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

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Last Sunset (Universal, 1961)

50s-style Western with modern tinges

I reviewed The Last Sunset back in July 2010 but I watched it again yesterday and I’d like to revise my opinions somewhat.

I’ve never been a great fan of the Westerns of Robert Aldrich (left). He was involved in one capacity or another with eight or nine (depending on your definition of a Western). One he directed was absolutely outstanding. I am thinking of Ulzana’s Raid with Burt Lancaster (one of Aldrich’s favorite actors). That was a superbly written, directed and acted movie, a fine Western. I am also fond of The Ride Back, a film he produced, directed by his sort-of protégé Allen Miner, a minor B-Western in many ways but beautifully done, with William Conrad and Anthony Quinn both excellent. But, for me anyway, that was all she wrote. Vera Cruz, a 1954 blockbuster which Aldrich directed and which was co-produced by Lancaster, has its admirers but I am not one, despite its starring Gary Cooper (and Lancaster). It’s an overblown farrago and actually, I think, rather cynical. Lancaster as a blue-eyed Bronco Apache was less than convincing in Apache the same year, a rather plodding picture. 4 for Texas, a Sinatra vehicle of 1963, was very bad indeed, junk, in fact, directed and acted in a slapdash way and neither funny nor even properly Western. And Aldrich’s last Western, The Frisco Kid, was among the worst I have ever seen, toe-curlingly, embarrassingly awful.

The Last Sunset, however, falls in the middle. It’s not dreadful but it’s not all that good either, though it has its points.

It pairs Rock Hudson with Kirk Douglas. Not so much Kirk, but Rock often did Westerns in harness with another big name, rather than starring on his own. Bend of the River with James Stewart, Horizons West with Robert Ryan, The Undefeated with John Wayne, Showdown with Dean Martin, he ‘did’ co-stars. Hudson didn’t do that many Westerns (11, again depending on your definition) but the ones he did were pretty good, and he was directed in them by the likes of Anthony Mann (twice), Budd Boetticher (twice) and Raoul Walsh (twice), as well as by Aldrich. He rode well, was good as a tough guy and, I thought, convinced in the genre.

Rock is the tough-guy lawman

As for Douglas, he had started in our noble genre not altogether convincingly, in Along the Great Divide (also with Walsh), had done The Big Trees and The Big Sky, the latter with Howard Hawks, The Indian Fighter (André de Toth) and Man Without a Star (King Vidor), and had been directed twice by John Sturges in the late 50s in Westerns (Gunfight at the OK Corral and Last Train from Gun Hill) before doing this one, so he was pretty experienced in the genre. His late Westerns would drop off in quality but he too had a certain something with a Stetson and a gun.

In this one that pistol wasn’t a Colt .45 but, unusually for a gunman, a derringer (so you may imagine that earned the movie another revolver from Jeff). It’s an unusual gun for a goody, or even for a semi-goody as here, usually being reserved for louche gamblers, town crooks and saloon women, though of course you can think of the odd exception – John Wayne had one in Big Jake (it saved his grandson) and even Marshal Randolph Scott got a villain with one in A Lawless Street, and you don’t get goodier than that. Still, usually derringers were sneaky little pop guns, and an odd choice for a gunslinger. Kirk explains in the dialogue that no handgun is accurate at more than twenty feet anyway and a derringer packs a bigger slug. Mmm. I think if two gunmen are facing off in a showdown at twenty feet, the one with a derringer is going to be at a distinct disadvantage. There used to be a video on YouTube, since removed I think, in which an expert hit a target with only one of the two shots at 15 yards, and (just) hit twice at seven yards. Still, it makes a change. When Kirk does finally face off with Rock and his Colt .45, it’s the Colt that wins, though for a particular reason.

Douglas went for a slinky look-at-me all-black costume that hovers on the brink of silly.

Gunfighter with a derringer

Aldrich hit it off with Hudson, finding him professional and unselfish, but the Aldrich/Douglas relationship on the set was less harmonious. The picture was a Bryna Productions one. Bryna (named for Douglas’s mother) was Kirk’s company. He had set it up in 1955, inspired by the success of Burt Lancaster in moving into production. So Douglas felt proprietary towards the picture and that Aldrich was his employee. This didn’t go down well with Aldrich.

