"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hatfields & McCoys (History Channel, 2012)


Hillbilly Montagues and Capulets

 


 
This TV three-parter was the History Channel’s first venture in dramatized history. Fact or fiction, let’s call it faction. Most Westerns go for a pseudo-historical approach but usually play fast and loose with historical truths, concentrating more on action and romance – though quite a few claim factual accuracy, usually falsely. With the History Channel, however, we have a right to faithful presentation of the actual events, Western movie or not. I am not enough of a historian to know if the channel has delivered on that and given us the, er, real McCoy, but the TV shows do conform to what I have read anyway. As to the motives of the participants suggested, well, that is anybody’s guess.

The feud is so famous that the History execs, director Kevin Reynolds (who worked with Kevin Costner on Waterworld and Robin Hood) and scriptwriters Ted Mann, Bill Kerby and Ronald Parker were perhaps sticking their necks out. Many people think they know what happened, and, believe it or not, there are still partisans of one side or another. There had already been a 1975 mini-series, The Hatfields and the McCoys, with Jack Palance in the Devil Anse Hatfield role and Steve Forrest as Randall McCoy, but that was not renowned for its historicity. In 2012 they had to be more careful.

Casting Kevin Costner as patriarch Anse Hatfield was slightly weighting the balance. Costner is a goody. After all, he was the noble Army officer who befriended the Sioux in Dances with Wolves. He was the courageous, town-taming marshal Wyatt Earp. He fought for the rights of decent folk alongside Robert Duvall in Open Range. By casting him as a Hatfield, the producers (of which Mr. Costner was one) were slightly predisposing us viewers to one side. Still, the film does not scruple to give us prejudice and idiocies on both sides.
 
Costner is Devil Anse
 
It starts in the Civil War with fellow-Confederates Hatfield and McCoy fighting side by side. Anderson Hatfield is brave and saves Randall McCoy’s life but later deserts and returns home, which embitters Randall, who sticks it out and comes home much later to find Hatfield doing well from the timber business.

The events then unfold without glaring falsehoods and we get the theater-of-the-absurd trial of the pig – which has been et, your honor.
 
Paxton as McCoy patriarch
 
Randolph (or Randall) McCoy
 
The overriding impression one is left with is the stubbornness, the clenched-teeth gut-hatred but above all the sheer stupidity of these people. And fueled by locally-produced liquor and with firearms ubiquitous, grudges were almost bound to flare up into violence.

The Romeo & Juliet romance is made the most of (some Hatfields did in fact marry McCoys).
 
A rather dumb Romeo & Juliet
 
Of the actors, Costner is impressive and patriarchal, ditto Bill Paxton as the leading McCoy. Especially enjoyable is Powers Boothe as the Hatfield judge (though you can’t help thinking of his Cy Tolliver). I thought Tom Berenger excellent as the even-more moronic and violent Uncle Jim. Several of the actors (and make-up people) manage similarity to known photographs.
 
The Hatfield clan, 1897
 
TV version, 2012
 
The other impression I was left with is how long it is. The story spans decades, and it sometimes feels like it. This is something of a Costner failing, actually (Wyatt Earp and Dances with Wolves can feel interminable). As it is difficult to sympathize with one side or the other – they both seem complete morons – the series does begin to drag after a while. The total runtime of 290 minutes might usefully have been cropped. At least I was able to watch it on Netflix. The very frequent fades-to-black indicate that it must have been hell on earth to see it on TV.

It was filmed in Romania. I guess that’s the nearest we can get to nineteenth-century West Virginia/Kentucky terrain these days.

I liked bounty-hunter Bad Frank.

Andrew Howard as Bad Frank Phillips

As the crimes multiply you do find yourself wishing it came with a family tree. Who are these people? You just begin to lose track. People at the time probably did, too.

Well, you could watch it. It’s not bad. But you’ll need some stamina.

The originals
 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Lone Ranger (TNT, 2003)


The Lone Ranger rides (yet) again




 
 
The Lone Ranger first appeared in 1933, broadcast on a Buffalo, then on a Detroit radio station. The show was written by Fran Striker. Buffalo actor John L Barrett was the first masked man, a few weeks before George Stenius (who later changed his name to George Seaton) took over. Striker went on to script various Lone Ranger novels, two movie serials, and The Lone Ranger comic strip. We owe him much.
 
