Drums Across the River is directed by Nathan Juran and written by John K. Butler and Lawrence Roman. It stars Audie Murphy, Walter Brennan, Lyle Bettger, Lisa Gaye, Hugh O'Brian, Mara Corday and Jay Silverheels. Music is by Joseph Gershenson and Technicolor cinematography by Harold Lipstein.
"This is Crown City, born and build on gold mining, but by 1880 about the only gold left was across a near by river in the San Juan Mountains, Ute Indian land. People get desperate when their means of livelihood's cut off, and I was no exception. I'm Gary Brannon, my Dad and me ran a freight outfit."
There's a reoccurring saying that often crops up when viewing most of Audie Murphy's Westerns, that of them being unassuming afternoon entertainment. Pour yourself a jug of beer or a glass of wine and enjoy the handsome Murphy going about his Oater business with energy and a straight forward willingness to entertain.
Drums Across the River is a goodie in that context, it also boasts some lovely photography by Lipstein out of California locations that include Barton Flats (San Bernardino Mountains), Burro Flats and Red Rock Canyon. The Technicolor is gorgeous (TV print I saw was very good), with the blues and greens very striking, and the story is interesting as Murphy plays a bigoted young man who finds himself trying to avert a war with the Ute's whilst being framed for robbery himself. Bettger (Union Station) is a more than capable villain, as is the black clad O'Brian (The Lawless Breed), Corday and Gaye are underwritten but a treat for the eyes, and Brennan is the class act that he mostly always is.
Juran (Gunsmoke) directs without fuss or filler, proving to have a keen eye for action construction as the film is flecked with a number of hand to hand fights, shoot-outs and horse play, and prolific Western scorer Gershenson offers up another in a long line of undervalued genre compliant flavours. The stunt work is also of a high standard, with one particular leap of death truly worthy of high praise, and the story rounds out to put a smile on your face as the last sip of beverage trickles down the throat. Few surprises narratively speaking, and the odd B Western budget error shows its face, but this is a colourful Audie Oater and it's all about enjoying without having to think too hard about it. 7/10
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