6 October 2009 | dougdoepke
In the mid-1950's writer-director Delmer Daves made a series of superior westerns for Columbia studios. Too bad these films have not gotten their critical due from movie historians or critics. Perhaps it's because they lack the thematic continuity of a Buddy Boetticher or a John Ford to tie them together. Still each entry presents its own distinct virtues and all are greatly entertaining. If the compact, and tautly told "3:10 to Yuma" is the best of the lot, the scenic and sprawling "Jubal" runs a close second. This mid-series film features Glenn Ford's easy-going charm, a rowdy Earnest Borgnine, a luscious Valerie French, and the panoramic backdrop of Jackson Hole Wyoming. And in an odd piece of casting, which Daves seems fond of, method actor extrordinaire Rod Steiger appears as a treacherous ranch hand named of all things, Pinky! Following the dueling styles of Ford vs. Steiger is at least as interesting as the otherwise well-staged outbursts of gunplay.
Judging from other entries, such as 1958's "Cowboy", Daves seems genuinely intrigued by the real life of cowhands. Thus the cowhands in Jubal are more vividly drawn and distinctively presented than their usual role as faceless stage props. The story itself features a fairly explicit (for its time) woman in heat (French), whose scheming shenanigans set off a plot- driving chain of events, while shifting alliances among ranch hands and settlers round out a sprawling and sometimes over-generous plot. And, oh yes, making a sudden appearance half way through, a lonesome Charles Bronson in a tacked on role that perhaps provided a needed payday, (Daves and Bronson had been together in the earlier, oddball essay "Drumbeat".) If none of this sounds good, then just sit back and take in the beautifully photographed alpine landscape that has salvaged many a western much less worthy than "Jubal".