bsmith5552

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The Penalty
(1920)

Shake a Leg!
"The Penalty" was Lon Chaney's first feature length film. In it he plays a an amputee who walks on stumps. The effect is astounding as Chaney had to have his legs tied back and walk on his knees literally. Costumes added to the illusion.

Chaney plays a character known only as Blizzard a criminal bent upon taking over the San Francisco underworld. In his childhood Dr. Ferris (Charles Clary) had operated on him following an accident amputating both of his legs above the knees in error.

Fast forward 25 years where Blizzard is a feared crime leader running a criminal organization bent upon taking over the San Francisco streets. He is also determined to gain his revenge on Dr. Ferris who is now a renowned surgeon with a comely young daughter Barbara (Clair Adams).

Police detective Lichenstein (Milton Ross) assigns Rose (Ethel Grey Terry) to infiltrate Blizzard's organization to find out what he is up to. She gains his confidence by working the pedals of his piano as he plays. Gradually she begins to fall in love with him sensing goodness between his evil ways.

Blizzard takes Barbara hostage and forces Dr. Ferris to operate on his legs graft the legs of Ferris' assistant Dr. Allen onto him. But wait folks there's a McGuffin at work here. It seems that Blizzard has a growth on his neck which if removed will reveal his good side. So.............

Watching Chaney move about on stumps is truly amazing and would forebode things to come. He even climbs a wall and descends to a basement operating theater and he makes you believe that he really is an amputee. The man was truly amazing.

Barabara is a would be sculptor who wants to sculpt a bust of Satan. Blizzard arranges to be her model with the aim of using her to exact his revenge upon her father (note the pre production code nude model in the studio).

The Stranger
(1946)

You're a Nazi....see!
"The Stranger" was one of the first films to deal with post war WWII. It was directed by Orson Welles who considered it one of his lesser efforts (I strongly disagree).

The War Crimes Commission want to capture notorious Nazi commander Franz Kindler (Welles) who has erased all traces of his identity and fled to the United States under an assumed name. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) is assigned the task of tracking down the fugitive. He arranges for one of Kindler's associates Konrad Meinike (Konstantin Shayne) to be released from prison. Wilson trails Meinike to the small New England town of Harper, Connecticut where it is believed that Kindler is hiding.

Kindler has assumed the identity of College Professor Charles Rankin and is planning to marry local socialite Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young) the daughter of a prominent judge (Philip Merivale). Meinike, meanwhile contacts Rankin aka Kindler and the two predict the rise of a Fourth Reich. When Meinike exhibits a "pray to the Lord for forgiveness" attitude, Kindler kills him and buries the body in a nearby shallow grave.

Wilson suspects Rankin but is unable to prove his suspicions. Wilson aligns with Mary's brother Noah (Richard Long) to keep an eye on Rankin. Rankin has an interest in an old clock situated in an abandoned church tower which Wilson plans to exploit.

Mary, meantime, refuses to believe the allegations against her now husband. Rankin becomes fearful that Mary will expose him and arranges for her to have an "accident" while climbing a steep ladder leading to the clock tower. Faithful servant Sara (Martha Wentworth) foils the plan by feigning a heart attack. Mary is now convinced that Rankin is indeed Kindler.

Wilson corners Rankin/Kindler in the clock tower and.............................................................

The studio reportedly had about 20 minutes cut from the film which infuriated Welles. Nevertheless the finished film is still an engaging thriller replete with many of the Welles touches such as the creepy dark interior of the church with it's long foreboding ladder.

Edward G. Robinson is great as always as is Loretta Young as the disbelieving wife. Welles himself also turns in a convincing portrayal as the Nazi on the run. It's a little baffling however, how the fictional Kindler a supposedly senior Nazi officer, was able to erase all traces of his identity before fleeing.

Not Welles best but any Welles film is worth a look.

The Man Who Cheated Himself
(1950)

Take Your Shot!
The most interesting thing about "The Man Who Cheated Himself: is in the casting of the leads. Lee J. Cobb gets to play a romantic lead for what I believe was the only time in his lengthy movie career. And as the femme fatale of the piece Jane Wyatt who usually played good girls (She wound up playing straight laced Margaret Anderson on the long running TV series "Father Knows Best")

The story centers around self centered rich girl Lois Frazer (Wyatt) who is about to divorce her second husband Howard (Harlan Warde). Unbeknownst to Lois, Howard has bought a gun. He tries to burn all of the packaging but drops the inspection certificate on the floor. Guess who finds it?

Lois who has been carrying on with Detective Lt. Ed Cullen (Cobb), thinks that Howard plans to kill her. She calls Cullen in a panic. He rushes to her side. Howard, meanwhile, has faked a business trip and sneaks back into their home but Lois has found the gun. When Howard is discovered, Lois shoots and kills him in front of Cullen. This forces Cullen to try and cover up Lois' crime.

The case is assigned to Cullen whose younger brother Andy (John Dall) has just joined the force and is assigned to Ed. Ed had earlier taken Howard's body to the airport and placed it there to make his demise look like a robbery. An elderly couple Ernest and Muriel Quimby (Charles Arnt, Marjorie Bennett) see Ed's car at the scene.

Andy is about to be married to Janet (Lisa Howard) with Ed as best man. Andy begins to investigate the murder. He questions the Quimbys and eventually learns that Ernest is color blind and has mistakenly identified Ed's car as green rather than blue. This convinces Andy that Ed is involved with the murder.

Andy confronts Ed with his suspicions forcing Ed's hand. Ed gathers up Lois and they attempt to escape but....................................

In the conclusion, Ed finds out how devious Lois really iswhen.................

A rarely seen little film noir that had hoped to change the on screen images of both Cobb and Wyatt. This experiment failed when the film was not a great success, Both actors went on to long and prosperous careers.

By the way that was Jack L. Warner's son who produced the film. Hmmmmm, I wonder what became of him?

Cavalry Scout
(1951)

Getum Up Scout!
The "Cavalry Scout" of the title is Kirby Frye (Rod Cameron) an ex confederate officer serving as a (you guessed it) a Union cavalry scout.

Martin Gavin (James Millican) and Matson (Frank Wilcox) orchestrate the theft of three new army Gatling Guns from an armory. Colonel Deering (Cliff Clark) is summoned to Washington by General Sherman (Eddy Waller) to handle the recovery of the weapons. One of the guns has been recovered and Deering recommends Frye for the job of finding the other two.

Frye arrives in the town of Red Bluffe Montana where he believes two of the guns were taken. He meets Claire Conville (Audrey Long) who somehow owns just about every business in town. Lt. Spaulding (Jim Davis) competes with Frye for Claire's affections.

Frye and Spaulding figure that local freight operator Gavin is somehow involved, The story takes place just after the Little Big Horn massacre so Gavin is trying to sell the Gatling Guns and rifles to the Sioux and Cheyenne to further aid their cause.

