4 May 2003 | bsmith5552
Film Noire Goes West
"Blood On the Moon" is one of those psychological westerns that emerged in the late 40s. Director Robert Wise and cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca were both graduates of the Val Lewton film noire school of film making. Photographed in the shadowy dark black and white common to film noire, this picture turned out to be a better than average western.
The story has drifter Jim Gary (Robert Mitchum) riding into the middle of a dispute between cattleman Lufton (Tom Tully) and a group of homesteaders led by Tate Riling (Robert Preston). Riling has hatched a scheme unbeknownst together with Indian agent Pindalist (Frank Faylyn) to cheat Lufton out of his cattle and sell them to the army at a huge profit.
Gary is initially hired by Riling but soon sees how Riling is fooling the homesteaders and changes sides. Helping him make this decision is Lufton's daughter Amy (Barbara Bel Geddes) with whom he falls in love. Lufton's other daughter Carol (Phyllis Thaxter) meanwhile, is in love with Riling and betrays her father in the process. This all leads to the inevitable showdown at the end.
The photography is at times spectacular. The outdoor panoramas are breathtaking. However, it is somewhat marred by the cheap looking back projection shots (especially during the stampede sequence) and several "studio exteriors". There also is an excellent graphic fight scene involving Mitchum and Preston.
Mitchum is excellent as the brooding drifter with a conscience. Preston makes a despicable villain using all around him to attain his goals. Bel Geddes is good as the heroine but Thaxter takes the female honors as the gullible sister.
The rest of the cast is comprised of many familiar faces to western fans. Walter Brennan, Charles McGraw and Zon Murray play various homesteaders, Bud Osborne is Tully's trail foreman, Clifton Young and Tom Tyler play Preston's gunslingers and Richard Powers (aka Tom Keene) plays Tully's ranch foreman. If you watch closely you'll also see Harry Carey Jr., Iron Eyes Cody, Chris Pin-Martin and Hal Talliaferro (aka Wally Wales) in various smaller roles.
An good western; a good example of film noire.