18 June 2003 | King_man
Good cast + literate script + creative direction = six gun enjoyment
A low budget movie about a corrupt sheriff, a pretty school marm, and a drafted marshal is a likely recipe for the routine. MOMC not only avoids the routine but also raises itself above many "A" westerns of the 40's and 50's. The four principals are all excellent and bring life to their characters. Ames is convincingly detestable as the scheming suitor who can't understand "no", all the while maintaining his private gang of hoods. Vale, the co-star of a number of O'Brien westerns, has an appealing vivacity and makes one understand why Ames is infatuated. Henry Brandon has an interesting role as Duke Allison, a gunfighter brought in to handle O'Brien. His entrance in a saloon is a standout. Another nice moment is when he "turns in" his gun to O'Brien. If you look closely, you'll see he isn't completely comfortable handling his six-shooters but this is a minor quibble and doesn't detract from his performance. George O'Brien brings an easy going confidence to his role as an ex-marshal just trying to get on with his life. He's not non-violent in the Destry mold but he doesn't seek confrontation as many "B" western marshals would. I don't know how real western marshals acted but I would expect some would act with the quiet, low key manner of O'Brien's. Much of the credit for the standout moments in this movie go to the writers including the uncredited Academy Award winning writer Dudley Nichols. The script clearly is a cut or two above most movies of this ilk. A good cast and script can only go so far, however, without a director equal to them. As Howard proves, one doesn't need a big budget when provided good ingredients and recipe. He gets the most out of the characters and makes them real people, people with personalities you believe. The climactic showdown in the smoke is an inspired scene that brings a close to this worthy movie.
This isn't the greatest western ever or even a great western. It won't replace Josey Wales in my video library and people won't be comparing it to High Noon. What it is is an excellent example of how much can be accomplished on a low budget with second tier, but not second rate, actors. It is a fine little western, better than many Randolph Scott oaters, and well worth a look.