The Man from Laramie (1955)

Directed by Anthony Mann - starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Alex Nicol, Cathy O'Donnell and Aline MacMahon as 'Kate Canady'

Stewart plays 'Will Lockhart', an ex-soldier seeking revenge for the death of his brother who was killed by Apaches using rifles. While trying to investigate who sold the Indians the guns, Lockhart runs afoul of powerful cattle baron Alec Waggoman (a superb Donald Crisp) and his spoiled brat of a son, Dave (Alex Nicol).

Alex Nicol is great as the whiney spoiled manchild, Dave. Throwing his weight around and showing off he picks on outsider Lockhart. He tosses a rope around him and drags him through a campfire, burns down his wagons and shoots his mules (off camera)! Dave is upsurped by Vic Hansbro (Arthur Kennedy) who runs the ranch himself and is like a son to Alec, possibly moreso than Dave.

Cathy O'Donnell plays 'Barbara Waggoman' caught between the love of Vic and Lockhart, the stranger, and a much older man. Cathy isn't given much to do but has a couple cute scenes with Stewart, one where they're drinking tea and carrying on.

Lockhart gets framed for knifing a wino (Jack Elam!) in a back alley and gets bailed out by Kate Canady (a spirited Aline MacMahon). She's an old love of Alec's and his only true competition in the country. She wants Lockhart to help her run the ranch. He wants nothing to do with it but needs her help so he agrees and begins looking over the cattle. What follows is one the most shocking sadistic scenes of violence in a pre-1960's mainstream picture, as if the poor mules weren't already enough. It's great.

THE MAN FROM LARAMIE is one of the best films of the genre, and possibly Anthony Mann and Jimmy Stewart's best film together. The relationships are grey and not everyone is as good or bad as they seem to be at first. Lots of ideas about fate, tragedy and love. Especially between the KING LEAR inspired good son/bad son. There's quite a bit of plot but it never gets bogged down and has a nice pace that is always moving and interesting. The New Mexico locations shot in CinemaScope are stunning, with expansive sweeping shots of the desert, the salt flats and the various ranches look beautiful. It's too bad Mann and Stewart didn't get to do more films together in Scope.

Six six-guns are pointed at James Stewart in this publicity still for the Columbia Pictures release,
The Man from Laramie (1955)


The Law and Jake Wade (1958)

Directed by John Sturges - starring Robert Taylor, Richard Widmark, Patricia Owens, Henry Silva and DeForest Kelley as 'Wexler'

Robert Taylor plays 'Marshal Jake Wade', a reformed outlaw who breaks his old pal 'Clint Hollister' (an excellent Richard Widmark) outta jail to pay back an old debt, thus saving him from a hangin'. Jake now lives a simple life with his soon-to-be bride 'Peggy' (Patrica Owens). But Hollister and his gang have other plans. Years ago Jake buried the money from their last job, and now Clint Hollister wants his cut.

Robert Taylor is a bit of a stiff here and I just can't warm up to him. The real reason to see this movie is for Richard Widmark and his gang of baddies, including Henry Silva and DeForest Kelley, who steal every scene. I just about died when Henry Silva sez with a straight face that he's from Kansas. Bones has a great southern accent and is hot to see Taylor get his. So is Silva. So is me. Widmark is great as usual, playing a likable jerk. I genuinely felt bad when Talor sez to him at the end, "I never liked you as much as you liked me." Widmark is devestated. He curls up and dies inside. In a fit of anger he throws his cigarette to the ground and stomps away. Patricia Owens has the thankless role of being the captive woman with nothing to do, but she looks good doing it.


And directed by John Sturges. This b-movie has swell production value, beautiful mountain vistas and a great shootout in a ghost town. The night scenes are stage-bound but sometimes I kinda prefer that to day-for-night. A solid western that is worth seeing for the locations and character actors. And I guess for fans of Robert Taylor's sad face.


