August 06, 1979 12:00 PM

Since the title characters bit the dust in a frieze of gunfire at the end of the 1969 smash, a sequel was out. So Hollywood hatched the “prequel.” Well, prequel isn’t exactly a word, and this isn’t exactly a movie. The screenplay is contrived and episodic, albeit amiable. Richard (The Three Musketeers) Lester directs with unusual—and unfortunate—restraint, allowing the film to fall curiously flat. Tom Berenger and William Katt, who presumably landed the leads because of their resemblances to Paul Newman and Robert Redford, lack the original pair’s chemistry, though Katt survives the comparison better. Lazlo Kovacs’ magnificent photography recalls vividly the West that was, but the rest of the film is sadly indicative of the uninspired West that is. (PG)

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