20 November 2005 | rclements3-2
A very solid, brutal Western
I had been looking for a copy of this film for a long time and finally found one. I wasn't disappointed as it is a well-written and directed film.
Van Heflin stars as a down and out prospector who finally strikes it rich. After surviving a double-cross attempt by a partner, he decides to look up an old friend to help him retrieve the remainder of his fortune. Through various situations the group expands to four - Heflin, George Hilton (his old friend), Klaus Kinski (who has a strange hold over Hilton) and Gilbert Roland (hired by Heflin as insurance against future double crosses), and the four then begin the trek to retrieve the gold. What happens along the way will hold your interest as there are some unusual plot twists.
As for the performances, Heflin and Kinski are remarkable. Heflin looks like he sat in the hot desert sun for weeks to prepare for this role, and his craggy voice and features are perfectly suited for his character. As for Kinski, dressed mostly in black, he is evil incarnate, with his cold stare, flashing eyes and creepy voice. Roland is also excellent, as an old army buddy of Heflin's who suffers from malaria. Hilton is good, too, although his performance pales in comparison to the others.
The direction is some areas is inventive, with good use of scenery, and the music score is impressively spare with only acoustic guitars for much of it.
If you enjoy realistic Westerns that don't romanticize the Old West, this comes highly recommended.