No Name on the Bullet (1959)

Directed by Jack Arnold - starring Audie Murphy and Charles Drake

Audie Murphy plays a quick-draw hitman who strolls into town and without lifting a finger or saying a word upsets the whole place and turns it's town folks on each other. He befriends a physician (Charles Drake), who takes a curious liking to Murphy, playing him in chess and picking his brain about who he's there to kill. Murphy's very presence brings out the paranoia and everyone with a shady past thinks they might be the target.

** SPOILERS ** Audie Murphy plays a believable villain in this. His character's trick is that he always gets his hit to draw on him first, clearing Audie of any crime. At the end of the film when it's revealed the target is an old man all Murphy has to do is get him excited and he has a heart attack on the front porch. Charles Drake as 'The Physician' plays the would-be-hero, finally turning on Murphy and throws a giant hammer, hitting Murphy in the arm. Blood dripping down his hand, Murphy crawls up on his horse and rides outta town. The End.

Directed by Jack Arnold, the movie opens with great views of the countryside but once Audie gets to town it mostly takes place in the saloon and backrooms. Kinda' psychological character study of small towns and one of Murphy's best westerns.

Sent into us by reader Barry M - "Gene L. Coon wrote this, says IMDB. Probably most famous as writer and producer for Star Trek, and writer of the Spectre of the Gun episode!"


Hangman's Knot (1952)

Directed by Roy Huggins - starring Randolph Scott, Lee Marvin, Donna Reed, Claude Jarman Jr., Frank Faylen and Richard Denning

A group of Confederate soldiers led by 'Major Matt Stewart' (Randolph Scott) rob a Union gold shipment and kill all the men. The last soldier tells them with his dying breath that war was over a month ago, the South lost and now they'll be pegged as murderous robbers. With a group of deputies after them they hijack a stagecoach and take the passengers hostage in a station house. They find out the deputies are really bounty hunters after the gold and they're prepared to kill everyone to get it. Including the hostages!


Lean at 81 minutes the film opens in rocky Lone Pine! but quickly settles into a single room for the rest of the movie. **SPOILERS** Lee Marvin in an early role plays 'Rolph Bainter' a trigger happy soldier who's at odds with Scott, eventually leading to a great fist-fight where Scott falls in the fireplace and they both tear the house apart. Donna Reed is 'Molly Hull' a nurse for the Union engaged to 'Lee Kemper' (Richard Jenning), a real jerk who only looks out for himself. Claude Jarman Jr. is 'Jamie' a young member of Scott's gang who's yet to kill and has to grow up quick. Clem Bevans runs the Station with his daughter, her son recently killed by Confederate soldiers, she despises Scott and his gang. The bounty hunters eventually grow impatient and start fighting within themselves with everything coming to a head when they set the Station on fire. A terrific western in the mold of the Scott/Boetticher films.

"I'm coming home to ya Bessie, this time for good."


Man With the Gun (1955)

Directed by Richard Wilson - starring Robert Mitchum, Henry Hull, Jan Sterling and Karen Sharpe

The movie opens with a man shooting a dog in front of a young boy in the middle of the street, thus setting the grim tone of what's to follow.

Robert Mitchum plays 'Clint Tollinger', a man who comes to town looking for his wife, Nelly Bain (Jan Sterling), who ran away from him and who now runs a saloon full of girls. Clint has a reputation as a town tamer and once the folks in town learn of his presence they decide to employ him to clean up their act and rid them of a ruthless cattle baron, Dade Holman (an un-credited Joe Barry), who's been taking them over with his violent ways. Unfortunately for the town they soon find out that the medicine is almost as bad as the cure.

