3 November 2013 | hitchcockthelegend
Thou shall not pass this pass!
Raton Pass is directed by Edwin L. Marin and written by Thomas W. Blackburn and James R. Webb. It stars Dennis Morgan, Patricia Neal, Steve Cochran, Scott Forbes and Dorothy Hart. Music is by Max Steiner and cinematography by Wilfred M. Cline.
Two families feuding over land either side of Raton Pass, New Mexico. Into their lives comes a beautiful seductress with manipulation and land dominance on her agenda...
Well well, what a treat. Something of a rare, little known or seen Oater, Raton Pass (AKA: Canyon Pass) really takes you by surprise. From the off we can see and hear this is a very nice production, with the twin greats of Steiner and Cline working their magic. Steiner's title music is Latino flavoured and then he introduces deft character motifs for the protagonists, while Cline's crisp black and white photography holds the eyes considerably.
For thirty minutes the picture simmers away like a standard "B" Western threatening to dull the senses with formulaic tedium, this is another reason why Steiner and Cline should be lauded as their work keeps you interested. But then the film completely turns, you notice that Cline's photography has suddenly shifted into film noir territory, and Neal has skillfully shifted from being the new loving wife on the block, to a complete femme fatale bitch! The plot dynamics now have a real edge, and as the smouldering Neal works her feminine whiles, this part of New Mexico territory boils away furiously until it inevitably explodes and spells doom and disappointment for some...
There's some crappy back projection work that undermines the quality elsewhere and the odd character is stereotypical of some Westerns of the period, but this has much to recommend. Marin (Johnny Angel/Nocturne/Colt.45/Sugarfoot) is fluid in his direction, while Neal and noir icon Cochran hold the screen as Max and Wilfred do their stuff. Currently licensed to TCM UK and available in HD format, I would urge any noir and Western fan in the UK to take the chance to see this rare picture the next time it shows. It doesn't deserve to stay rare. 7.5/10