Fran the Great
 
Much earnest and scholarly historical research has revealed that the character was originally believed to be inspired by Texas Ranger Captain John R. Hughes, one of the 'four great captains', to whom the book The Lone Star Ranger by Zane Grey was dedicated in 1915. Though when you read about Hughes you find it hard to see why.
 
The 'four great captains', John Hughes on the left. He doesn't look much like Clayton.
 
In 1949 the masked man moved to TV. Perhaps, on radio, he hadn’t even been wearing a mask. A frightening thought. Eight small-screen series followed, for a total of 221 episodes, and it was a big hit for ABC. As a small boy I thought it was the best thing ever. The masked man, as everyone knows, was Clayton Moore. Clayton's tenure was interrupted. There were legal wrangles – the whole Lone Ranger franchise has been beset by lawsuits - and he was replaced in series 3 by John Hart (who played the crusading newspaper editor in the 1981 movie). Clayton rode again, though, from series 4 on.

Tonto was the great Jay Silverheels. The character Tonto hadn’t even appeared until the eleventh episode of the radio serial but thereafter was essential to the whole show. The Lone Ranger had to have someone to talk to. But poor Tonto was basically a servant and often had to take instructions, meekly saying, “Me do.”
 
Scout, Tonto, the Lone Ranger, Silver - the proper ones
 
The Lone Ranger and Tonto made it to the big screen as well as the small one. There have been five movies (not counting the 1949 TV pilot, Enter The Lone Ranger): The Lone Ranger in 1956, The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold in 1958, The Return of the Lone Ranger in 1961 (yet to be reviewed, shame on me), The Legend of the Lone Ranger in 1981, and the big Disney The Lone Ranger in 2013.

But in 2003 Turner made a TV-movie, entitled simply The Lone Ranger.
 
 
It’s a very 21st century take on the tale. It is accompanied by turn-of-the-century rock music and stars young actors with perfect teeth and tans. The dialogue – and the diction of the cast delivering it – is anachronistically modern. It was directed by Jack Bender, about whom I know little. Present day politically correct elements are introduced. All in all, it is pretty ordinary. Still, I suppose it’s no worse than many of the B-Westerns of yore.

A young boy dreams of a white horse, then he is suddenly grown up and on a stagecoach West. It is a certain Luke Hartman (no Reids here), graduated in law from Harvard, going to join his Texas Ranger brother Harmon in Dallas. Harmon rides off with other (badge-wearing) Rangers to track down a gang of Regulators selling guns to the Indians (a crime in Westerns that comes somewhere on the scale of wickedness between cannibalism and matricide). This gang surprises the Rangers in camp and slaughters them. These bad guys are not headed by the wicked Butch Cavendish, though, but by a turncoat Ranger, Kansas City Haas (Dylan Walsh).

Luke rode out to join his brother but though badly wounded, he survives. In town before leaving he had gallantly saved an Indian girl (Anita Brown) from some thugs in an alley and the girl’s brother, Tonto, is duly grateful. So Tonto follows Luke and is on hand to nurse him back to health.

This Luke, who will, obviously become the Lone Ranger, is played by Chad Michael Murray. I don’t know any of these actors. He’s OK, I guess. Tonto is Nathaniel Arcand, ditto. They both look very young but that’s alright.
 
The masked man and Tonto, 2003-style
 
Now we enter a period when Tonto (advised by his wise shaman Wes Studi, who adds a bit of weight to the cast) becomes apprentice to Tonto, learning Indian skills. He finds it hard when urged to free his spirit. “I’m from Boston. I don’t have a spirit.” (So there is one good line at least). There’s some mumbo-jumbo when he eats some jerky that Wes gives him and hallucinates, seeing the ghosts of his brother and dad. He also meets Silver. There are some continuity issues as he was all unshaven and dirty when tripping but is suddenly all clean and shaved. Still, he soon becomes an honorary Apache (yes, Tonto is an Apache this time) and has mastered all sorts of kung-fu-like martial arts.
 
Don't worry, Nothing homoerotic. They invented a sis for Tonto so the masked man could canoodle with her
 
It’s all family-friendly. Luke gets it on with Tonto’s sis in the bath in soft focus but discreetly, you understand (anyway then he wakes up and it was all a dream), and our hero is a substitute dad to his little nephew. “I love you, Uncle Luke.” It’s all heart-warming, sigh.

