25 April 2011 | ksneath
Different and Satisfying Western w/ Realistic Characters
This is another example of a fine 50's B western -- one which in many respects outranks a number of it's "big brother" cousins.
The action begins with Larson (McMurray) escaping from a deputy transporting him to prison for a bank robbery. Larson's kid brother shows up unannounced in the midst of the action and gets fatally wounded in an exchange of gunfire with the deputy as they are escaping. They manage to stow away on a train, where we find out some of the history of these men and their motivations. Along the way the brother dies and Larson takes the alias of Kincaid while plotting how to evade the law, which is now seeking him for murder (of the deputy, which his brother shot). Kincaid ends up in a small town and in short order gets involved in various ways with the locals while needing to escape the roadblocks before the wanted poster with his picture arrives!
On the surface, this is pretty standard fare for a western. It stands apart from the typical film of its genre, however, because of the thoughtful way the characters in the story are handled. One gets a sense of realism, not so much from the clothing or set designs, etc., but from the way the characters in the story respond to circumstances and each other. The people in this story are real, genuine, believable people -- unlike the stereotypical "invincible, tough as nails" western heroes that dominated the genre in this period, or the mysterious, aloof personas found in the spaghetti westerns that followed. For example, there is a barroom fight in the film with the clichéd "one man vs. the group of bad guys". However, instead of the whole group mobbing the protagonist and beating him to a pulp, they allow the fight to be one-on-one between the two who are truly in conflict, preserving their own dignity and that of the ones actually fighting. That is not to say that they have no involvement or investment, but what part they do play is sensible and believable.
It is this interaction and sincere character development along with an engaging plot which makes this a movie that is not only a decent way to pass time, but a true pleasure to watch. Oh, and it has a fun early part by James Coburn and a thrilling climax, too. And if you watch this and enjoy it, I would also highly recommend another similarly forgotten B-western of this era: "Gun the Man Down" with James Arness. I give both this and the aforementioned title a solid 7.5. Easily recommended.