The army has established several check points to the Indian lands to check freight wagons for the missing weapons, Feeling that Frye and Spaulding are closing in, Gavin packs up the guns in bolts of cloth and sets out to meet with the Indian Chiefs. Claire, returning from a tryst with Frye is captured by Gavin. Along the way, one of the bolts of cloth falls off of the wagon exposing one of the guns. The cavalry sqad at the nearby check point are killed and it is made to look as though the Indians did the deed.

Frye and Spaulding arrive with a troop of cavalry and follow Gavin's wagon to the Indian village where................................................................

Not a bad western for the poverty row Monogram studio who seems to have allotted a larger budget than usual to the picture. Cameron who made several such "B" plus westerns like this at the time is good in the lead. Millican, one of my favorite 50s villains is suitably evil here. Jim Davis, who never quite made it as a lead actor, does his best in a supporting role. Audrey Long doesn't quite cut it as a "saloon owner".

Also in the cast are William "Bill" Phillips as Sgt. Wilkins, Stephen Chase as Colonel Drumm, Rory Mallinson as an army corporal and old time Bud Osborne as a teamster.

Worth a look.

The Naked Edge
(1961)

Did They Let George Do It?
"The Naked Edge" was unfortunately Gary Cooper's final film however, it was a good one. It reminds you of the Alfred Hitchcock thrillers of the 1940's wherein the star (Cooper) is a mysterious character whom his wife Martha (Deborah Kerr) suspects of murder.

Rewinding to the start, George Radcliffe (Cooper) is testifying at the trial of self proclaimed alcoholic Donald Heath (Ray McAnally) accused of murdering a colleque of Radcliffe's for a large sum of money. Heath is found guilty. Radcliffe's testimony was that he overheard the murder and had pursued the assailant to the boiler room of the office building where Heath was discovered.

After the trial, Radcliffe and Martha are followed by a mysterious stranger. Radcliffe confronts him but is unable to discover why the stranger had been following him. Radcliffe tells Martha that he is about to enter into a partnership with Morris Brooke (Michael Wilding) in a business that will make them both very rich. George tells Martha that he got the money for the partnership by making a "killing" in the stock market.

Six years go by and a mail bag lost over that time is discovered. The mail bag it turns out contains a letter to George from a Jeremy Clay who was trying to blackmail George back then. Martha becomes suspicious and begins to doubt her husband's innocence and starts to suspect him of the murder. George does little to discourage this belief warning her not to pursue her fears.

Both George and Martha search for Clay. George misses him but Martha tracks him down. Clay (Eric Portman) turns out to be the stranger that followed them following the Heath trial. Martha also goes to meet with Mrs. Heath (Diane Cilento) and discovers what her husband's alleged crime has done to their lives.

At their meeting, Clay reveals that he was at the scene of the crime and knows who the real killer was.

Martha becomes increasingly paranoid and fears that George may turn on her. George does little to alleviate her fears. He is unable to produce the papers creating the business partnership which would prove that George didn't use the proceeds of the murder to finance his portion.

George keeps showing up unexpectedly from business appointments and scaring the day lights out of the audience and Martha. Then one night..........................................................................

Cooper steps out of character to play an unlikeable character in the the suspicious George. Deborah Kerr is great as always as the fearful Martha. Filmed in England, the rest of the cast consists of seasoned British actors Portman as Clay, Peter Cushing, Ronald Howard as lawyers and the irrepressible Hermoine Gingold as Martha's friend Lilly Harris.

.

Shield for Murder
(1954)

O'Brien Goes Bad!
"Shield for Murder" gives star Edmond O'Brien (who also co-directed) a change of pace. He plays a cop who has for some unexplained reason, gone bad. He starts out by murdering a mob runner for the $25,000 he was carrying and making it look as though he had shot an escaping felon. The money belongs to gangster Packy Reed (Hugh Sanders) who sends his two "private detectives" after him.

Unfortunately for Barney Nolan (O'Brien) an old man (David Hughes) sees the crime from his window. Unbeknownst to all is the fact that the old man is deaf and dumb. Nolan explains to Captain Gunnerson (Emile Meyer) that the victim had been running away and that is why he had to shoot him. Nolan's partner Mark Brewster (John Agar) becomes suspicious.

Nolan has dreams for he and girlfriend Patty Winters (Marla English). He shows her through a model home that he hopes to buy while stashing the loot behind the house. The old man shows up at the police station and shows Nolan a note explaining that he saw the crime. Nolan quickly destroys the note and goes to visit the old man later that evening. The old man in the meantime, had written out a detailed description of the murder but was unable to identify the killer.

Nolan tries to bribe the old man but accidentally kills him in a blind rage. Brewster investigates and finds the note pad on which is written the old man's description of the first murder. He tries to arrest Nolan but Nolan escapes pursed by the two thugs Claude Atkins, Lawrence Ryle. Dressed as a beat cop, Nolan is on the run when....................................................................................

Edmond O'Brien was always better than his material. He gives a convincing performance here as the brutal cop gone bad. If I'm not mistaken, this was his only villain role in his career. John Agar and Marla English give adequate support. But I liked Emile Meyer another under rated actor as the police Captain. Also be on the look out for Richard Deacon, William Schallert, Robert Bray, Stafford Repp, Vito Scotti in other minor roles and Carolyn Jones as the girl in the bar. I would have liked to have known more of Nolan's background particularly how and why he turned bad.

The Criminal Code
(1930)

Gritty 30s Prison Picture!
"The Criminal Code" is best remembered as having given Boris Karloff his first substantial role, a role which lead to his casting as the Frankenstein's monster a year later.

The story centers around two main characters, Mark Brady (Walter Huston) and young Robert Graham (Phillips Holmes). Graham is arrested for killing, albeit accidentally, a man who had been harassing him in a speak easy. Graham is brought before District Attorney Brady who informs him that he must pay the price. Brady has the charge reduced to manslaughter and Graham is sentence to 10 years in prison.

Fast forward six years. Brady has just lost his attempt to become governor and has been appointed as warden of the prison (you guessed it) where Graham is incarcerated along with several others whom Brady had convicted while serving as D. A. Graham in the intervening years, has become unglued and is on the verge of losing it.

Brady on the prison doctor's advice, takes pity on him and allows Graham to serve as his chauffeur. As kit happens, Brady has a comely young daughter Mary (Constance Cummings in her first role). An attraction builds between the two.

In the prison, a prison break is planned. One of Graham's cell mates is involved. Unfortunately, the cell mate is killed in the attempt due to an informer. The informer is not targeted by the prisoners. Graham's other cell mate Galloway (Karloff) is given the task of carrying out the killing of the rat. Galloway, it seems, also has an "appointment" with brutal Prison Guard Captain Gleason (Dewitt Jennings) who had turned Galloway in earlier.

