1 June 2017 | BrianDanaCamp
Good cast in low-budget western
Tony Young stars in the title role of TAGGART (1964), a rancher's son who embarks on a mission of revenge after his parents are killed by the son of a town boss. After tracking down the culprit and killing him in front of his father, he is pursued for much of the film by a professional killer, Jay Jason (Dan Duryea), hired by the dying town boss and provided with a dubious warrant. The two men wind up in an abandoned Spanish mission occupied by Adam Stark (Dick Foran), an older man with a young Mexican wife, Consuelo (Elsa Cardenas), and a daughter from a previous marriage, Miriam (Jean Hale). The whole middle section of the film is essentially a five-character drama. The Stark family has a secret, one which compels hot-to-trot Consuelo to come on heavy, first to Taggart and then, after Taggart rebuffs her advances, to Jason, in the hopes that one of them will help her leave the mission with a cache of hidden wealth. An attack by rampaging Apaches complicates things. They all flee, but not all together, headed to a nearby fort for an action-packed finale.
The editors use lots of footage from other Universal color westerns, including one with a cattle drive and one with Indian attacks on a wagon train and a cavalry fort. Even the long shots, with the main characters riding against panoramic backdrops, seem to be taken from other movies, requiring the costumes in the new footage to match the previous footage. I wish I knew which westerns the footage came from. I've probably seen them, but I'd love to see them again. Also, the Spanish mission in which the Starks reside looks more like a hacienda to me. It's a bit of a stretch for the characters to call it a mission. Still, it's an enjoyable western which moves well and is enacted by a cast of players who know how to make this kind of thing work, all supervised by a director who's an old hand at this.
Dan Duryea plays his character as quite talkative and gregarious, rather unusual for such a greedy and cold-blooded character. He doesn't display much charm, so he never exactly fools anyone. It's a rather odd performance by the veteran heavy, but it keeps the confrontations between him and the more stoic Taggart quite lively. Both Duryea and Dick Foran had been under contract to Universal Pictures back in the 1940s. They'd previously co-starred in AL JENNINGS OF OKLAHOMA (1951), where they played brothers. David Carradine makes his debut here in a silent role as an ill-fated gunslinger. Elsa Cardenas is sexy and attractive in the femme fatale role. She only did a handful of films and TV episodes in Hollywood in the 1950s and '60s, but instead spent most of her long career in her native Mexico, starring in movies and TV novelas (soap operas) and evidently attaining a level of stardom she couldn't have gotten in Hollywood. (She's apparently still active in Mexican television.) Even so, I wish she'd spent more time in Hollywood. I would love to have seen her in more westerns.
Tony Young never managed to achieve much in the way of stardom and spent most of his career in TV guest spots and supporting roles in occasional feature films. He's quite good here, boasting a deep, soothing voice which could easily charm the ladies, a tall frame that suited him well for westerns, and a straightforward, confident manner. With his dark good looks and heavy-lidded eyes, he could have made a splash in Italian westerns like so many of his peers were doing in the 1960s and probably could have had a much bigger career as a result.