One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
Panned upon release as the self-indulgent product of a star's ego, Marlon Brando's sole directorial effort comes off today as an underrated (if overlong) revisionist Western with compelling psychological overtones. Brando plays Rio, a bank robber whose partner/surrogate father, Dad (Karl Malden), abandoned him during a battle with Mexican police years before and has since gone straight, getting elected sheriff of a California town. Rio arrives feigning forgiveness but gunning for revenge, but when he begins romancing Dad's stepdaughter, Luisa (Pina Pellicer), the emotional tables and power relationships start to turn. Stepping in after Stanley Kubrick (!) was fired, Brando proved himself an able director, effectively using the sprawling SoCal landscape and deftly ratcheting the tension between Rio and Dad. Unfortunately, the director is let down by his star--stoic and moon-faced, Brando is uncompelling and unconvincing as a conflicted Western anti-hero. (Malden, however, is excellent as the two-faced Dad, and the inimitable Timothy Carey turns up to add to his gallery of oddball cameos.) Brando spent the rest of the '60s acting indifferently in increasingly irrelevant flops; one wonders what might have been had he spent less time in front of the camera and more behind it.