Henry Hull plays the town Sheriff, a weathered tired old man who refuses to stand up to Dade Holman and his goons. He deputizes Clint and tries to stay out of his way only helping once things start to tip in their favor. A young man named Jeff Castle (John Lupton) is the only one in town who's willing to fight for his land. Holman's thugs having burnt down his new house and knocked him around. Jeff is looking to take back what's rightfully his back but he doesn't stand a chance and his hot-headedness risks him losing his soon-to-be bride, Stella Akins (Karen Sharpe). Stella, along with most of the women in town, take an immediate liking to Clint. This is picked up by Clint's wife who gets jealous of the younger woman, who Clint says reminds him of her when she was younger and more innocent.

A quick paced western-noir that has Mitchum playing a troubled man right set to explode. Mitchum rides into town and locates his wife only to find that she wants nothing to do with him, that is unless he wants to put his guns down. He doesn't. Gunslinging is all he knows. He rids the town of most of the riff-raff then waits for their boss to show. 

**SPOILERS** In a heated discussion he finds out from his wife that their daughter died years ago from influenza and she's been keeping it a secret, punishing herself over it. Mitchum's rage boils over and he darts out the room. He walks over to Dade Holman's saloon and coaxes the crooked manager into a fight, killing him, then sets the building ablaze, risking the whole town of burning down.

He stands aside sweating, in awe of the fire as the townsfolk rush to wet down the nearby buildings.

There are several un-credited cameos by bit players. A young Angie Dickinson can be seen in the group of dancing girls and Claude Akins is one of Holman's gang who tries to shoot Mitchum with a gun hidden in is hat. Directed by Richard Wilson, a protégé of Orson Welles, and shot in glorious black and white. The film fits in nicely with Mitchum's other noir-like westerns: BLOOD ON THE MOON and PURSUED. All three are worth seeking out for fans of noir and adult westerns of the 1940's and 50's.



Night Passage (1957)

Directed by James Neilson - starring Jimmy Stewart, Audie Murphy and Dan Duryea

Stewart plays 'Grant McLaine', an accordion player hired to deliver payroll for a railroad and gets robbed by a gang lead by 'Whitey Harbin' (a villainous Dan Duryea) and Grant's own brother the 'Utica Kid' (Audie Murphy). Dianne Foster and Elaine Stewart play the brother's old flames but the movie doesn't get too deep and mostly follows what's expected.

Anthony Mann was set to direct but he had a falling out with Stewart so they split. The script by Borden Chase is similar to the Mann/Stewart pairings but lighter in tone. Stewart is playing a broader more typical role and sings two tunes with an accordion. There's also a kid played by Brandon De Wilde that Stewart saves early on from a brutish Robert J. Wilke. The best scenes are when the gang is holed up in a ghost town saloon. There's some sexual tension as Dan Duryea and his group of mugs fight over a single woman. This turns into a power play between Audie Murphy and Duryea over who leads the gang. Dan Duryea is a joy to watch as he acts circles around Murphy and bosses the gang around.

Jack Elam and Jay C. Flippin' show up to do their thing but the real star is the Colorado scenery. The film has a great golden autumn hue and the scenes aboard the train as it travels through the mountainside are breathtaking. But there seems to be a bit more rear projection than usual and a few stage-bound shots. It all ends with a fantastic shootout in a rundown mill, with everybody getting what they properly deserve. While it never reaches the complex qualities of the Mann pictures it's still a lot better than most westerns.

Garden of Evil (1954)

Directed by Henry Hathaway - starring Gary Cooper, Susan Hayward, Richard Widmark, Cameron Mitchell and Rita Moreno

Stuck at a port town in Mexico with a broken steamer, three men (Cooper, Widmark and Mitchell) sitting in a cantina get hired by Susan Hayward to travel with her and save her husband who's trapped in a gold mine shaft. She pays them two thousand dollars a piece and hires a Mexican for one thousand. The catch? They have to travel through Apache country during a special Apache holiday called 'Moon of the White Man', from when they wiped out all of the settlements.

