John Wayne had turned down the roll of Dirty Harry Callahan that ended up doing well for Clint Eastwood. Dirty Harry (1971) did so well that Wayne tried to step into the same kind of roll of Dirty Harry with McQ (1974). The movie was directed by John Sturges who also directed incredible film classics such as Gunfight at the OK Coral, The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. Unfortunately, McQ isn't one of Sturges at his best. McQ is a Dirty Harry wanna be, and it just doesn't measure up.
I'm a John Wayne fan and so I've watched McQ handful of times. Lots of actions, lots of tough guy stuff, but the movie lacks in story. There's no twist, no turns. There's no depth to McQ. When viewing the movie, you also get the idea that Sturges is also trying to capture the intensity of the movie Bullit (1968). In fact, it's been written that McQ was originally intended for Steve McQueen...figures. For whatever reason, it's a good thing that McQueen didn't take the roll, because of the movie's obvious flaws. Who knows, maybe the movie would've been better if McQueen had taken it on, because the script was rewritten for The Duke.
John Wayne is John Wayne and I never quite understood why he wanted to play Eastwood or McQueen. I guess at the time, tough cop movies where the money was. If you're going to compete with such incredible movies like Dirty Harry or Bullit, at least offer a good script. All the tough talk, fast cars, blazing guns and explosions in Hollywood can't compensate for a good script.
There are a few noteworthy elements of this movie. McQ is the first movie to feature the MAC-10. It was a really impressive gun to see for the first time. This was the movie that generated the demand for it.
Another interesting detail about McQ is that it's the first movie to rollover a car without a ramp. The tech guys came up with a way of welding a cannon (pointing down) behind the drivers seat of a car. The cannon (16" diameter) was loaded with 3' long telephone pole. The cannon when triggered did a incredible job of flipping cars. The technique was dubbed 'The McQ Cannon' and has been used in countless films since.