Producer, cinematographer, director - all was not sweetness and light

Dorothy Malone was the leading lady. I have a real soft spot for Ms. Malone (who died last year, aged 93). I thought she was beautiful and very good in Westerns. I would mention specially Colorado Territory with Joel McCrea (Walsh again), The Nevadan and Tall Man Riding with Randolph Scott, Jack Slade with Mark Stevens (she saved Jack with a derringer in that one), The Lone Gun with George Montgomery, At Gunpoint and Quantez with Fred MacMurray, and Warlock with Widmark, Quinn and Fonda – it’s a pretty impressive list. In The Last Sunset she plays an ex-flame of Kirk’s who falls for Rock. Once her hubby is dead, anyway. Lauren Bacall apparently turned down the role, disliking the subject matter (see below under daring).

Always excellent, good here too

The husband was Joseph Cotten, poor as ever (he was only good in one Western -Two Flags West) and in this one he plays a drunk, an ex-Confederate office who ran away at Fredericksburg. He is shot to death in a squalid cantina, freeing up Dorothy to get lovey-dovey with Rock and improving the picture by being written out mid-way. I’m being unkind. He wasn’t that bad. He just seems to overact. He would overdo the drunk again as Major Reno in The Great Sioux Massacre a few years later. Actually, I think it’s hard to play a drunk convincingly in a movie. Thomas Mitchell did it well (and quite often) but then he was a recovering alcoholic. IMDb tells us that Cotten brought all his own food and water from the States to the shoot in Mexico, but it was to no avail. He was the first of the film crew to fall sick.

Cotten rotten

Also in the cast is the young Carol Lynley as Malone’s daughter. She looks a lot like her ‘mother’, in fact. She is supposed to be fifteen, a girl on the threshold of womanhood, and she does it rather well (she was in fact 17). This part of the plot is rather daring because she falls for the dashing gunman in black (Douglas). He at first treats her as a little girl but comes to reciprocate her passion. The film wasn’t risqué enough to have the couple consummate their desire (it was made in 1959 Hollywood after all) but they do kiss, then there are oblique references to suggest more. We are on the very verge of creepy here. Of course it turns out that the girl is his daughter (she manages to look also vaguely like him) and this shocks Kirk’s character to the core, as it would, of course. The picture was also known as El Perdido. In some ways this is more of a family tragedy than a Western.

Neither knows but

Pretty little girl in a yellow dress

And further down the cast list we have the joy of spotting Neville Brand and Jack Elam as cowhand/crooks, and the excellent Jackboy as Jackboy, the dog. I also rather liked Margarito Luna and José Torvay as the Mexican ranch hands (rather disgracefully uncredited). They had an almost Greek-chorus role. They could sing a sight better than Kirk, too.

Excellent bad guys

So the cast is pretty strong.

It’s a good-looking picture, with nice Eastman Color photography of attractive Sonora and Durango locations (most of the picture is set in Mexico) by Ernest Laszlo, whom Aldrich used on four of his Westerns.

The music, by Ernest Gold, is also well done. The main theme was by Dimitri Tiomkin and the variations on Pretty Little Girl in the Yellow Dress are often delightful.

The screenplay was by Dalton Trumbo, who had the best name in the world (Dalton Trumbo) and worked quite a lot with Kirk, notably on Spartacus, and he also did Kirk's superb contemporary Western Lonely Are the Brave. For The Last Sunset he used a 1957 pulp novel by Vechel Howard, aka Howard Rigsby, Sundown at Crazy Horse (the plot climaxes in Crazy Horse, Texas, on the Rio Grande).
The source novel

The story is not the most plausible, it must be said, but they kinda get away with it. Trumbo was simultaneously working on Exodus for Otto Preminger so may have been a bit distracted.

Dalton Trumbo

Briefly, Brendan O'Malley (Douglas) arrives at the Breckinridge ranch (Cotten's Mr. Breckinridge is away) and tries to rekindle the flame with Belle Breckenridge (Malone), but she will have none of it. Is there a hint of The Searchers as O'Malley rides up to the dusty home? A mysterious stranger is following and closing in on him. It’s Texas lawman Dana Stribling (Hudson). Kirk killed his younger sis’s husband, and then the woman committed suicide, so Rock has an axe to grind. O'Malley and Stribling are both alpha males and we know right away that a showdown is inevitable. They are both good with their respective guns. Douglas is the charismatic rogue playing against Hudson’s very straight good guy.

