Fifteen Bullets from Fort Dobbs.
Fort Dobbs is directed by Gordon Douglas and written by George W. George and Burt Kennedy. It stars Clint Walker, Virginia Mayo, Brian Keith, Richard Eyer, Russ Conway and Michael Dante. Music is by Max Steiner and cinematography by William H. Clothier.
After his appealing run in the TV series Cheyenne, it was inevitable that Clint Walker would make the transition to big screen fare. Here for his first feature length outing, we get the marker for his career that would follow. Never blessed with great acting talent, Walker was however a mighty presence, and handsome to boot, and he is the prime reason why Fort Dobbs is a better than average experience.
Plot basically has Walker as Gar Davis, a fugitive of justice who hooks up for a travelogue with Celia Grey (Mayo) and her son Chad (Eyer). Along the way there is Comanche peril, shifty companionship in the form of Clett (Keith) and a cunning twist that strains the relationship between Gar and the Greys. The wonderful Henry Repeater Rifle comes into play, very much so, and it provides some kinetic excitement, and it all builds to a rousing finale of explosions and stunts, while of course redemption and the truths will out. Clothier and Steiner further cement their reputations as skilled craftsmen, with the former beautifully realising the Kanab locations in black and white, and Douglas knows his way around a good honest Oater. 7/10
A fine addition to the liberal Western collection.
White Feather is out of Panoramic Productions, it's directed by Robert D. Webb and stars Robert Wagner, Debra Paget, John Lund, Eduard Franz & Jeffrey Hunter. It's adapted from a John Prebble story by Delmer Daves & Leo Townsend. It was filmed in Durango, Mexico, with Lucien Ballard on cinematography duties (CinemaScope/Technicolor) and Hugo Friedhofer provides the score. Plot centres around the peace mission from the US cavalry to the Cheyenne Indians in Wyoming during the 1870s, but problems arose because a few of the Cheyenne refused to leave their hunting grounds.
One of the few 1950s Westerns to show sympathy towards the Indian plight, White Feather is a well intentioned and well executed movie. It suffers a little from familiarity with Broken Arrow (1950), where Delmer Daves had directed James Stewart and Debra Paget thru a similar script to the one that's now in front of Wagner and Paget; and lets face it-Wagner is no Jimmy Stewart- and Robert Webb is no Delmer Daves-but there's more than enough good here to lift it above many other liberal Westerns.
Away from the endearing and emotive story (and it is as the Cheyenne are forced out of Wyoming by the Federals), the film also boasts high points for the Western fan to gorge upon. It's gorgeously shot in CinemaScope by Ballard, a first class lens-man in the genre, and Friedhofer's score is pulsating, evocative and in tune with the tone of the tale. Also of note is that these Native Americans aren't caricatures or pantomime Indians. They may be being played by white actors (Hunter & Franz do especially good work), but they feel real and come out as the human beings they were. In fact the whole movie looks convincing.
There's some missteps along the way; such as Wagner over acting and having a voice that's sounds out of place in the Wild West, while the romantic angle (Paget is so beautiful here who could not fall in love with her?) does at times threaten to clog up the narrative. But these things don't hurt the film. On the flip side there's the smooth pacing of the piece, it's only when the tense and exciting climax has arrived that you realise how well the slow burn first half was handled. And Webb may well be a second unit director in all but name here, but his construction of the scenes with hundreds of extras is top notch work.
A fine and under seen Western that is based on actual events and doesn't over egg its pudding. 7/10
I'm thinking it's the cinematography that won me over
There can't be any such thing as civilisation unless people have a conscience.
The Ox-Bow Incident is directed by William A. Wellman and adapted to screenplay by Lomar Trotti from the novel of the same name written by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. It stars Henry Fonda, Henry Morgan, Dana Andrews, Mary Beth Hughes, Anthony Quinn, William Eythe and Jane Darwell. Music is scored by Cyril J. Mockridge and cinematography by Arthur C. Miller.
Gil Carter & Art Croft ride into the town of Bridger's Wells, they hit the local saloon to imbibe after a log hard cattle drive. Whilst there a man runs in and announces that a popular man from the town has been shot by rustlers. The sheriff is out of town and a lynch mob quickly forms to bring what they see as swift justice to the culprits, Gil & Art join the posse so as to make sure they themselves don't get blamed for the shooting. The posse finds three weary workers and convince the majority that these guys are guilty and that instant hanging is the only way to do things. There are, however, one or two dissenting voices......