The dialogue is weak, occasionally asinine. “Sometimes I feel like my heart’s just gonna burst out, go flying around, make a big mess. You ever feel like that?”
 
Tonto's sister, the masked man's inamorata
 
Well, it all goes on and Tonto and the new Lone Ranger, given his mask by Shaman Studi (rather creepily made from his dead brother’s leather vest) kill Kansas City, beat the bad guys and, rather suddenly, the strains of Rossini rise, the masked man and his sidekick gallop off and it’s the end.

Well, quite a bit of the Lone Ranger lore is here, though there are no silver bullets. Luke is neither Lone nor a Ranger. It’s unobjectionable but it’s rather saccharine and, I don’t know, I wouldn’t want to watch it again.
 
Slightly creepy
 
It’s actually difficult to see who it was aimed at. Judging by the youth of the cast and the music, it was for late teens or early twenty-somethings. But they wouldn’t have heard of the Lone Ranger and wouldn’t probably care if they had. It’s too ‘young’ to be aimed at old duffers like me.

Any of the other versions would be a better watch. I gave it two revolvers instead of one because, well, they made a Lone Ranger picture, so they deserve some credit.
 
 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Southwest Passage (UA, 1954)


Rod drives camels to California
 
 
 
 
 
 
Southwest Passage is a curious Western in some ways in that it centers on a bold explorer/pioneer, Edward Fitzpatrick Beale (Rod Cameron), trying to find a way into California by traversing what looks sometimes like the Sahara with a train of camels. It’s not every day you get camels in Westerns (though it has been known).
 
 
In other ways, the movie is a classic mid-50s B-Western. It was produced by Edward Small’s company Eclipse, which had been going, under different names, since the early days of talkies and had produced the 1936 Last of the Mohicans (the Randolph Scott one), the 1940 Kit Carson, and the 1951 Texas Rangers (the George Montgomery one), among other Westerns.
 
Rod Cameron leads the camel train. That's a bearded Big Boy on his left as scout.
 
Small got Ray Nazarro to direct. Nazarro had started directing shorts on Poverty Row in the 30s and was then an assistant director on Columbia Westerns for years, directing himself from 1945. He made a lot of those Durango Kid ones starring Charles Starrett. Later he did TV work (especially Annie Oakley and Fury) but for the big screen he did quite a few Rory Calhoun, George Montgomery and Sterling Hayden oaters. One of my favorites was The Lone Gun, the same year as Southwest Passage. B-Westerns, maybe, but he knew his job and his pictures were solid and reliable.
 
Ray Nazarro, right
 
One good thing about Southwest Passage is the cast. Cameron was OK, as always, tall and solid if a touch uninspired, but backing him up were Mr. & Mrs. Ireland (John Ireland and Joanne Dru), Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams as the scout Tall Tale, Douglas Fowley as an outlaw gunman, Morris Ankrum as an alcoholic charlatan doctor and a perfectly splendid John Dehner as the really nasty bad guy. It was an excellent line-up.

I always liked John Ireland (left) in Westerns. He was one of those who tended to get small parts in A-pictures or the lead in Bs but that’s OK. He had a stunning start as Billy Clanton in My Darling Clementine and Cherry Valance in Red River (you can’t ask for better beginnings than that) and of course Joanne was in Red River too. He would return to Tombstone later as Johnny Ringo in Gunfight at the OK Corral. He shot Jesse James for Samuel Fuller in Fuller’s trash-B in 1949, was Bitter Creek in Gordon Douglas’s Doolins tale the same year, and was often the bad guy – try, for example, the excellent Vengeance Valley in ’51. I thought he was outstanding in the Lippert B Little Big Horn that year too. He was director, producer and one of the stars of the interesting Hannah Lee: An American Primitive, a Tom Horn-ish story, in 1953. It was a good Western career. In Southwest Passage he plays a bank robber on the run who buys the drunken vet’s frock coat and doctoring bag in the first reel and joins Rod’s camel expedition posing as a doctor to get to California.