Galloway drugs housekeeper Kate (Ethel Wales) and sneaks into Brady's office while he is called away. Graham, who was told to wait there leaves the office as the murder is committed. When Brady and Graham both return and the body is discovered, Graham sticking to the prison code, refuses to name the killer and is placed in solitary. Mary pleads hkis case with her father. Galloway decides its time to keep his "appointment" with Gleason and.................................................

Walter Huston dominates the film as he usually did, as the ambitious Brady. Holmes makes a sympathetic circumstantial Graham and Cummings makes an impressive debut as the daughter in the unlikely situation of living inside a prison. Karloff, who had been around films since 1919 finally gets a role worthy of his considerable talent and the rest as they say was history. Look for a slim and very young Andy Devine as a convict and veteran bad guy Bob Kortman as the prison barber.

The Killer That Stalked New York
(1950)

An Omen for the Future???
"The Killer That Stalked New York" is a woman named Sheila Bennet (Evelyn Keyes) returning from Cuba having smuggled $40K worth of diamonds as well as bringing the dreaded small pox virus with her.

Sheila's husband Matt Krane (Charles Korvin) is in on the smuggling with her. He has been carrying on with Sheila's sister Francie (Lola Albright) in her absence. Treasury Agents Johnson (Barry Kelley) and Owney (Richard Egan) are on Sheila's trail. She goes to a seedy hotel where shifty Bellhop Danny (Walter Burke) sneaks her out of the hotel away from Johnson.

She goes to Matt and tells him that she had mailed the diamonds to him but they have yet to arrive. While trying to return to the hotel, Sheila becomes weak and is taken by cop on the beat Houlihan (Harry Shannon) to a nearby clinic staffed by Dr. Ben Wood (William Bishop in a good guy role for a change) and his nurse Alice Lorie (Dorothy Malone). Sheila comes in contact with a little girl that Dr. Wood had been treating and she bcomes infected with small pox.

The little girl is taken to the hospital where it is discovered that she has contracted small pox. This sets off the search for the carrier of the disease. Health Commissioner Ellis (Carl Benton Reid) heads up the investigation. The Treasury Department and the Health Department are unbeknownst to each other, for the same person.

Soon other people that Sheila has been in contact with begin to come down with small pox including the Porter at the bus station, her old boss nightclub owner Willie Dennis (Jim Backus) and a young boy (Tommy Ivo) who drank from the same water fountain as Sheila. Commissioner Ellis contacts the Mayor (Roy Roberts) who mobilizes city departments into administering life saving vaccinations to the unprotected citizens of which there are many.

Meanwhile, Matt receives the diamonds in the mail. He desets the ailing Sheila and goes to his fence who advises him that he will have to wait 10 days before he can pay Matt off. Sheila realizes that Matt has deserted her and goes to confront Francie. Francie becomes disillusioned and commits suicide while Sheila is away.

Sheila becomes obsessed with catching up with Matt. She learns from the fence that Matt will return for his money after 10 days. When Matt shows up the fence refuses to pay up so Matt kills him. As he tries to leave, he is met by Sheila who has a gun. In the interim, the police has learned of Sheila's identity and have advised the Treasury and Health departments.

Matt wrests the gun from Sheila but flees when he hears police sirens. He escapes to the roof of the building as the police and Sheila close in and..............................................................

In this budget conscious film, we are never given the back story of the smuggling or where and how Sheila contracted the virus. In any event, Keyes gives an excellent performance as the doomed Sheila. Korvin makes a dirty rat of a villain here as well. Reed Hadley provides the narration. A similar story was told in the 20th Century Fox film "Panic in the Streets" released earlier the same year.

One can't help but draw a parallel to the COVID-19 crisis of today (2021) which is far more serious.

The Glass Wall
(1953)

Snapshot of a Bygone Era!
"The Glass Wall" referred to in the title is the glass siding of the United Nations building in New York which figures in the climax of the story.

Vittorio Gassman in his first American film, plays a Hungarian refugee Peter Kaban who has stowed away aboard a shipload of legal immigrants escaping from war torn Europe. Kaban treis to explain his circumstances to Immigration officers Inspectors Bailey(Douglas Spencer) and Toomey (Michael Fox - who also narrates). Peter was a prisoner in the camps of Nazi WWII who managed to escape near the end of the war. He aided an American soldier to escape the Germans a fact he hopes will aid his entry into the U. S. The soldier, known only as Tom (Jerry Paris) is a clarinet player living somewhere in New York, Times Square in particular.

Immigration gives him 24 hours to prove his story or he will be deported back to Europe. Peter jumps ship breaking some ribs in the process. He wanders through Times Square in search of his friend Tom. Meanwhile Peter's story winds up in the newspapers and he is branded a fugitive.

In a cheap eatery, Peter saves a down and out girl named Maggie Summers (Gloria Grahame) from the police after she attempt to steal a coat from the diner. They wind up in Maggie's dingy room where she is harassed for back rent by the landlady (Elizabeth Slifer)). Her son Eddie has his eye on Maggie and forces his way into her room. He is confronted by Peter, a struggle ensues and Eddie is knocked out forcing Peter and Maggie to flee once again.

The police catch up to them in a subway station but Peter escapes. In the interim we meet Tom and his girl friend Nancy (Ann Robinson). Tom is an aspiring clarinet player who has just landed a gig with the Shorty Rogers Band featuring legendary trombonist Jack Teagarden. Tom sees Peter's picture in the paper and wants to go to his aid. Nancy pleads with Tom to take the gig which does at first, proving his ability, but leaves to help Peter.

At the Immigration office, Tom and Maggie who has also gone to help Peter, explain Peter's circumstances and offer to help. Inspector Bailey explains that Peter must be found before the refugee ship sails or he will be forever denied entry to the U. S.

Peter back on the street, comes across a sleazy nightclub where "dancer" Tanya (Robin Raymond) takes pity on him and brings him back to her home. Mrs. Zakoyla (Else Back) and Tanya, whose real name is Bella feed Peter and give him a place to rest. When Bella's ignorant brother Freddie (Joe Turkel) threatens to turn Peter in, Peter is forced to flee once again.

Inspector Bailey, Maggie and Tom frantically search for Peter and find him outside the United Nations building where he has gone to plead his case. He goes inside but is unable to find the help he needs. The others pursue Peter, who isun aware who is trying to catch up to him, continues up to the roof where.........................................................................

Gassman, who was a well known actor in his native Italy and married to Shelley Wi nters at the time, makes an impressive debut in his first American film. Grahame as the distraught Maggie and Raymond as the heart of gold dancer also impress. And we get to see and hear a solo by famed trombonist Jack Teagarden in the process.

Bad for Each Other
(1953)

Bad For Each Other's Careers!
With Charlton Heston and Lizabeth Scott heading up the cast od "Bad For Each Other", I expected more. It was presented as a film noir by Columbia Pictures, but it is not. What it is is a slow moving life among the rich and elite drama.