But they both agree to take Cotten’s herd up to Texas (this is another rather improbable bit) and delay their moment of truth till they get to Texas. So it becomes a cattle-drive Western, and I must say the cattle shots aren’t at all bad – they had a decent number of steers. On the way, the obligatory dangers occur: you know, Indians, dust storms, rustlers, stampede, etc. You can’t have a cattle-drive picture without those. Kirk sings round the campfire. Rock doesn’t.

At one point Stribling is stuck in quicksand but O'Malley can’t let him die, even though he’s going to try to kill him later. It would be against the Western code. Stribling's poor horse is a goner, though.

When the cowhands mutiny and threaten to sell the women to the Dutchman in Vera Cruz, O'Malley saves the girl (enhancing her love for him still further) while Stribling saves Belle. O'Malley is jealous but he can’t prevent it: Stribling and Belle are falling in lerve.

They cross the Rio Grande into Texas

Arriving at the Rio Grande, they decided to have a fiesta and in a key scene the daughter appears in her mother’s yellow dress, and indeed looks very beautiful and very womanly.

But now they are at the end of the drive, so Stribling tells O'Malley, “I’ll come for you at sundown.” Showdowns had to be at certain dramatic moments of the day, dawn, noon, sundown, etc., although the other day we reviewed a picture, Texas Lady, which had the gunfight at high 4 pm. Perhaps Aldrich should have called the picture The Last Sundown. At any rate he makes much of the symbolic going down of the sun, although the showdown was actually shot with the sun high, confusingly. Talking of titles, it is said that Universal considered the hilariously bad The Magnificent Two, The Majestic Brutes and Seething Guns. The final choice was good, though.

Naturally, Belle tries to persuade her amour(s) not to fight. She’d read The Virginian. But equally naturally, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. The showdown slightly foreshadows Once Upon a Time in the West as the protagonists tensely circle to the strains of electric guitar, though of course it is not taken to such extreme lengths (Leone favored the ad absurdam approach). Actually, Aldrich worked with Leone on Sodom and Gomorrah and the Italian greatly admired the American.

This picture has its flaws. But it also has its string points. It was by no means the worst Western of Aldrich, Hudson or Douglas. Aldrich called the filming "an extremely unpleasant experience", and claimed that the script needed more work. He added, “It all started badly, continued badly and ended badly. Kirk Douglas was impossible.” But it isn’t that bad. Though it came out in the post-Magnificent Seven early 1960s, it was shot in ’59 and in fact is in many ways a 50s Western, though it has modern cinematic touches. Occasionally clichéd, it is also often interesting and different.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Killer Caliber .32 (Explorer Films, 1967)


Regular readers of this blog, both of them, will know that I am not a fan of the spaghetti western. It’s odd in a way because I lived in Italy for twelve years. I love Italy and love the Western. But I do not like 60s Italian Westerns – or westerns as I call them, for they are, to me, not proper Westerns but more films about the Western. My chief grudges against them are the atrocious dubbing, the juvenile dialogue, the jangly music, the unconvincing costumes, the wrong terrain and the poor acting. Otherwise they are OK I guess.

This one, which has the onscreen title 32 CALIBER KILLER, is quite typical. It was directed by Alfonso Brescia, billed as Al Bradley (cast and crew often took American-sounding names) who had come, as many spaghetti-western people did, from the cheap rip-off sword-and-sandal movies that were popular before the westerns started, in the mid-60s. He directed seven westerns, two of them with Peter Lee Lawrence.

Quite a classic spag poster

Lawrence (Karl Hyrenbach) was a German who died aged only 30 of a brain disease. He was blond and handsome but honestly, not much of an actor, at least to judge by this dubbed spaghetti (it’s often hard to tell). He had started with a small part in For a Few Dollars More. He plays a hired killer named Silver – Mr. Silver, as he usually insists - who favors a .32. He is one of those supermen who is a trick shot and invincible with his fists and very clever at sussing out who the villains are, and altogether indestructible, so there is no suspense whatsoever.

