18 October 2016 | joe-pearce-1
It Must Be Awful When the Only Thing Going For It Is Ham
Five is the highest rating my conscience will allow for this oater, given that production values are near non-existent, and most of the acting is the same. This was made towards the end of the Republic Studios era, and if one had to base their entire output's reputation on this film, that ending might have been a welcome relief. (But they really did do much, much better things - earlier.) Richard Arlen was a good actor from the end of the silent screen days to well past this particular folly, but here, neither he nor his film son, Faron Young, seems the least bit capable of taking on anyone with the presence and pure size of Bruce Bennett or Guinn Williams. It is understandable that Arlen might look a little tired, but Faron Young looks just as tired, and he was only in his twenties. The only really good performance in the film comes from Bruce Bennett, in a fairly unusual role for him - a real nasty (but classy-looking) villain. He acts as though he thought he was in something worth doing, although his speaking voice is also much too classy for such an unmitigated lowlife. Bruce was a classy actor and deserved better than what he usually ended up in. The joy of the film, in a perverse way, is John Carradine in the unlikely role of a paid gunman, but not a fast-draw type, as he only shoots people in the back with a Derringer or with a rifle from hiding. Still, he hams it up wonderfully; we have a gunman who actually quotes great literature and sings occasional song snippets in a quite good voice (it's his own; I saw him all the way back in 1950/51 on TV's Ken Murray Show sing a whole song in a cavernous bass after downing a very large glass of Budweiser during the show's weekly sit-down-and-let's-talk advertisement). Bennett may be the best thing in the film, but Carradine is definitely the most enjoyable thing in it, even if, at only 50, he is already showing signs of the arthritis that would impair so much of his physicality and hand movements in years to come. That said, this is a real stinker, and the never-ending sung description of everything that is going on on the screen is like an incredibly inept steal from Tex Ritter in HIGH NOON. Elsewhere, someone questioned why he had never seen any of the music from this film on one of Young's song albums; maybe it's because everything in it seems to have been written and/or arranged by the then quite famous Salli Terri, a wonderful Jill-of-All-Trades mezzo-soprano, who was particularly known in the folk song field around the time this film was made, and who made loads of Capitol recordings back in the 1950s and 1960s in everything from Spanish and American folk song to the Baroque. Maybe she kept them for herself. Why she would have wanted to I can't figure out, because they're all pretty awful. Anyway, '10' for Bennett and Carradine, but '-5' for the rest, which comes down to a '5' rating. It's the best I can do; I mean, when even Angie Dickenson can't strike sparks in my loins, the film really has to be awful!