5 December 2015 | dougdoepke
Good Production, Scattered Results
A rather maddening western. Apparently Paramount went all out for an oater, filming in gorgeous southwestern Colorado and Aztec ruins of northwestern New Mexico. In short, there's plenty of scenic eye candy, while if there's a studio set anywhere, I couldn't spot it. Then too, there's A-list Cagney, maybe on the aging downgrade, but still Cagney. Seems he's trying to rehabilitate young man Derek from both a leg wound and a checkered past. As the new town sheriff facing a band of outlaws, an unreliable deputy Derek, and a pack of town ruffians, he's got his work cut out.
As I see it, there's a problem with the screenplay—it's too loose and lacking in focus, rambling from one incident to the next in no particular order. Thus, neither tension nor suspense builds over time nor into the rather poorly staged climax. I suspect Paramount was trying to cater to Cagney's starring presence since he's in about every scene. He's his usual commanding self. However, that's part of the problem since Derek lacks the presence needed to create chemistry with the older, compelling man. Thus, their scenes together appear lop-sided in the extreme, and the heart of the movie fails to gel.
I guess the studio figured young Derek's wayward role was apt material for brilliant director Nick Ray, who's specialty was troubled youth, i.e. They Live By Night (1948), Knock On Any Door (1949). Then too, Ray would soon triumph in the following year's iconic youth film, Rebel Without A Cause (1955). Unfortunately, I don't see any of his usual brilliance here, and I suspect he was neutralized by the rambling script and an A-list star. Though myopic editing may have figured, as it does in the river swim which strangely lacks any sequential coherence.
All in all, the 93-minutes amounts to a disappointment given the production values and talent involved. In my view, the best parts are those lushly vivid scenes from Colorado's Rockies and rivers.