Heston plays Dr. Tom Owen, an army Colonel who is returning to his hometown of Coalville, Pennsylvania on leave. He goes home where he tries to console his mother (Mildred Dunnock) over the recent death of his brother. Later, as he walks through town, a burly miner Pete Olzonski (Chris Alcaide) socks him on the jaw over Tom's brother's mismanagement of mine safety that had caused an accident at the mine. Tom visits local doctor SCobee (Rhys Williams) who offers him a job once he leaves the service. Not wanting to remain in his dusty coal town, he decides to stay in the service.

Tom decides against his mother's objections to seek out mine owner Reasonover (Ray Collins) to find out what really happened. Tom learns that his brother had been caught up in the society life style and had embezzeled company funds and had skimmed off funds intended for safety equipment. At that meeting at a society party, Tom meets Reasonover's twice divorced daughter Helen Curtis (Lizabeth Scott). She sets her sights on Tom. When a party guest attempts suicide, Tom steps in and treats her, impressing the rich and elite present. Helen sets yup a meeting with socialite Doctor Gleeson (Lester Mathews) who offers him an associate job with his firm. Wanting only the best in life, Tom accepts.

An old acquaintance from his army days the now Dr. Jim Crowley (Arthur Franz) pays Tom a visit asking for a job. Tom decides to send him to Coalville and Dr. Scobee. Tom's recently hired nurse, the efficient Joan Lasher (Dianne Foster) takes a liking to Crowley. Meanwhile, Helen and Tom become engaged. Her father cautions against a marriage to his spoiled rich daughter. Tom doesn't listen. Helen's aunt, Mrs. Nelson (Marjory Rambeau) takes ill and requires an operation. Dr. Gleeson is unable to perform the surgery and has Tom do it for him. For this, Tom is offered a partnership which would mean riches beyond his wildest dreams. Joan is not impressed with Tom's ethics and quits him going to Coalville to join Crowley.

Tom is quire happy living the life of a socialite until he receives an urgent phone call from his mother informing him of a cave in at the mine. Tom comes to his senses and breaks off the engagement with Helen when she refuses to go with him to Coalville. Tom rushes to the mine where Crowley and Joan are trying to free trapped miners including Olzoneski. Tom joins them but........................................................................................

Heston basically sleepwalks through his role as the ambitious doctor and Scott, whose best days were behind her, is anything but the expected femme fatale here. Franz is essentially Tom Owens' conscience as the dedicated all for medicine small town doctor. Mildred Dunnock is the best thing in this film as the distraught mother. Foster looks lovely but has little to do other than be Owen's other conscience.

I'm sure that both Heston and Scott hadn't considered this film as one of their favorites.

Two of a Kind
(1951)

Show Me the Money!
"Two of a Kind" is a 75 minute black and white little thriller bolstered by it's impressive but small cast.

The story has snake in the grass lawyer (aren't they all?) Vincent Mailer (Alexander Knox) and his "assistant" Brandy Kirby (Lizabeth Scott) searching for small time hustler Michael "Lefty" Farrell (Edmond O'Brien). They have hatched a scheme whereby they will have Farrell impersonate the long lost son of millionaire William McIntyre (Griff Barnett). It seems that McIntyre's wife (Virginia Brissoc) is in poor health and he is in his seventies and not expected to live much longer. The plan is for Farrell as the son to inhereit McIntyre's considerable estate upon his death.

Farrell at first is not warm to the idea bit Brandy, in true film noire fashion, seduces him into agreeing to the ruse. In order to fully replicate the lost son, Farrell must agree to lose a part of the pinky on his left hand, which he reluctantly agrees to do.

Farrell is then hidden away by Mailer and Brandy to be properly fitted into the role and allow time for his finger to heal. Burly assistant Todd (Robert Anderson is left behind to "keep an eye on" Farrell. Brandy introduces Farrell to the McIntyre's flighty niece Kathy (Terry Moore) who vows to reform him. The plan is to convince Kathy that Farrell is the lost son and thereby introduce him to the McIntyres.

Mailer through his so called research, has convinced McIntyre that Farrell is the real McCoy. THe frail Mrs. McIntyre is also convince. Then McIntyre announces that he will not change his will to include Farrell. Taken by surprise by this development, Mailer hatches a plan to murder the old man before he can change his will. Brandy and Farrell however are against the murder and plan to stop Mailer and Todd and tell all to McIntyre. But.... McIntyre has a surprise for all of them and..................................................................

Edmond O'Brien and Lizabeth Scott both veterans of Film Noire, stand out as the small time hustlers in for the big score. Alexander Knox makes a formidable villain as well.

I would have thought that there would have been a couple of murders at least in such a story. But the film is a keeper nontheless.

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid
(1972)

The Not So Great Northfield Minnesota Raid!
"The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" takes place in 1876 and depicts the last attempt of a bank hold up by the notorious Jesse James/ Cole Younger gangs.

The Missouri legislature passes an amnesty for the gangs in recognition for their services against the railroads who were taking land away from farmers. The two gangs had been planning to rob the Northfield Minnesota bank but Cole Younger (Cliff Robertson) decides against it. Jesse James (Robert Duvall) and his gang proceed with their original plan. Cole at first tries to stop them and goes after them. During the pursuit, Cole learns that railroad interests have had the amnesty repealed. Chief Pinkerton detective (Herbert Nelson) continues the chase of the outlaws.

On their way to Northfield, the two gangs stop at the farm of an old granny (Madeleine Taylor Holmes) and help her keep her ranch. Moving on, the gang arrives in Northfield. Cole throws in with crooked bankers Wilcox (Robert H. Harris) and Bunker (Elisha Cook Jr. In order to lure the local citizens into depositing their money in the bank with the aim of taking it for themselves.

The gang is entertained by local brothel madam Kate and her "ladies" while the await the robbery attempt. Cole springs the trap on the bankers. However local townsmen led by Allen (Dana Elcar) and Manning (Donald Moffat) take up arms and foil the robbery. They pursue the remnants of the gang to granny's farm when...............................................................................

How true this story to the actual event is debatable, however the set pieces are realistic enough to depict 1876 Minnesota. The actors costumes are authentic as far as I can tell. Robertson as Cole Younger, is a forceful leader. Duvall plays Jesse James as a cold blooded killer and not the Robin Hood of the old west as he was often depicted. Also in the cast are Royal Dano (totally wasted) as the slightly mad Gustavson, Luke Askew as Jim Younger, R. G. Armstrong as Clell Miller and John Pearce as a clearly subordinate Frank James.

The Last Day
(1975)

The Daltons Ride Again!
"The Last Day" is a made for TV movie by producer A. C. Lyles who is best remembered for a series of westerns made mostly in the 1960s featuring casts of actors who had seen better days. This one is no exception.

