When John Stewart gives refuge to Wick Campbell's girl friend, Campbell turns against him. He rustles Stewart's cattle, murders his brother, and brings in hired guns. Then he and his men pin Stewart and a few others down in a house apparently killing them. But Stewart has escaped and returns alone to rid the town of Campbell and his men.Written by
Maurice VanAuken <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Exceptionally fine cast from top to bottom, from Boone and Gordon at the top to Pyle and Louis-Jean Heydt in support, and of course in the starring role, the great Randolph Scott. Then too, the color photography is unusually pleasing and picturesque. And the fact that Harry Joe Brown produced suggests that this is a 1955 warm-up for the classic Boetticher-Ranown Western cycle that was soon to follow.
So, with these kinds of ingredients, why isn't the movie better than I think it is. For one thing, the direction appears pretty slack. The scenes simply follow one another without building into the kind of intensities expected from the rivalries involved. It's like Humberstone shot each scene without considering its dramatic significance to the narrative as a whole. So, for example, when gunsel Gordon takes over the town from Boone, there's no real sense of displacement, no real dramatic impact. Similarly, the dynamite sticks that act like grenades simply appear and also produce little dramatic impact. Yet both episodes are clever plot wrinkles, and with the right development could have helped lift the movie beyond the merely routine.
Also, too many times-- especially in standing conversation-- the actors speak their lines with perfect enunciation, as if they're performing from center stage. I expect that's also Humberstone's doing, but it comes across as stagey and inappropriate for a Western. And, of course, there's poor Donna Martell who looks great but is rather painfully no actress.
Still and all, it's an interesting, if somewhat convoluted, story and a treat for the eyes. And seeing all those familiar faces from other films almost looks like a reunion of sorts. I expect some good-hearted soul in production decided on a payday for a number of veteran performers. Also, it's a good chance to catch Skip Homeier in a rare sympathetic role, and Dennis Weaver shortly before his slow-talking, slow thinking deputy on the classic series Gunsmoke. Anyway, disappointing or not, no Western starring the granite-jawed Scott can afford to be overlooked.
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