20 July 2011 | oldblackandwhite
Below Par Randolph Scott Opus
Albuquerque will be somewhat of a disappointment for fans of Randolph Scott as well as aficionados of 1940's Technicolor westerns. One of the reasons for watching one of these post-World War II horse operas would be to enjoy outdoor cinematography in the gorgeous three-strip Technicolor process you expect from color movies of this era. Unfortunately Albuquerque was filmed in Cinecolor, an economical 2-strip substitute, which tends to emphasize garish red orange and murky greens while rendering other colors rather pastel. But it was tolerable here. I can remember seeing Cinecolor westerns new, or nearly so, in movie houses when I was a kid in the 1950's, and it seems that the color was considerably more unattractive compared to Technicolor than it shows on the nicely restored Universal DVD of Albuquerque.
The main problem with this picture was that the acting was lifeless and the story unexciting in spite of some pretty good action sequences. The cast was good enough, topped by Scott and gorgeous Barbara Britton with support from colorful Gabby Hayes, menacing Lon Chaney Jr. and pretty Catherine Craig, the lifelong wife of actor Robert Preston. Wholesome Ms. Craig was a good choice as Scott's love interest. Age 33 at the time, she didn't look like Randolph's daughter as some of his leading ladies of the time would! Don't blame the cast, blame Ray Enright's flabby direction and the uninspired Gene Lewis/Clarence Upson Young screenplay.
Particularly wasted in this lackluster oat-burner was the strikingly beautiful and talented Barbara Britton. I admit to having a crush on Barbara since I watched her as a kid in the light-hearted early television mystery series Mr. And Mrs. North. I still think of her one of the great unappreciated beauties and talents of the classic movie era. She promisingly starts out as a bad babe in Albuquerque, but disappointingly, she too soon turns into a good girl, weakening whatever dramatic potential her character had. She usually played classy good girls, but she displayed a sexy, naughty look at times. It would have been interesting if the boring script had let her be bad to the end.
Albuquerque had its moments, especially in the action department. The runaway ore-loaded mule wagons careening down a winding mountain road was an exciting moment. Scott's fist fight with the brutish Chaney was likewise well staged. This was one of the last times Scott was capable of doing one of these physically stressful encounters without the stunt double who didn't look like him. It must have be hard on him, as he was about 50 at the time. Though he was still claiming to have been born in 1903, which would have made him only 45. Since it was known that Scott was a World War I veteran, it went about that he was one of the youngest men to have served in the American Expeditionary force on the Western Front. He supposedly lied about his age to volunteer at 14. But when the 1900 census became available to the public in 1970, it revealed that he was actually born in 1898, meaning he was the more ordinary service age of 19. It was not the Army he lied to about his age, but everyone else!
Never mind, Scott was still up to what he needed to do in Albuquerque. Unfortunately the production was not up to his standard. Not a terrible western, but not nothing to shoot your six-gun into the air about.