What a fabulous movie this is, a powerful indictment of how the lynch mob mentality can grip and lead to pain for many. William Wellman directs superbly, with a big ensemble in such a small area (Ox-Bow), he manages to get the right blend of emotive reactions from the leading players. Henry Fonda as Gill Carter is perfectly sedate and compassionate, even though he is far from being a flawless character, Dana Andrews as Donald Martin is heart achingly real, while others like Frank Conroy as Major Tetley are suitably full of ignorant bluster. It's quite an experience to see Wellman pull them all together with so much style. The photography from Miller is excellent, shadowy low tone black and white that is in keeping with the downbeat nature of the film, it infuses the picture with a gritty hard bitten noirish look. While Mockridge scores it suitably as sombre.
Ultimately it's the story that triumphs the most, claustrophobic in nature, it is simple yet tragic as it spins out to tell us how a group of seemingly sane individuals turned out to be a mass of incoherent reasoning. When a letter is read out during the finale, it is devastating in its effect, we see men broken, heads bowed in shame, others heavy in heart, their lives never to be the same. The emotional whack is hard hitting, and rightly so. For this is unashamedly a message movie, and a worthy one at that, so much so its reputation has grown over the years, where both the film and novel have made it into some educational curriculum's. It's very much a landmark Western, by choosing to forgo action for dark characterisations, it opened up the Western genre to being more than just shoot-outs and trail blazing. Had it been made seven or eight years later I think it would have garnered higher critical praise.
In spite of being one of Fonda's favourite movies that he made, the film didn't make money. The public were not quite ready for such sombre beats (Orson Welles, tellingly I feel, loved it), the critics of the time were irked by Wellman's decision to film the key trial and lynching sequences on the stage. Yet the closeness this gives the narrative serves it well, thrusting the many characters close together so they, and us, can see the whites of everyone's eyes, this is about focusing on the faces of those about to commit a capital crime. The close confines also gives off a pervasive sense of doom, where pessimism seeps through, there is no short changing here, the makers are dealing in bleakness and the right choices are made to produce one of the finest and most upsetting exponents of mob mentality played out on film. 9/10
I would recommend this one but only for people who don't mind gore, brutality, etc.
Walton Goggins. You not seen The Hateful Eight yet? You will find him on top scene stealing form in that one as well
He loves me like a brother.
Ride, Vaquero! is directed by John Farrow and written by Frank Fenton. It stars Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Howard Keel, Anthony Quinn, Kurt Kasznar and Ted de Corsa. Music is by Bronislau Kaper and cinematography by Robert Surtees.
Out of MGM and filmed in Ansco Color at Kanab in Utah (though story is set in Texas), Ride, Vaquero! is collectively unusual, bold and frustrating. Plot revolves around outlaws lead by bandido Esqueda (Quinn) refusing to let settlers and civilisation come to the Brownsville territory. So far so formulaic, then, but Esqueda's right hand man is Rio (Taylor), who was raised by Esqueda's mother and therefore they be adopted brothers. When King Cameron (Keel) and his wife Cordelia (Gardner) refuse to be shunted out of Brownsville, with King trying to rally the townsfolk against Esqueda, Rio starts to feel sympathy for the Cameron's.
What unfolds is a sort of Freudian Greek Tragedy, a love quadrilateral as Esqueda and Rio love each other in that manly brotherly way, Cordelia begins to love Rio, love which he is keen to reciprocate, while King will always love Cordelia no mater what. Action is competently put together by Farrow as it all builds to a big finale, which doesn't disappoint on narrative terms, and the airy location photography (this is one of the better Ansco Color productions I have seen) is delightful. While naturally there will be sacrifices and psychologically tinged twists along the way to keep the faithful interested.
Quinn is wonderfully ebullient, enjoying himself with a licence to chow down on the script with relish. Taylor is subdued, sleep walking through the film under direction to be a man of quiet menace and emotional confliction. Keel looks like he is desperate to sing a song, or just be some place else, while Gardner is required to just look pretty and pretty wistful from time to time. Kasznar as Father Antonio comes out in credit, but when the screenplay has him refusing stolen money to help the church - only to then have him 15 minutes later shooting away with rifle to kill his fellow man - the inconsistency in the production is further compounded.
Keel hated the boredom of the shoot, stuck out in the wilderness with nothing to do for months he said, and Gardner hated Farrow, citing him as a sleazy bully to women and horses! These complaints do show, the film feels like it's treading water, where if you take out Quinn you are left with what comes across as a bunch of actors working for food. Characterisations are not well drawn enough to make the promise of the mind matters work, and supporting players like Jack Elam wander in and out of the picture without due care and attention.
There's good intentions in the screenplay, where for 1953 this could have been ahead of its time and setting the bar for Freudian flavoured Westerns. While it's on it engages for sure, but once finished there's the distinct feeling that it was never all that it could have been. A shame really. 6/10