10 June 2009 | Spikeopath
Ray Milland is - A Man Alone!
Wes Steele is a gunman, his reputation follows him where ever he goes. Then one day he happens upon a dreadful scene, a stagecoach has been attacked and five people have been murdered, including a woman and a child. This sickens Steele who takes up a horse and rides to the nearest town with the best intentions, but no sooner is he there, he quickly becomes a target for blame and hostility. Taking refuge at the home of yellow fever struck Sheriff Gil Corrigan and his daughter Nadine, Steele proves to have a tender side as he helps to aid the ailing sheriff. But an angry mob is out for Steele's neck and when Gil comes around, will he believe that Steele is not responsible for the recent turn of events?
Ray Milland's westerns are a mixed bunch, ranging from the mundane (Bugles in the Afternoon), the watchable (California) to the very good - here with A Man Alone. Making his directorial debut, star Milland has managed to craft a genuine mood piece out of a well trodden, and often filmed, story. Milland, utilising his silent feature experience, sets the disquiet tone within the first quarter, where as he comes upon the horror scene, it's played out without dialogue, the mood is set for the next part of the journey, the town.
This is an ugly town, corruption and underhand tactics are the order of the day, so much so that when Steele blows into town (literally during a sandstorm) one would think that with his reputation, it would be ideal for him. But things can quickly turn around. Thanks to Milland's portrayal of Steele, it's apparent to us that Steele is weary of the life he has led, his yearning to cast off his burdens evident as his relationship with the Corrigan's starts to blossom. Yet it's funny how quick the milk can turn sour, because seemingly normal people can become a mob, an angry mob intent on justice regardless of the truth. For here there is no truth as the lies have been cast and mud nearly always sticks...
Milland is aided in the cast by the always solid Ward Bond (Gil), Raymond Burr (purple suited and black eyed nastiness as town villain Stanley), Lee Van Cleef (Stanley's thug muscle Clanton) and Mary Murphy (bright eyed and bushy tailed Nadine). Shot on location at Snow Canyon in Utah, it's a shame that location work is very much sparse because of the town set plot. However, in a film calling for an oppressive and pot boiling feel, this is something that is easily forgivable. A Man Alone is a very good Western, yes the story has been done far better (re: The Ox Bow Incident for example), but Milland's film deserves your time, and hopefully come the end, also your respect. 7.5/10