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Film / Once Upon a Texas Train

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Once Upon a Texas Train (AKA Texas Guns) is a made-for-TV Western film written and directed by Burt Kennedy, starring Willie Nelson, Richard Widmark and Shaun Cassidy. It originally aired January 3, 1988 on CBS.

The movie opens with the titular Texas Train being robbed. However, a group of Texas Rangers stop the robbery. Twenty years later the head of the outlaw gang, John Henry Lee (Nelson), is released on good behavior, but the minute he gets out he and his brother Charlie (Dub Taylor) rob a bank. Captain Oren Hayes (Widmark), the Texas Ranger who'd arrested John and later ensured his release, goes after him once more knowing that he'll try to pull off the robbery he bungled twenty years before. As John gathers his old gang together to help him, Hayes does the same. Meanwhile, a group of young outlaws led by Cotton (Cassidy) have plans of their own for the gold which the elderly outlaws have already stolen.

Kennedy utilized several aging western stars from years past as the group of aged Rangers as well as the outlaw gang. With former star of The Rifleman Chuck Connors as Nash Crawford, past Cimarron Strip marshal Stuart Whitman as Gentleman George Asque and former The Dakotas deputy Jack Elam as Jason Fitch making up the retired rangers. John Henry's aged gang consisted of former Gunsmoke deputy Ken Curtis as Kelly Sutton and western character actors Royal Dano as Nitro Jones, Gene Evans as Fargo Parker and Dub Taylor as John Henry's brother Charlie Lee. Angie Dickinson (star of westerns such as Rio Bravo) appeared as the woman once torn between John Henry and Oren Hayes, but who had married Oren after John Henry had been sent off to prison.

Once Upon a Texas Train contains examples of:

  • Demolitions Expert: "Nitro" Jones
  • Enemy Mine: The retired outlaws and the retired Rangers are forced to combine forces to take on Cotton's gang of younger, more ruthless outlaws.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: By the climax, it's two groups of older gunfighters vs. a gang of younger gunfighters.