Richard Widmark plays a gambler full of wit and great one-liners. Cameron Mitchell plays a hotheaded bounty hunter who continually tests Gary Cooper until Cooper hands it to him. Cooper beats Mitchell into a campfire until he cries. Then he wipes his face clean, tells him it's going to be alright and sends him to bed. Susan Hayward mugs on and Widmark smiles.

Shot on location in Mexico and the first Fox western shot in CinemaScope, THE GARDEN OF EVIL is a beautiful color adventure with striking imagery. It opens with a cute song and dance number by Rita Moreno. The group then heads out across the lush green countryside and onto steep mountains (with matte paintings?) The town of the mine shaft is covered in real ash from a nearby volcano. There's a great scene when they first approach town and we see a giant wall of blackened lava. **SPOILERS** When they reach the husband he's ungrateful and tells Susan Hayward off. Cooper tells it like it is:" You took him too far. You took him over his head. You made a coward of him and he hates you for it. It could happen to any man, ... with a woman like you." Susan plays an intense cold-hearted woman. She eats Richard Widmark alive telling him, "You're nothing." You can just see his soul die. It's great.

Coop tells her he's an ex-Sheriff and they need to leave, the Indians are coming. But her husband can't ride so they have to carry him, and the gold. Susan acts stubborn and insists on staying to psych-out the Indians, so Coop slugs her and everybody takes off. What follows is a dangerous chase full of risky adventure and awesome spills. A bit of a low-rent TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, the film is a fun colorful tale of greed and lust set against great Mexico locations.

"The Garden of Evil, ... if the earth was made of gold, I guess men would die for a handful of dirt."

The Last Frontier (1955)

Directed by Anthony Mann - starring Victor Mature, Guy Madison, Robert Preston, James Whitmore and Anne Bancroft

Victor Mature plays 'Jed Cooper', a Baby Huey-like trapper born on the frontier living with his two friends, a fatherly James Whitmore as 'Gus' and their Indian pal 'Mungo' (Pat Hogan). Being told by the local Indian tribe that they aren't welcome anymore and must move, Jed decides to sign up as a scout at an army fort and his mountain men friends reluctantly agree to follow.

Captain Riordon (Guy Madison) takes a liking to Jed and promises him a soldiers uniform once the mountain men are ready to become 'civilized'. The camp is led by the bloodthirsty Col. Frank Marston, (played with a loony glee by Robert Preston). Col. Marston recently lost a thousand men in a battle he wrongly led and is crazed with revenge looking to redeem himself. Ann Bancroft plays his wife, the only woman living at the fort. She's disappointed with her husband but stands by him regardless, until she meets Jed. She's attracted to his ruggedness but put off by his lack of proper civilized manners.

The Indian threat grows closer and Jed fights to find if he can become civilized and live a stable life or if he's just the hopeless savage everyone says he is.

Shot in Mexico! But you'd never guess, it looks just like Oregon. **SPOILERS** This movie can be summed up as: Victor Mature gets drunk, gets laid and then it snows. Snow in any western is always a plus. The real reason to watch this movie is for Victor Mature's drunkenly brazen man-child performance. If you've only seen Mature as a film noir straight man you'll be surprised at how great he is here as the uncouth but lovable frontiersman. He drinks and he laughs and he goofs, like a big kid just enjoying life. There's great sexual tension, and a little bit of fear, when Mature drunkenly stumbles into Bancroft's room. We know he does whatever he feels but he hasn't shown himself to be mean-spirited or violent. Her husband the Col. only has lust for killing, with no real honor. He's a stiff and a stickler, just about the exact opposite of Jed.

Overshadowed by Anthony Mann's other westerns, THE LAST FRONTIER is every bit as good, full of adult themes but without the cowboy heroics. A funny-type of western for the savage thinking man.