Will Spence (Richard Widmark) is a retired gunfighter who has settled in the town of Coffeyville, Kansas with his wife Betty (Barbara Rush) and their young son. Bob Dalton (Robert Conrad) is planning a hold up of the town's two banks simultaneously. Dalton, who is living with his girl friend Daisy (Loretta Swit), decides that the time is right and rounds up his gang consisting of his two brothers, Grat (Richard Jaekel) and Emmett (Tim Matheson) along with Dick Broadwell (Christopher Connelly) and the boozy Bill Powers (Tom Skerritt).

Spence learns of the planned hold up from the bar tender. Dalton, meanwhile sends two gunman to town to kill Spence but he overpowers them. Young Emmett is at first reluctant to join the gang but relents. Marshall Ransom Payne (an all in black Morgan Woodward) has been trailing the Dalton's and arrives at Bob's shack after the gang has left for Coffeyville. He kills the guard left behind, confronts Daisy and then rides after the gang. Spence and town Marshal Connelly (Gene Evans) rally the town to foil the planned robbery. The gang arrives, proceed to rob the banks but Bob is delayed by a time lock in one of the banks. As they try to leave all hell breaks loose and.........................................................................

As you would expect, Widmark carries the film as the ex-gunfighter resisting strapping on his gun once more. He gets able support from Rush as his fearful wife , Conrad as the head baddie and Skerritt as the slovenly drunkard. Evans also is good as the aging marshal.

Better than most TV movies of the day. Narrated by Harry Morgan.

The Scalphunters
(1968)

Ultra Violent Comedy????
"The Scalphunters" was directed by one of my favorite directors...Sydney Pollack, however I think he missed the boat on this one. On one hand we have the light hearted relationships between star Burt Lancaster as Joe Bass a fur trapper and an escaped slave Joseph Lee (Ossie Davis), the evil scalphunter Jim Howie (Telly Savalas) and his prostitute girlfriend Kate (Shelley Winters) and the very graphic and violent raid carried out by the scalphunters and the Kiowas on the other hand.

The story has Bass coming down from the hills with his cache of beaver pelts that he has amassed over the winter. He is surrounded by Two Crows (Armando Sylvestre) and his Kiowa warriors. They "trade" a captured but well educated black escaped salve for his valuable furs. Of course Bass wants no part of this but is forced to accept the ex-slave. Bass and Joseph set out to follow the Indians and come upon them all liquored up and celebrating. Just as Bass is about to retrieve his furs, a gang of vicious scalphunters led by Jim Howie attack and brutally butcher the Kiowas taking their scalps in the process.

Bass and Joseph follow the gang but Joseph accidentally falls (literally) into their hands. Joseph, ever the schemer befriends Kate and learns that the gang is planning to go to Mexico where there is no slavery. He decides to throw in with them in spite of their mistreatment of him. Bass meanwhile carries out guerilla type raids on the camp to the point of starting an avalanche of rocks upon them. Just as Joseph negotiates the return of the furs, Two Crows, who had survived the previous attack, arrives with his braves and kills all of the scalphunters except for Kate and the other women. Howie has been killed by Bass previously in a sneak attack.

As all of this is going on , Bass and Joseph are engaged in a muddy fight when Two Crows discovers them and.....................................................................

As I mentioned earlier, the graphic and brutal violence just doesn't male sense in light of the director's attempts to inject comedy in to the proceedings. However, it was good to see Ossie Davis in major role as the educated ex-slave. Included in Howie's gang are Paul Picerni, Chuck Roberson (John Wayne's stunt double) and Lancaster's buddy from his acrobat days, Nick Cravat whom Lancaster always found a role for. In his films.

Bugles in the Afternoon
(1952)

Another Variation of Little Big Horn!
"Bugles in the Afternoon" was another telling of the Battle at Little Big Horn. This version tells the story from the point of view of two soldiers who hate each other over a previous confrontation.

In the opening, Capt. Kern Shafter (Ray Milland) is being stripped of his rank and dishonorably discharged over a disagreement with fellow officer Capt. Edward Garnett (Hugh Marlowe) in which Garnett was "run through". Shafter then travels west to Fort Lincoln, Nebraska the headquarters of General George Custer (Sheb Wooley). On the way west Shafter strikes up an amicable friendship with the comely Josephine Russell (Helena Carter).

On his arrival at the fort, Shafter re-enlists as a private (I don't know how this was possible since he had been drummed out of the army back east). Shafter discovers that Garnett is also at the post. An old acquaintance Capt. Myles Moylan (Barton MacLane) arranges with S/Maj. Hines (James Millican) to have Shafter assigned to him. Hines hands Sergeant's stripes formerly belonging to the high spirited Irishman Donavan (Forrest Tucker) Donovan challenges Shafter to a fight and comes to respect him.

Later, much to Shafter's chagrin, he discovers that Garnett is also interested in Josephine. Garnett manages to have Shafter assigned to him and sends him on dangerous life threatening missions in the hope that he will not return. Garnett and Shafter are a part of a scouting mission preceding the Little Big Horn battle. Garnett sends Shafter, Donovan and McDermott (John Pickard) on a suicidal mission. Garnett fails to prevent their ambush and both Donovan and McDermott are killed.

Shafter discovers the Little Big Horn massacre of Custer's command. Back in camp, Shafter confronts Garrett and.............................................................

Director Roy Rowland gives us plenty of action and beautiful scenery. There is a couple of well staged battles with the Sioux, however the main battle involving Custer is not shown. There are also a couple of fights, the first between Tucker and Milland and the second between Marlowe and Milland and their respective stunt doubles.

In addition to those mentioned above, there are several recognizable western vets in the cast. Look for Hugh Beaumont, Walter Coy, John Doucette, Harry Lauter, Bud Osborne and Bob Steele in smaller roles.

The Way West
(1967)

Disappointing Wagon Train Saga!
"The Way West" in spite of it's three major stars in the leads, is disappointing to say the least. There's little action and the the cross country trek becomes tedious and boring.

Kirk Douglas plays ex-senator William Tadlock who organizes the trek from Independence, Missouri to Oregon to start a new life. He coerces scout Dick Summers (Robert Mitchum) to be the scout. Lige Evans (Richard Widmark), his wife Becky (Lola Albright) and son Brownie (Michael McGreevey) are among the pioneers.

Tadlock is a hard driving leader who pusshes the train relentlessly westward. Along the way, they experience a hazardous river crossing during which Cavelli (Nick Cravat) a lone traveller, drowns. Brownie takes an interest in the young but naive Mercy McBee (Sally Field in her first film). She in turn set herssights on the married Johnnie Mack (Michael Witney) whose wife Amanda (Katherine Justice) is experiencing emotional problems.

After a roll in the hay, so to speak, with Mercy, Mack accidently kills a young Indian boy dressed in a wolf pelt. The Indian chief, whose young son was the murder victim pursues the train and demands "an eye for an eye". Tadlock asks the guilty party to come forward but when no one does he selects Brownie as the candidate to be hanged to appease the chief much to the anguish of Evans.. However, Mack steps forward and accepts his fate. His wife goes ballistic following the hanging.

