11 December 2014 | oldblackandwhite
Rod Cameron Dodges Hot Lead, Flying Fists, Stampeding Cattle, Even Dynamite, But Not....
...Gale Storm's size 5 pointy-toe boots on the shin, Ouch! All this in Allied Artist's rock'em-sock'em 1949 western Stampede. Allied Artists, not to be confused with United Artists, was an outgrowth of cheap movie font Monogram, a new label for the modest production company's more expensive pictures. While the budget for Stampede was no doubt comfortably below that of the $1,200,000 layout for the company's critical and financial hit of 1947, It Happened On Fifth Avenue, this highly entertaining western nevertheless qualified as a medium or "B-plus" production. But director Lesley Selander and producer Blake Edwards, who also co-scripted, were a pair who knew how to make every available dollar count. Selander was a veteran of dozens,(eventually over a hundred) B-grade westerns and other programmers starring the likes of Tim Holt, William Boyd, and Gene Autry, while Edwards would later gain fame and considerable fortune with the popular Peter Gunn television show and the fabulously successful Pink Panther series of feature pictures. No wonder Stampede comes off a tightly-knit, impressively filmed, dramatically engaging, outdoor picture of the type highly satisfying to the western aficionado.
The plot, cattlemen versus homesteaders, could be labeled western scenario #6, but who cares -- there hasn't been a new story since 33 A.D. It's the treatment that counts, and it is very well done here with a number of intriguing twists and some unexpected turns. Tall, raw-boned Cameron plays a cattle baron, so hard-nosed in resisting the homesteaders who have legally bought land he had regarded as his range, that he comes off almost an antihero in the opening reels. Diminutive Gale Storm plays the feisty homesteader tomboy who provides his formidable opposition, and of course his eventual love interest. Good support comes from Johny Mack Brown as a sure-shot sheriff friendly to the cattleman, Don Castle as Cameron's happy-go-lucky brother, Jonathan Hale as the cattleman's fair-minded attorney, with John Miljan, Donald Curtis, and John Eldridge as a trio of shady land dealers stirring up trouble.
Much of the considerable entertainment value of this modest western come from the intelligent script by Edwards and John C. Champion, with well-developed characters and lots of snappy, colorful dialog, especially the sharp exchanges between Storm and the two cattlemen brothers. Black and white cinematography by Harry Neumann is first rate. The brutal fist fight segueing into a gunfight and back again to a fist fight inside a dark stable qualifies as a minor masterpiece of action filming. The starkly lighted, obliquely angled shots in this an other night scenes demonstrates how what is now known as the film noir style, all the rage in the late 1940's, filtered down even to unpretentious westerns.
Stampede is an action packed, dramatically engaging, beautifully filmed, smoothly edited western. Top notch entertainment from Old Hollywood's Golden Era.