Canyon Passage (1946)

Directed by Jacques Tourneur - starring Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Andy Devine, Lloyd Bridges and Hoagy Carmichael

A rich frontier drama starring Dana Andrews as 'Logan' a supply merchant caught between the love of two woman, a crooked partner and the ever present threat of Indians. CANYON PASSAGE is as much about Dana Andrews as it is about the whole frontier town around him and all its people. A great warm sense of community shot on location in Oregon. We get to watch as the whole town chips in for a new family and builds them a log cabin followed by a lively celebration.

Dana Andrews is reluctant to settle down and has a beautiful bride in waiting with Patrica Roc. But Dana seems to be a better fit with Susan Hayward, a cowgirl type of gal who happens to be with his business partner George Camrose (Brian Dolevy). Camrose is addicted to gambling and heavily in debt so Andrews bails him out and makes him promise to stop gambling. Camrose doesn't and instead steals gold from a local miner and kills him in a desperate need for more cash. The town holds a makeshift court and declares to hang Camrose. But Dana Andrews comes to his rescue, again.

Ward Bond plays a brutish town bully name 'Honey Bragg' who has a great fistfight with Andrews in the saloon with the whole town egging them on. Lloyd Bridges plays an angry miner named 'Johnny Steele' who's sick and tired and wants some action. Hoagy Carmichael plays a kinda Greek chorus to the film, singing along, 'Ole Buttermilk Sky', and popping up to offer some sage wisdom. Andy Devine plays a hug-able elder type who welcomes everyone into his family. The whole town seems like a nice homey place.

The Oregon scenery is lush and makes for a great backdrop. The Technicolor is wonderfully vibrant, almost hypnotic. Jacques Tourneur made a great western showcasing a growing community on the frontier. Fans of Dana Andrews will swoon.

Left to right: Lloyd Bridges, Dana Andrews, Ernest Haycox, Patricia Roc, and Andy Devine. The photograph was taken at Diamond Lake in southern Oregon, near the setting for Canyon Passage.


The White Buffalo (1977)

Directed by J. Lee Thompson - starring Charles Bronson, Jack Warden, Will Sampson and Kim Novak

A weary and somber Charles Bronson plays Wild Bill Hickok as he returns to the west to hunt a giant white buffalo that haunts his dreams. Along for the hunt are 'One Eye' (Jack Warden) as an Indian hater, and Chief Crazy Horse aka 'Worm' (Will Sampson), an Indian who's daughter was killed by the buffalo.

A fantastical wild west take on Moby Dick, the film has a lurid kinda dreamlike quality. The buffalo itself is a large mechanical monstrosity with limited movement. All it can really do is buck and glide on a rail. But if you're keyed in it can be a lot of fun. Filmed on location in Colorado the snow swept mountains are majestic and the towns are dirty and muddy with a gritty realistic quality. When Bronson's train pulls into town we see a giant wall made of buffalo bones. Kim Novak plays an ex prostitute and friend of Bronson's named 'Poker Jenny' who wants to take care of Bronson, wink-wink. But Bronson shuns her advances, with only the hunt of the buffalo on his mind. Bronson's dreams haunt him so bad he continually wakes up with guns blazin' scaring everyone around him to death. So he heads out into the mountains to kill the great white buffalo once and for all!

The movie opens like a filmed dream with the beast destroying an Indian village. It feels more like a horror fantasy than any kind of western. It has cameos galore but nobody gets much to do. Jack Warden and Will Sampson are fun as the they exchange pleasantries, weapons and glass eyeballs! Slim Pickens plays a stagecoach driver who probably gets the most dialogue in the whole movie. John Carradine is a creepy undertaker. Clint Walker is a brutish trapper. Ed Lauter is great as Tom Custer looking to take down Hickok in a brief saloon fight. Even Martin Kove shows up!

I love this movie way more than I should. For fans of westerns, Bronson and buffalo. Makes a good double feature with TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN (1958) where Sterling Hayden brings a whaling harpoon to a gunfight.

