When his fiancé Beth is raped and murdered during a robbery, peace-loving rancher Vern Haskell sets out to track down the man that did it. Driven by a desire for revenge more than justice, Haskell follows the trail to a casino and bordello called Chuck-A-Luck. Here he follows his leads to Alter Keane and gunslinger French Fairmont; they take him onto their staff at their horse ranch and gang HQ and Haskell hopes to use his cover to get his closer to finding out who it was that raped his girl. However in keeping his cover, Haskell finds himself drawn into their world more and more.
The staples of westerns of the period are all here revenge, Technicolor, songs and romance; however this film opens with a rape (and it is fairly obvious that it was a violent rape) and a nice man who descents into violent anger. In a way the film makes this its central theme but it doesn't continue in this very strong vein and softens it somewhat with the addition of romance and musical interludes. From here on in it is still enjoyable but never marks itself out as more than a solid genre western; the complexities that I had hoped would consume him were not to be found in Haskell to any great degree. Despite this the plot still works well enough to engage and the gruff pace avoids sentimentality and makes the tough romance easier to swallow in context. The action is roundly enjoyable and Lang directs well within the sets, providing some good shots that stick in the mind.
The cast are mixed but generally meet the standard required of them. Dietrich may have demanded she be made to look as young as possible but her age helps stand her apart from the usual love interest actresses. She is tough and enjoyable in her role but I could have done without the songs. Kennedy is reasonably good but not too comfortable with his character he is either a white knight or a gurning ball of rage; subtlety is not his key word. Ferrer is lively and fun and makes more of his character than the genre usually allows the "other man" character to do. Support from Elam, Reeves and others is all solid enough to make it work.
So an enjoyable genre western then but a bit disappointing for throttling back after such a tough start. The standard revenge plot is made more interesting by the change in Haskell but it could have been better; meanwhile the usual action, songs and romance all work pretty well and will easily please genre fans.
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