25 June 2009 | hitchcockthelegend
Loose cannon gets the method treatment.
Steve Sinclair is an ex-gunfighter now contented with his lot as a peaceful farmer. His peace that is disrupted when his young brother, Tony, turns up with his intended new bride in tow. Tony has a thirst for gun play, and when he guns down a fellow gunman in the bar, things start to rapidly spiral out of control for the Sinclair family.
Saddle The Wind has some top credentials coming with it. Written by one Rod Serling, and starring Robert Taylor and John Cassavetes as the Sinclair brothers, it's a film not short on quality. Into the mix is the splendid outdoor location work at Rosita, Colorado (courtesy of the prolific George J. Folsey) and the genre compliant score from Elmer Bernstein. But what of the film itself? Well the story is an over familiar one, gunfighter trying to leave his bad past behind (Steve was a one time member of Quantrill's Raiders), loose cannon youngster out to make a name for himself (Tony), and yes we get a female love interest causing conflict and confusion (Julie London in a stock and undemanding role). Yet in this instance familiarity definitely does not breed contempt.
If new comers to this film are aware of John Cassavetes and his style of acting, then, in spite of the oddity of seeing him in Western surroundings, one can reasonably know what to expect. Cassavetes brings the method to young Tony Sinclair, instilling intensity, even borderline mania into the upstart hot shot, so much so that Robert Taylor's fine world weary turn as Steve gets lost until the splendid finale.
To non Cassavetes fans it may be just too much to handle, but speaking personally I found it a terrific performance that lifts the picture way above average. Brilliant support comes in the form of Donald Crisp and Royal Dano (heart aching veteran of the Civil War) and the running time of under 90 minutes is just about right.
Finally, it's with the ending that "Saddle The Wind" breaks away from the standard genre story and plotting. Played out on a lush lilac flowered hillside, the makers deviate from an expected cop out and give us something memorable and totally fitting to this method driven Western. 8/10