And Joanne Dru (right, in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon) was great, I thought. She plays Ireland’s inamorata (so the lovey-dovey scenes are realistic) who stands by her man though she disapproves of bank robbin’. “You can’t start a clean life on dirty money,” she tells him gravely. She catches up with the train and is allowed by Cameron to join. She finds Rod noble and bold and John starts to get a bit jealous. Joanne too had a stellar start in Westerns, as Tess in Howard Hawks’s Red River and then as the ribbon-wearing Olivia in John Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, then back with Ford in ’50 as Denver in Wagonmaster. Wow. Vengeance Valley and Hannah Lee followed, and this was her sixth oater. She was beautiful and strong. She did do some weaker Westerns later but really, after that start there was nowhere else but down.

Apaches and thirst beset the train, as was usual in such Westerns. This one was made towards the end of the brief early-50s 3D craze, so there are barrels thrown into the camera, Big Boy lunging at us with a pitchfork, and so on, all to give the audience a thrill, but of course 99% of viewers saw it in 2D, and we all do now. It was shot by Sam Leavitt, an Oscar winner who, however, did few Westerns (he was DP on Major Dundee, though). The Kanab, Utah locations are well photographed, I must say, in good color.

The train’s mule skinner (Dehner) is very unpleasant. He thinks it’s amusing to force pork into the mouth of one of the Arab camel drivers, and he lusts after Joanne, especially when Joanne is bathing in one of those convenient pools that they often just happen upon in Westerns when the heroine wants a bath. He overhears Joanne and John talking about the gold and determines to get it for himself. He’s not too bright though (in fact Big Boy tells him, “When they gave out brains in Tennessee you musta been in New Orleans”) so he comes to a sticky end.
 
'Doc' Ireland patches Dehner up - but will eventually do the reverse
 
Well, the Apaches mount a big attack at the end, Ireland is heroic and saves the day, then gives up the gold, thus securing Joanne, and they all (except John Dehner) live happily ever after.

Er, spoiler alert. Oops, too late.

It got up to three revolvers for the cast and the camels.

Mr. & Mrs. Ireland



Friday, August 25, 2017

Town Tamer (Paramount, 1965)


A pure 1950s Western in the mid-60s




 
 
Paramount were still releasing 1950s B-Westerns in 1965. Town Tamer could easily have been made ten years before, and with the same cast. In fact its cast is the best thing about it: it’s a veritable Burke’s Peerage of Western character actors.
 
Classic stuff
 
Producer AC Lyles (born 1918) was asked by Paramount to do a Western when they realized they had none on their schedule of releases. They asked him how many he could do a year and he replied "five". He was given the green light to produce more second features for the studio. He filled his cast with many older, experienced actors who were his friends.

Writer Frank Gruber (1904 - 69) churned out Western stories, novels and original screenplays for decades. He was responsible for The Kansan in 1943 and White Comanche in 1969 and 208 others in between. It was he who said that there are only seven Western plots. If you are interested, they are:

1.       Union Pacific story. The plot concerns construction of a railroad, a telegraph line, or some other type of modern technology or transportation. Wagon train stories fall into this category.

2.       Ranch story. The plot concerns threats to the ranch from rustlers or large landowners attempting to force out the proper owners.

3.       Empire story. The plot involves building a ranch empire or an oil empire from scratch, a classic rags-to-riches plot.

4.       Revenge story. The plot often involves an elaborate chase and pursuit by a wronged individual, but it may also include elements of the classic mystery story.

5.       Cavalry and Indian story. The plot revolves around "taming" the wilderness for white settlers.

6.       Outlaw story. The outlaw gangs dominate the action.

7.       Marshal story. The lawman and his challenges drive the plot.


Town Tamer, by the way, is a combination of 4 and 7.

Director Lesley Selander (1900 – 79) was one of the most prolific directors of feature Westerns in cinema history, having taken the helm of 107 Westerns between his first feature in 1936 and his last in 1967. He was a real pro, reliable and skillful, who brought in his pictures on time and on budget.
 
Lyles, Selander, Gruber
 
Dana Andrews topped the billing, looking a bit long in the tooth (there’s a scene when he looks at the teeth of a horse he is thinking of buying and I wondered if the producer and director did that to him). In the script it is said that he is forty; actually he was in his late fifties and does rather look it. But heck, who am I to talk? He does his quiet, solid, brave act, a bit like Joel McCrea I think.
 
Dana cleans up the town
 
Chief villain is good old Bruce Cabot as the crooked saloon owner Riley Condor. After rescuing Fay Wray from King Kong he was Magua in the 1936 Last of the Mohicans, did several of the Errol Flynn Westerns, was screen-tested for John Wayne’s part in Stagecoach, became Duke’s drinking buddy, and was just great in Western after Western. Lyles had used him on Law of the Lawless in ’64.
 