Mercy discovers that she is pregnant with Mack's child and repels Brownie's offer to marry her. When the train arrives at a Hudson Bay fort (which should have been in Canada but is not acknowledged) they are greeted by Captain Grant (Patric Knowles) a Scotsman who invites the travelers to stay on. Brownie and Mercy get married by Preacher Weatherby (Jack Elam) who had stowed away under the McBee's wagon.

In order to force the train to continue, Tadlock creates a panic when he announces that there is a small pox infection in the train. Grant drives the train away and they continue their journey. They reach an impassable gorge preventing their reaching their destination. Tadlock proposes that they lower the wagons and animals to the river below with block and tackle. Moynihan (William Lundigan) a likeable Irishman is the first to try it but falls to his death.

Eventually all are lowered to safety. Tadlock is the last to be lowered but as he descends...........................

In addition to those already mentioned, this large cast includes many recognizable faces such as Harry Carey, Stubby Kaye, John Mitchum (brother of Robert), Roy Glenn and "B" western bad guy Roy Barcroft,

Where was the Indian attack?

Three Violent People
(1956)

Together Again!
"Three Violent People" re-unites stars Charlton Heston and Anne Baxter who had appeared together in DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" completed earlier that year.

Heston plays ex Confederate Captain Colt Saunders who is returning home following the Civil War. Baxter is Lorna Hunter a lady with a past who arrives in town and immediately tries to rob Saunders after he is knocked out in a street brawl. Lorna's friend Ruby La Salle (Elaine Stritch) warns her against this. Then in the most ridiculous part of the film, Colt awakens and suddenly decides (without explanation) that he is going to marry Colt. She suddenly falls in love with him and agrees to an instant marriage.

Colt and Lorna go to the Saunders ranch and find it in dis repair. Longtime vaquero Ortega (Gilbert Roland) explains that the carpetbaggers have descended on the area stealing away local ranch for taxes under the Provisional Government. Colt, it seems has a one armed brother Cinch (Tom Tryon) who still bears resentment against his brother for the tragic childhood accident that cost him his right arm.

At a neighboring ranch, Colt meets Commissioner Harrison (Bruce Bennett) and his "assistant" Cable (Forrest Tucker) who have taken over the ranch formerly run by a close friend. Harrison's assistant Massey (John Harmon) recognizes Lorna from her past life but she denies knowing him.

Harrison seizes the opportunity to grab the Saunders ranch by having Massey reveal Lorna's past to Colt. He does so and Colt develops a hatred for Lorna. Unbeknownst to Colt is the fact that Lorna has become pregnant. Cinch convinces Lorna to run off with him and a herd aof 300 horses that Ortega had hidden in the hills.

Colt, Ortega and his five sons pursue the rustlers and take back the herd. Colt orders Cinch to stay off the Saunders ranch or he will kill him. Colt forces Lorna back to the ranch to await the baby's arrival After the baby's birth Colt prepares to send Lorna way despite the pleadings of long time friend Ortega. Just as she is about to leave, Cinch arrives at the ranch and challenges Colt to draw down against him. Colt refuses.

Just then Harrison and Cable arrive and attempt to take over the ranch and...............................................

Heston and Tucker had appeared together in 1953's "Pony Express" as Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill Hickok respectively. Appearing as Ortega's sons are Ross Bagdasarian (of Chipmunks fame), Robert (Bobby) Blake and Jamie Farr (of TV's M*A*S*H). They didn't hide Tron's "missing arm" very well.

Too Late for Tears
(1949)

It's In the Bag!
"Too Late for Tears" is a gritty example of a Film Noir full of deception and deceit. Lizabeth Scott is the femme fatale here who destroys the men in her life over a bag of money.

Jane Palmer (Scott) and her husband Alan (Arthur Kennedy) are driving to a party one night when Jane asks Alan to turn around. Lurking in the shadows is someone waiting in a car. Suddenly another car speeds by and tosses a satchel into the Palmer's car. On opening the satchel a large amount of money is discovered. The car that was hiding on the side of the road begins to chase the Palmer's but they manage to evade their pursuer.

Back in their apartment, Jane pleads with Alan to keep the $60K in the bag but he wants to turn it over to the police. She gets Alan to agree to hold on to the loot for a week by putting it in the baggage check of the train station. Shortly thereafter Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea) posing as a detective knocks on the door.

Fuller soon reveals himself as the so-called owner of the bag. He slaps Jane around a bit but she manages to hold him off by telling him that the bag of money is safe but the ticket to redeem the bag cannot be found. Jane asks Danny to meet her by a lake in the park later. Jane convinces Alan to take her on a boat ride in the park. Unfortunately for Alan, Jane brings his service pistol along. The weapon discharges accidently killing Alan.

Jane coerces Danny to hide Alan's body at the bottom of the lake. Jane believes that the ticket to redeem the satchel is in the lining of Alan's coat which Danny has taken for himself. She plans to lure him to the country and murder him but he suspects something and foils the attemt.

One day Don Blake (Don DeFore) claiming to be Alan's old war buddy shows up. Jane is skeptical of Blake and arranges foe a real army buddy to come over and confirm Blake's identity. Meanwhile, Alan's sister Kathy (Kristine Miller) has become suspicious of her brother's sudden disappearance. While poking around Jane's apartment she discover the ticket in the bottom of a drawer. She and Blake form an alliance to trip up Jane.

Jane discovers that Blake has the ticket and takes it from him at gunpoint. She also discovers from the war buddy that Blake is not who he says he is. To silence Kathy, Jane has Danny procure some deadly poison which she plans to administer to Kathy. The police have been alerted to watch the baggage check counter for a woman redeeming a ticket for the satchel in question. Jane convinces a horny youth (Denver Pyle) to retrieve the bag for her which he does

Jane meets Danny in his room with the money. As he celebrates, Jane slips the deadly poison into his drink. She then flees for Mexico with the loot. Blake follows her to Mexico where his real purpose is revealed and.........................................

Lizabeth Scott plays Jane as a ruthless uncaring predator who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Everybody's favorite noir cad Duryea is outstanding as Danny. The role reversal between Jane and Danny is the real highlight of the film. DeFore is also good in his nice guy with a purpose role. Barry Kelley is around as Police Lt. Breach. And watch for ex Dead End Kid Billy Halop as the boat attendant.

Although the bag contains $60K in 1949 terms, it's value in today's dollars would be over $600K.

All My Sons
(1948)

Gritty Post WWII Drama!
"All My Sons" centers around the Keller family somewhere outside of Chicago in the years immediately following WWII. Joe Keller (Edward G. Robinson) the head of the family is a successful businessman. He plans to leave the business to his son Chris (Burt Lancaster).

The mother Kate (Mady Christians) is grieving over the loss of her second son Larry who was reported missing in action during the closing days of the war. We learn that during the war Keller's factory had shipped several defective airplane engine parts causing 212 planes to crash killing their pilots. Keller and his partner Herbert Deever (Frank Conroy) were charged over the incident. Keller was exonerated but Keller was sent to prison.