The Far Country (1955)

Directed by Anthony Mann - starring James Stewart, Ruth Roman, Corinne Calvet, Walter Brennan, John McIntire, Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan, Chubby Johnson, Royal Dano and Jack Elam

Jimmy Stewart and Walter Brennan are partners rustling cattle up to the Yukon and get hoodwinked by a crooked border town lawman, Gannon (a devilish John McIntyre). They get rescued by saucy Ruth Roman and decide to stay in Canada staking a successful gold claim. But Jimmy has dreams of buying a ranch in Utah and must figure out a way to leave without going through Gannon's border town and getting hung.

Beautifully shot in Alberta, Canada, Jimmy plays a reluctant hero who watches a frontier town full of kind people get bullied and taken for a ride by John McIntyre and his gruesome henchmen full of mugs like Jack Elam, Henry Morgan and a scary Robert J Wilke. McIntyre seems to be having a ball just relishing in his villainy, always on the lookout for a good hangin'. He's gleeful as he steals everyone's gold claims through a technicality in the law. Stewart only looks out for himself, and his good-natured buddy Ben Tatum (a loveable Walter Brennan), and is indifferent to all the bullying. Corinne Calvet plays a cute tomboyish French girl who immediately takes a liking to Stewart who doesn't take her seriously and treats her like a kid much to her irritation. As Gannon works over the town Stewart is left with the choice to do something or sit idle. And eventually push comes to shove. The town is full of great character actors like Connie Gilchrist, Kathleen Freeman, Royal Dano, Chubby Johnson and JC Flippin. A lovable bunch that have a great warm sense of community. It makes me want to give up my life and move to the Yukon and eat bear stew at the Hash House.

A beautiful western directed by Anthony Mann with a great script by Borden Chase. The westerns Mann did with Jimmy Stewart are some of the best of the genre, equal only to the films Budd Boetticher did with Randolph Scott. WATCH OUT FOR THAT AVALANCHE-!!


Tall Man Riding (1955)

Directed by Lesley Selander - starring Randolph Scott, Dorothy Malone, Robert Barrat and Paul Richards as 'The Peso Kid'

Scott plays a man returning to the town of Red River to seek revenge on ranch owner Tuck Ordway (Robert Barrat). Years earlier Tuck publicly whipped Scott and ran him out of town when he attempted to marry Ordway's daughter, Corinna (Dorothy Malone), at the time considering him unworthy. On his way to the town Scott finds a man, Rex Willard (William Ching), being attacked by three others and saves him only to find out he's married to Scott's old dish. During the fight Scott kills one of the attackers and wicked saloon owner Cibo Pearlo (John Baragrey) frames the peaceful husband instead. Pearlo has designs on taking over Tuck Ordway's ranch, which Scott finds out will soon fall into the public domain and be up for grabs.

Scott's more intense here than usual as he fights to not only clear Rex Willard's name but also sets out to prove to Ordway and Corinna that he is indeed worthy of her love. At the same time fighting Cibo Perlo's right hand man, the slimy villainous Peso Kid (Paul Richards), and saving the Ordway Ranch from being taken over by Pearlo.

There's a great fight that begins in the sheriff's office that smashes the place to hell and spills out onto the streets and ends up underneath a stagecoach. **SPOILERS** Unknown to everyone in town is the fact that Tuck Ordway is going blind and has been for some time. Tuck challenges Scott to a gunfight in a darkened house so that the playing field is equal but Scott soon realizes what's going down and spares Ordway his life. But the public finds out about the ranch falling into public domain and there's a rush for the land.

Fast paced at 80 minutes like most of the Randolph Scott B-movies with lots of characters and backroom shenanigans, this one is a heckuva lot of fun. It's all mostly predictable but these aren't meant to be deep pictures just entertaining, and that it is! Blink and you'll miss Dub Taylor as one of the local townsfolk.

1955 - Behind the scenes photo of actress Dorothy Malone reading
a copy of the latest issue of Variety between takes.