Saloon owner Bruce Cabot better watch out: Dana's coming
 
In the first reel he pays hired gun Lee Ring $2000 to kill Marshal Tom Rosser of Broken Lance, Kansas (Dana). Ring makes a hash of it, though, accidentally killing the marshal’s wife Carol (Western stalwart Coleen Gray, in her last oater). And who should Lee Ring be but Lyle Bettger! One of my favorite villains. Later, Dana goes up to the railroad boom town of Great Plains, Montana on a revenge quest where Condor has a new saloon and has treed the town. And who has Condor appointed as marshal? Why, Lee Ring, of course.
 
Gunman Lyle
 
And Richard Jaeckel is his thuggish deputy. And Philip Carey, whose character’s name is, amusingly, Akins, is Condor’s henchman in the saloon. See what I mean? It’s shaping up to be a great cast.

But I haven’t finished yet. Barton MacLane is the railroad baron who wants to oust the crooks and bring law ‘n’ order to Great Plains. Mayor of the town and liveryman is Lon Chaney. DeForest Kelley is a slimy gambler. Don ‘Red’ Barry is a cowboy after the bounty Condor has put on Rosser’s head. Richard Arlen is the doc. Bob Steele is in town too. And writer Frank Gruber is the hotel clerk! I bet they were all having huge fun.
 
Lon leads the vigilantes
 
Well, even without a badge Dana cleans up the town (whence the title) and he does it with toughness, too. It all climaxes, as it had to, in a gun battle in the saloon which results in more bodies than Act V of Hamlet.

The ensemble verges on a parody of a 50s Western – but an affectionate one. I loved it!

 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Drango (UA, 1957)


Django? Rango? No, Drango.






Reader John Knight, commenting on my review of The Vanquished, recommended Drango, a late 50s Jeff Chandler Western which in some ways is a reverse take on the Reconstruction story in The Vanquished, and which also goes for a noir rather than a Southern-Gothic vibe.

So I watched it.

It was made by Chandler’s Earlmar Productions, the company’s only picture. "It's no Indian story," said Chandler. "Let Cochise rest in peace." He had of course been Cochise three times in movies and had had enough. It is interesting though that in his Westerns Chandler almost invariably played an Indian or an Army man. In Drango (the ninth of his thirteen oaters) he is the latter.

I like Chandler in Westerns. A burly New Yorker, he nevertheless convinced as a Westerner. Though a good tough guy, he always seemed vulnerable somehow, or suffering some inner hurt. In this black & white B-Western, which has a dark, intense tone, he is excellent as the troubled major trying to live down the war.
 
Jeff
 
The picture opens with scenes that simply must have influenced the Italian makers of spaghetti westerns like Leone and Corbucci (who were real fans of 50s American oaters) because if you took the opening of Drango, reshot it in lurid colors and added lousy dubbing it would be a perfect spaghetti. Even the title, of course: Drango is not far away from Django… And after a boy on lookout has shouted out to the townsfolk “They’re comin’!” we see Jeff galloping in, and just as the rather sensational DRANGO comes up on the screen so we hear a classic 50s ballad begin which would have been ideal for spaghetti. “Drango!” cries the singer, and the title song of Django runs through your head.
 
Drango!
 
But don’t confuse Drango with Django (or Rango for that matter). For one thing, Drango is good.

Yes, it’s a Reconstruction story again. Westerns quite liked this theme. The Vanquished, The Texans, The Raiders, Three Violent People and Thunder over the Plains are just some other examples. There’s never anything good at all about Reconstruction. These post-Civil War Westerns are stories of crooked Northern carpetbaggers who exploit the noble (white) Southerners, and tell of a brave ex-soldier who stands up for Right and foils them. The intro text of The Texans tells us: “The South was ruled as a conquered enemy. Northern politicians wallowed in an orgy of power – of plunder … of tribute and tyranny and death.”

This time, though, there is a more sensitive take on the subject. The new military governor, Major Clint Rango (who thinks up these names?) – that’s Jeff, of course – is a decent man who genuinely wants to help the suffering town of Kennesaw Pass, Georgia. The townspeople, however, loathe the very sight of his uniform (townsman Chubby Johnson in a Confederate cap is often seen spitting at it) and will do nothing to help him, even at the cost of worsening their own suffering. Doh. But they had their reasons, I suppose.
 
