5 March 2010 | moonspinner55
"Terrifying--Their Lust For Oil! ... Thrilling--Their Love For a Woman!"
Oil-rig worker from Montana, on the run from police, finds himself out west; seems he's killed a man in self-defense and didn't argue too much when his fellow cell-mates made a break for it. A tough but friendly oil foreman takes him on, and together they work feverishly to strike a gusher or lose their lease on the land. An odd, somewhat dislocating mix of elements (noir, gangster drama, light comedy, romance) gets the film off to a convoluted start--even with self-assured John Garfield in the lead. Garfield is so casual about his toughness, his armor, that he walks through the picture almost gregariously, lightening the load. Pat O'Brien (with his large, handsome face, as if he were grandfather to George Clooney) is wonderful as John's first real friend, but Frances Framer is a walking question-mark as the love-interest. With her unhappy eyes and deep, husky voice, Farmer doesn't connect with the audience and never really gets into character, not that there's much of one (she welcomes a date with O'Brien but just as quickly falls for Garfield the same evening). The script, by Kenneth Gamet from a story by Rex Beach, is overly-complicated at the outset, but improves after it settles into a more conventional mode (the technical detail is a big help). The movie delivers a good time in the end, despite some outlandish circumstances and a bit of overplaying from the eccentrics in the supporting cast. **1/2 from ****