21 September 2012 | MartinHafer
A.C. Lyles made a career out of cheap westerns during the 1960s which starred actors well past their glory days. My assumption is that these folks would work cheaply and needed the money. Most of these films are what you might refer to as 'Geriatric Westerns'. Some are pretty good despite the low budgets (such as "Fort Utah" and "Johnny Reno") and some are a bit sad, as some of the actors were not only well past their primes but also sad alcoholics. In this film, Lon Chaney Jr. looks pretty bad due to his drinking problems (though this fits the character he's playing as well) but even worse was Wendell Corey. Corey died that same year at only 54--and he looked 65 or 70. And, you can see that he sometimes was reading lines from cue cards because he could no longer remember lines and you can see his hand shake if you watch carefully. It's very, very sad to see these two. As for the rest of the old-timers, you get a chance to see Barry Sullivan (in the lead), Barton MacLane (in his last role), Richard Arlen (who seemed to be in every Lyles western) and Joan Caulfield.
As for the plot, it's #3. I say that because in most westerns, there are about 3 or 4 plots that are used and re-used again and again. This one is the clichéd 'evil boss-man'--the guy who wants to use his hired stooges in order to drive out the ranchers in order to own EVERYTHING. It is a very tired plot--and it made it harder for the actors to do their jobs. Unfortunately, the writer stuck with convention. When the evil boss-man (Corey) approached the Marshall (Sullivan) and threatened to kill him (as often happened in such films)...why didn't Sullivan either arrest him or just shoot him in the face?! This would have ended the problem 10 minutes into the film!! I sure would have shot him! It all limps to a predictable finale but along the way there are some silly scenes (such as when Sullivan was bitten by a rattlesnake and seemed amazingly well soon after--in reality, his arm would have swollen up and he would have been lucky if he'd only lost it!). Another odd problem was the hired gun played very well by John Russell. He only has one eye--so how can he be an expert shot?! What about his depth perception? And what about the very invasive background music?! The film also has some 1960s sensibilities--with the Marshall having a son who is half-Indian and the Marshall protects a poor Chinese guy who is being attacked by the town's thugs)--which isn't bad, but is also a bit anachronistic. Sadly, back in the 1880s (or so), I can't imagine anyone like the Marshall.
So is the clichéd film worth seeing? Well, for Barry Sullivan fans, yes. Although he was NOT a western star, he did very well here. I also liked that he wasn't the usual ultra-good looking or macho hero. But despite this, the film never was able to rise above mediocrity. Not terrible...but it could have been a lot better.