• Warning: Spoilers
    The Rio Kid gets double-crossed by Dad Longworth, his outlaw partner, and spends five years rotting in a Mexican prison. After his escape, the one sole purpose of his existence is to exact revenge on Longworth. Marlon Brando stars as Rio, and also directed this handsome western. Judging by this first-rate piece of work, it is a great shame that Brando hasn't ever directed another film in his half-century in the industry. From the outset, it is apparent that the movie is under the control of an assured cinematic intelligence. The camera tracks forward, passing through the gates of a casada, leaving the realm of titles and credits, and moving into the fictional space of the story, Sonora, Mexico in 1880. We see a bank robbery in progress, and Rio is sitting perfectly relaxed on the bank counter while all around him is drama and bustle. This is a man, we feel, who is not subject to the usual human frailties. After the robbery, Rio courts a Mexican beauty. This short scene conveys important character information - we see that Rio can be charming, but that he is ruthless and manipulative. It is often the case with westerns that the terrain is almost a character in the story, and so it is in this film. The two beautiful settings of the action are filmed in Vistavision. Mexico is arid and empty, and the wind sculpts the dust into gorgeous shapes. The barrenness of the land underpins the film's meaning - there is nothing here for the Rio Kid. When the action shifts to Monterrey, the majestic Californian surf becomes an ever-present, the constant boom of the breakers acting like a Greek chorus, reminding us that Rio is elemental and untameable. Brando is, as always, an enthralling screen presence. He can be frighteningly still and silent, as in the confrontation with Harv in Red's cantina, exuding lethal menace, or explosively violent. Rio is a fascinating character, both unsettling and attractive at the same time. Karl Malden (Dad Longworth), Ben Johnson (Amory) and Sam Gilman (Harv) turn in competent performances as the bad guys. Katy Jurado, with her sultry hispanic looks, was a 'must' for westerns of this period and acquits herself well as Maria, Longworth's wife. Slim Pickens is memorable as the revolting Lon, and Elisha Cook pops up as the bank teller who fights back. Pina Pellicer was to die by her own hand a short time after starring here as Luisa, the girl who loves Rio. Verdict - An outstanding western which stands alone as Brando's one foray into directing.