when he meets Joan Hackett in a line shack. She and her son have been deserted by their guide and due to bad weather they have settled in the shack. The winter weather sets in. Will then encounters the ever so slightly mad Preacher Quint and his similarly inclined lunatic sons. Donald Pleasance plays Quint with much relish. Just for fun they stab and torture Will. He manages to get back to the shack where Joan nurses him back to health and love begins to blossom. Unfortunately Quint and his sons turn up to put a large spanner in loves course. Joan has a rather difficult decision to make. Which of the sons should she marry. A sort of Hobsons choice, as neither would be considered a prize catch. Will love win out?
"Will Penny" is a beautiful looking film. Lucien Ballard that legendary cinematographer was largely responsible. He was vastly experienced and had worked with the likes of Stanley Kubrick. Heston gives an excellent suitably subdued performance as the ill educated cowpoke irrevocably stuck in his ways. It is a different, grittier slant on the Western and is refreshing for all that. No it cannot be considered a classic but it is a very good film and makes rewarding viewing.