Keller's daughter Ann (Louisa Horton) unexpectedly arrives on the scene. She and Chris plan to be married but Kate vehemently opposes such a union because she still sees Ann as Larry's girl. Ann is treated with respect and stays in Larry's old room. When Chris announces his engagement to Ann, Kate becomes distraught. Joe reluctantly agrees to the marriage.

Ann's brother George arrives on the scene with an aim to take his sister back to Chicago. George feels that Joe is guilty of the defective parts scandal and that he framed his father who is still in prison. Gradually Kate convinces George to forgive and forget but Joe makes a slip. He tells George that he has never been sick a day in his life but George recalls that he was indeed supposed to be home sick when the faulty shipments were made by his partner during his absence.

Chris becomes suspicious of his father and goes to visit Deever in prison. Flashbacks tell the true story of what really happened at the factory that day. Meanwhile George convinces Ann to leave with him and the engagement is broken off. Ann returns later with a letter from Larry written the day before he died revealing a terrible secret.

Chris returns home, reconciles with Ann and confronts Joe over the contents of Larry's letter. It is here we are explained the meaning of the phrase "all my sons" and.................................................................

Robinson as always, delivers an outstanding performance as Joe the businessman who puts profit before common sense. Lancaster, just starting out shows his potential as a future star as Chris. Mady Christains almost steals the picture as the grieving mother and Louisa Horton as Ann makes an impression. Howard Duff also stands out in this excellent cast.

Also along as the Keller's neighbors are Lloyd Gough as Dr. Jim Bayliss, Arlene Francis as his nosy wife Sue, Harry Morgan as Frank Lubey and Elisabeth Frosa as his wife Lydia who apparently had a previous relationship with George Deever.

Excellent film.

Captive Wild Woman
(1943)

Animal Attraction!
"Captive Wild Woman" is another "mad scientist" movie from Universal set in a circus atmosphere.

Animal trainer Fred Mason (Milburn Stone) has returned with a stock of wild animals that he has procured for John Whipple's (Llomason'syd Corrigan's circus. Whipple's secretary Beth Coleman (Evelyn Ankers) is faithful girl friend. Mason's prize catch is an affectionate gorilla.

Beth's sister Dorothy (Martha Vickers) is suffering from a glandular disorder. She brings her to famed Dr. Walters (John Carradine) who is an expert in glandular research for treatment. Beth brings the doctor to the circus to show him around. When he sees the intelligent ape, he gets an idea.

With his trusty assistant Nurse Strand (Fay Helm) he arranges to have recently fired worker Gruen (Paul Fix) steal the ape from the circus. He then drugs the animal and begins a glandular transfer from Dorothy to the ape. Gradually the ape begins to morph into human form. Nurse Strand fears that Walters will kill the young Dorothy if he continues. Walters decides that the ape needs a new brain and guess whose brain he takes.

The ape is transformed into a beautiful young woman whom Walters names Paula Dupree (Acquanetta). He brings his creation to the circus where "Paula" savers Mason from an attacking lion. You see the ape had a crush on "Ole Doc" all along. Mason is impressed with Paula's ways with the animals and convinces Whipple to let him work with both lions and tigers with the assurance that Paula will keep them at bay. Paula sees Mason and Beth embracing and becomes jealous. She begins to change back into a gorilla. Before the transformation is complete Paula goes to Beth's home to kill her but is is driven away.

With the transformation now complete, Walters realizes that he needs to repeat the procedure. When Dorothy calls Beth to tell her that she is afraid, Beth goes to her. She finds her sister on the operating table and Walters eyes her as his next subject and..............................................................................................................

The wild animal sequences were the product of some stock footage featuring world famous animal trainer Clyde Beatty who can be plainly seen in the footage. Milburn Stone was cast largely because of his resemblance to Beatty. And yes, we are treated to a couple of Evelyn Ankers' trademark screams.

Night Monster
(1942)

Twas a Foggy, Foggy Night!
"Night Monster" was another of those foggy night pictures turned out by Universal in the 1940s. Top billed Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill have little to do this time around.

Rich and powerful but wheel chair bound Kurt Ingston (Ralph Morgan) has called the three doctors who had operated on him rendering him without limbs to his creepy mansion for a planned retribution. His unstable sister, Margaret (Fay Helm) has reached out to Dr. Lynne Harper (Irene Hervey) unbeknownst to Kurt for help.

Ingston maid Molly Carson (Janet Shaw) is leery of the goings on and quits her job. The chauffeur Laurie (Leif Erikson) is driving her to town when he pulls over and tries to come on to her. She flees and is picked up by Jed Harmon (Eddy Waller) who later brings her back to collect her possessions. Some one phones the gatekeeper Torque (Cyril Deleventi) to tell Harmon not to wait as Molly has decided to stay the night. Not true. When Molly finds Harmon gone she is forced to walk when she hears noises and winds up murdered.

The three doctors, King (Atwill), Timmons (Frank Reicher) and Phipps (Francis Pierlot) arrive. Dr. Harper whose car has broken down is rescued by Dick Baldwin (Don Porter), a mystery writer and friend of Ingston.

Ingston calls everyone to the living room to have his friend Agor Singh (Nils Asther) give a demonstration of the transfer of matter from one place to another. A skeleton magically appears along with a blood stain on the carpet.

The three doctors are murdered one by one and Police constable Cap Beggs (Robert Homans) is called in. Then Laurie is found murdered.When Baldwin spirits Dr. Harper away a mysterious figure emerges from within the house and begins to stalk the couple. Could this be the killer? Who is it?

Lugosi and Atwill are totally wasted in this film Lugosi is the sinister looking butler Rolf (the butler didn't do it) and Atwill the first doctor to be murdered not even half way into the film. Homans as the Police Constable is too old for his role, I thought.

Standard Universal fare.

Man Made Monster
(1941)

Chaney's First Foray into the Universal Monster Club!
"Man Made Monster" is memorable as Lon Chaney Jr.'s first monster movie. Here, he plays Dam McCormick a man who survived electrocution in a bus crash that killed the other passengers. Dr. John Lawrence (Samuel S, Hinds) an electro-biologist examines him in the hospital and is amazed that McCormick is showing no ill effects of the accident. He invites McCormick to his home.

Dr. Lawrence just happens to have a comely young daughter June (Anne Nagel) who takes an interest in Dan's well being along with her reporter friend Mark Adams (Frank Albertson). Lawrence also has everybody's favorite mad scientist Lionel Atwill as Dr. Paul Rigas, Lawrence's assistant performing experiments with electricity and it's effects on man.

Dr. Lawrence goes away to a convention and Dr. Rigas seizes his opportunity to experiment on Dan. Gradually he increases the doses of electricity into Dan's body until the poor man becomes no more than a shell of his former self. Finally Rigas gives Dan the maximum dose of electricity. Dan becomes super human and his skin begins to glow.

