In the old west, Jimmy Pearls (Ricky Schroder), a seemingly dissolute young man, kills the three men who he hold responsible for the murder of his parents. Unfortunately for Jimmy, one of those men was the son of powerful rancher Henry Logan (John P. Ryan) and Logan is now determined to track down Jimmy and get some revenge of his own.
Jimmy only his one ally in his attempt to make it to safety and that’s Winston Culler (Wilford Brimley). In his younger days, Culler was a legend. He tamed the frontier and he lived with the Indians and everyone knew better than to get in his way. Now, Winston is older and no one give him the respect that he deserves. Winston allows Jimmy to stay with him but Winston has more than just Jimmy’s safety in mind. Winston has his own reasons for wanting to get revenge on Logan and, despite their constant bickering, he and Jimmy are soon working as a team.
Adrienne Barbeau has a cameo as a madam and, while she’s always a welcome sight in any film, I imagine her casting has to do with the fact that this film was actually written by John Carpenter. Yes, that John Carpenter! Carpenter actually wrote the script for what would become Blood River in 1971. When he wrote it, he pictured John Wayne as Winston and either Elvis Presley or Ron Howard as Jimmy. (The Duke and Elvis in the same film? That would have been something, regardless of how the film itself turned out.) Carpenter sent copies of the script to both John Wayne and director Howard Hawks but neither one responded. It would be 19 years before the script was finally filmed.
Blood River is an amiable western. It was ultimately produced for television and it first aired on CBS. Despite the fact that the film was originally written to be a theatrical film, it plays more like a pilot than a film. You could imagine a weekly series featuring Winston and Jimmy riding from town to town and getting into adventures. The plot is nothing special but Ricky Schroder and Wilford Brimley make for a good team. Brimley is especially ornery, even for him. Blood River may be a simple film but it will be appreciated by those looking for a likable and old-fashioned western.