3 August 2018 | TheLittleSongbird
Bound for the west
While the western genre is not my favourite one of all film genres (not sure which one is my favourite due to trying to appreciate them all the same), there is a lot of appreciation for it by me. There are a lot of very good to great films, with the best work of John Ford being notable examples.
In the late 50s, starting in 1956 with 'Seven Men from Now' and right up to 1960 with 'Comanche Station', lead actor Randolph Scott collaborated with director Budd Boetticher in seven films. For me, 1959's 'Westbound' is one of their weakest along with 'Decision at Sundown'. By all means it is a long way from terrible, it has a lot of great elements and is actually pretty decent. It just isn't in the same league as the wonderful 'Seven Men from Now', 'The Tall T' and 'Ride Lonesome' and doesn't have enough of what made those two so good, they had far better scripts and characterisation in particular as well as better supporting casts.
Starting with the strengths, while not the best-looking of their outings, being smaller in scale and slightly too compact in its setting, 'Westbound' still looks pleasing. It is very nicely filmed, with some nice colour and atmosphere, and handsomely designed, it just lacks the visual grandeur of their best collaborations. The music, wonderfully perky and one of the best scores of the Scott/Boetticher western films, has presence and fits perfectly, while not being intrusive.
Boetticher directs efficiently and mostly the film goes at a pace that isn't pedestrian. Numerous parts are suspenseful and fun, with some well choreographed action. The ending is effective. Scott brings likeability, charisma and intensity to his role and he is well supported by Karen Steele, oozing glamour, class and charm in the far better written of the female roles, and the wonderfully arch Michael Pate.
However, the rest of the supporting cast are pretty feeble, definitely the weakest supporting cast of the Scott/Boetticher westerns. Virginia Mayo is wasted with hardly anything to do in a nothing role. Andrew Duggan's charisma-free performance is just as weak, liked him in 'Decision at Sundown' so what happened.
The script, very like that for 'Decision at Sundown', is too wordy, lacking the meat and tautness of the scripts of the best Scott/Boetticher films, and can preach and be too basic. There is not enough depth to the characters, with only Scott's hero being developed enough and even then his motivation should have been explored more and more gripping. Mayo's role is especially sketchy and could have been written out. The story has a lot of great moments, but there is also some credibility straining, overload of simplicity and lack of tautness.
Altogether, decent but had the potential to be much better. 6/10 Bethany Cox