When Dr. Lawrence returns and questions Riga's methods, Riga has Dan who is now under Riga's influence, kill him. Dan is charged with murder and can only say under Riga's direction, "I killed him". Dan is sentenced to the electric chair but does not die in the execution chamber. Dan escapes and takes June across the moors until..............................................................

Lon Chaney Jr. would go on to everlasting fame in his next picture "The Wolf Man".

The Black Cat
(1941)

Who Was Responsible for the Cat's Meow?
"The Black Cat" is not to be confused with the far superior1934 film of the same name. It's a bit of a mess really given the cast.

The story revolves around a group of greedy relatives waiting around for rich aunt Henrietta Winslow (Cecelia Loftus) to die. Fodder for a mystery you say. Maybe, but for some unknown reason the studio decided to turn it into a Bob Hope type scary movie. They cast Broderick Crawford who was about as funny as top billed Basil Rathbone, as a bumbling real estate buyer and the annoying Hugh (woo woo) Herbert as an antiques expert. And who was responsible for that unreal cat's meow.

Henrietta defying reports of her impending death, reads her will to the waiting relatives. Montague Hartley (Rathbone, his wife Myrna (Gladys Cooper) and her son Richard (Alan Ladd) as well as Elaine Winslow (Anne Gwynne) and others have mixed reactions to their coming inheritances, To expedite matters, the old lady is murdered in the crematoriam where she had gone to cremate one of her cats that had taken poison meant for her.

We are then ex[posed to the usual secret passages and sliding panels as Hubert Smith (Crawford) and Mr. Penny fumble about. Bela Lugosi as Eduardo and Gale Sondergaard try their best to add some sinister element to the story. Finally, the murderer is discovered and that's it.

Rathbone is totally wasted in his role. A reference to "Sherlock Holmes" is made in passing. Lugosi, who had been in the 1934 version with Boris Karloff and Sondergaard, the future Spider Lady to Rathbone's Holmes are both wasted here as well. Alan Ladd was just about to emerge as a major star which Universal played up here.

Could have been a reasonable thriller if they had eliminated the comedic aspects.

Top Gun
(1955)

Who Was the Town Bully? Wasn't that..............
"Top Gun", not to be confused with the 1986 Tom Cruise film of the same name (but little else), is about a gunman returning to his home town of Casper Wyoming to warn the town of an impending raid by a gang of raiders similar to Quantrell's Raiders.

Rick Martin (Sterling Hayden is the so-called top gun in the territory with a history of killings. When he returns, he goes to the cemetery to visit his mother's grave. He is confronted by Marshal Bat Davis (James Millican) who questions him about Martin's reasons for his return. Martin explains that a gang of raiders headed by Tom Quentin (John Dehner) is planning to attack and sack the town.

Martin offers his services to Davis and the town, however Town Council members Ed Marsh (Hugh Sanders), Hank Spencer (Denver Pyle) and wealthy land owner Canby Judd (William Bishop) vehemently oppose it because of Marin's reputation. Martin goes to his one friend in town, hotel owner Jim O'Hara (Regis Toomey) for support. He next goes to visit his ex-sweetheart Laura Mead (Karen Booth) who he finds is now engaged to Judd.

Back in town, Martin is challenged by ambitious gunfighter Lem Sutter (Rod Taylor) which Marin turns down. Davis meanwhile is trying to mount a defense against the impending attack. He is only able to raise four deputies. The Town Council votes to have Davis send Martin out of town. Marin investigating his mother's untimely death discovers that Judd had cheated her out of her property and had her murdered.

Martin and Judd have a knock down drag out fight which Laura breaks up. Martin informs Judd that he has a score to settle before he leavers. Judd conspires with Sutter to confront Martin on his way to settle things with Judd. He does so but is gunned down by Martin. Martin is then arrested by Davis and locked up rendering him unable to aid in the town's defense.

Davis goes to meet Quentin and his gang outside of town to try and reason with him since they were old buddies. The slovenly Quentin guns the marshal down. O'Hara and the deputies try to hold the gang off but are all killed except for O'Hara. The rest of the townsfolk including Judd and the Town Council are hiding in the church.

The Town Council relents and plead with Martin to become Marshal in Davis' place. He reluctantly agrees and formulates a plan to trap the remaining gang members. He manages to do so until there is only himself and Quentin left. As the two face off, the oily Judd sneaks up behind Martin and.......................................

Sterling Hayden at 6ft. 7ins. or so, makes an imposing gunman. William Bishop specialized in sneaky behind the back bad guys in the 50s. Rod Taylor in an early role stands out as the town bully. John Dehner, always better than his material, is a nasty bandit. Millican and Toomey lend able support as well. And watch for western veterans Tom London as Casey, the bad guy that Quentin knocks through the campfire and John "Lefty" Cason as Ben, one of Quentin's gang.

Remade in 1964 as "The Quick Gun" with Audie Murphy.

Old Los Angeles
(1948)

Where was Zorro?
"Old Los Angeles" takes place in 1848 in old Californie during the gold rush period.

Bill Stockton (William "Wild Bill" Elliott) band his partner Sam Bowie (Andy Devine) have come to Los Angeles to join Bill's brother Larry (Henry Brandon) who has discovered gold. Unfortunately, Larry has been murdered by Johnny Morell (John Carroll) under the orders of snake in the grass saloon owner Luis Savarin (Joseph Schildkraut). Bill sets out to learn the truth about his brother's killing.

Bill meets Savarin's "entertainer" Marie Marlowe (Catherine MacLeod) and takes an interest. Morrell meanwhile, is smitten with Spanish singer Estelita Del Ray (Estelita Rodriguez) in spite of the objections of her younger brother Tonio (Tito Renaldo) and her old world mother Senora Del Ray (Virginia Brissac). Marshal Ed Luckner (Grant Withers) appears to be searching for Larry's killer but it is soon leaned that he too along with his deputy Clyborne (Roy Barcroft) are not on the up and up either.

Morrell and his gang continue to terrorize the locals (where's Zorro?) but Bill and Sam are getting closer to the truth. Morrell becomes ambitious when Savarin tries to exert his authority and kills him. Morrell kills Luckner who was going to shoot him, on the trail back to town. He then rounds up his gang and attacks the town where Bill, Sam and the townsfolk await and...............................................

Elliott had recently graduated to Republic studio's "A" list pictures, dropped the "Wild Bill" moniker but still wore two guns reversed in their holster. MacLeod and Rodriguez each get to sing a couple of standard Republic type songs, too many for my liking. Rodriguez and Devine were also working the Roy Rogers "Trucolor" western series at the time. I was glad to see two of my favorite Republic bad guys, Grant Withers and Roy Barcroft in the cast. John Carroll makes a likeable but lethal bad guy in this one. Oddly enough. Carroll played Zorro in a 1937 Republic serial.

Wait for the ending....it'll have you in tears.

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