Villain Ron Howard
 
The major and his adjutant call immediately on Judge Allen (Donald Crisp) in his run-down mansion. Crisp, a favorite actor of John Ford’s, was never very suited to Westerns, I thought. Too posh, too English. He couldn’t handle a Westerner’s ain’t for the life of him. But he could get away with a judge role. Though Judge Allen is noble(-ish) he has a seriously slimy semi-insane son, Clay, played by another Brit, Ronald Howard (Leslie’s son), on his US debut. Both these Allens are not very welcoming to the new military governor because a matter of months before this Sherman had passed through and, they say, his men did not behave with the utmost decorum. In fact they sacked the place. But the younger Allen, the Howard one, doesn’t just hate the bluecoats; he has a plan to restart the war and this time the Confederacy will win.

Right away Drango bungles a case. Calder, a Unionist (Morris Ankrum), has killed a member of a Reb lynch mob in self-defense and he is afraid of being murdered as a result. Against the advice of Calder’s daughter Kate (Joanne Dru, with little make-up, unglamorous, stony), Drango convinces the man to stand trial. Only the decent doc (Walter Sande) will stand as a juror though. Everyone else, including the parson (Barney Phillips), says Calder should be hanged. While the governor is waiting to recruit some more jurors, Calder is dragged from his cell and in a grim scene (the mob have torches that give a KKK vibe) he is hanged by the townsmen, incited by Clay Allen. Kate blames Drango for her father’s death and hates him for it. But we sense she’ll come round… Actually, la Dru was a last-minute replacement for Linda Darnell, but I’m glad.
 
Joanne
 
Now we see Drango gradually sympathizing more with the town’s plight, and as he does so, the hatred of some of the more rational townspeople thaws. White townspeople, natch. As was usual with these movies, there are no African-Americans in the cast and slavery is not mentioned. It’s an entirely white affair. Still, we do see a slightly more nuanced view than was usual. Drango battles his own repressive high command (in the shape of Col. Milburn Stone) to get more food and medical supplies. He unconsciously tells the colonel that “we” won’t survive the winter without. “We?” says the colonel. The idea is that after the assassination of Lincoln the Army went for a harder line. This is rather the reverse of The Vanquished, where the local Army presence is corrupt but the top brass back at HQ full of integrity.

Drango sets up a school (though no children attend, thanks to their bigoted parents) and a hospital. Still, even the children spit at him. There’s an angry adolescent boy (David Stollery), maybe twelve or so, who has been left an orphan by the war and has to bring up his smaller siblings. He spits hard. But slowly, slowly, they come round, the newspaper editor, the parson, an old woman who hated Unionists viscerally, even the boy.
 
Worth the purchase price
 
There’s a sub-plot: Shelby Ransom (Julie London) is a Southern belle with her own mansion and she is Clay Allen’s lover. She provides Clay's mob with shelter and financial backing. We can see she despises Clay, though. London was in several Westerns before her singing career took off, and rather good in them she was, too. Tap Roots, Saddle the Wind, Man of the West and others all benefited from her charms. Drango’s aide, Capt. Banning (John Lupton) falls for those charms and so there’s a neat pairing off - but the evil Clay will have to be disposed of first.

Well, it all comes to the inevitable climax and of course the bad guy is bested and the good guy gets the girl. No spoiler there, I think. From that point of view, it's a case of ‘been there, done that’. But still, this Western has a thoughtful theme, an intelligent script and some good acting. And the direction, by Jules Bricken and Hal Bartlett (Bartlett also wrote it) is competent. Bartlett was the producer of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but we can’t hold that against him. Oh, alright then, we can. He specialized in ‘social problem’ films. Bricken was a TV director, especially of Riverboat, and this was his only Western feature. I don’t know why they had two directors.
 
OK
 
The cheesy ballad at the top, sung by cowboy actor Rex Allen, was written by Elmer Bernstein, no less, with lyrics by Alan Alch. The rest of Bernstein’s score tends sometimes to the melodramatic but is often somber and grim, in keeping with the tone of the movie. Visually too, this grimness is enhanced by fine James Wong Howe cinematography of the Louisiana locations. What a masterly photographer Howe was.

A B-Western, but well done and worth a watch.