Herr Hyrenbach

Second-billed was Agnès Spaak, from Paris, as the saloon woman Betty, who is, I think, supposed to be enigmatic but is actually just rather dull.

There’s the ‘other woman’, Janet (Lucy Skay, don’t know anything about her). And there’s a youth, even more youthful than the hero, Spot (Alberto Dell’Acqua, in the fourth of his 23 spaghetti westerns) and he attaches himself to the hero as a kind of apprentice.

It starts with a stagecoach being held up. One passenger stupidly pulls down the mask of the leader of the bandits and recognizes him, so all the passengers are shot to death. Silver (sorry, Mr. Silver) is hired by the bank boss Averell (Andrey Bosic, from Yugoslavia, as it was called then) to find the robbers and kill them all. Averell discards the possibility of using the "John Pinkerton Agency" (sic), preferring to hire a murderer instead.

Of course he's unbeatable at cards. He's unbeatable period.

One by one the robbers are killed off but who is the Mr. Big? Well, it’s blindingly obvious that it’s either Averell himself or gambler Ramirez (Gregory West), or the sheriff (Mirko Ellis, born Mirko Korcinsky, a Swiss). It duly turns out to be one of them. As if we care.

One good thing: it’s a two-derringer picture. Both Ramirez and the saloon dame have one.

The costumes are lousy. The lawmen wear stars that look as though they came off the Christmas tree.

There's the usual semi-comic saloon brawl

It’s supposed to be Carson City. It’s Spain.

Admirers of spaghettis will enjoy the opening titles. They are quite classic, with cartoon-like figures and shouted ho-ha ‘music’.

It’s quite Italian because Betty is handed a note reading DEVO PARLARTI (I have to speak to you), and the final song is in Italian. The sets are cheap and clumsy. What is supposed to be a Southern Pacific railroad site is labeled SOUTH PACIFIC. They got the wrong movie there.

It’s junk. But spag fans may like it. I thought I better watch it. I force myself to sit through a spaghetti every now and then, partly out of masochism (it's lovely when it stops) and partly vaguely wondering if I might one day find one that was half good. Not this one, that's for sure.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Iron Brothers (Random Media, 2018)

The eternal trio of foes: bad guys, Injuns and harsh terrain

Back in July last year a new Western was released, a Smith Brothers Films production directed by the Smith brothers, written by the Smith brothers and starring two Smith brothers. A Smith brother was cinematographer, another wrote the music and another still was the editor. I guessed therefore that the Smith family had something to do with the picture and I was curious to know more. In fact I was invited to do a distance-interview but sadly, though I had a list of brilliant and pertinent questions (hem hem), the Smiths never got back to me with illuminating answers, so I can’t pass on fascinating insights about the making of the film to you, dear e-reader. Still, I did watch it (they kindly gave me access) and I thought it might be worth posting a comment or two on it. You might come across it and wonder if it’s any good. And obviously your first instinct will be to look it up on Jeff Arnold's West.

It’s an early Western about trappers, with a sort of Jeremiah Johnson vibe. Shot in stunning Idaho and Wyoming locations in winter, it captures very well the harsh beauty and real danger of the 1850s frontier. There was a time when Westerns had to be filmed in Mexico or Alberta to avoid power lines and contrails but the Smiths manage very well in Idaho to convey the huge and forbidding emptiness of the mid-nineteenth century frontier.

Orphans Abel and Henry Iron are struggling to make a living in a world of ever-scarcer beaver and declining demand for pelts. Apart from their financial difficulties, they have to face a brutal winter in a rough cabin and dangerous Native American hostility. Henry, the younger brother, would like to try California and the goldfields, but Abel is more for sticking it out.

Stay or go?

However, in the words of the (rather anachronistic) script, “things escalate”. (The first known use of escalate is 1944 and I doubt anyone used it much before Vietnam.) Pedantry aside, though, things do escalate. Abel shoots an Indian and runs from another, while Henry, thinking he is being cheated by a dealer, resorts to his gun and as a result loses the brothers’ only horse. “I’m sorry, Lily,” he rather pathetically tells the dying animal.

So now the brothers have three enemies: bad guys, Indians and the nature. These are of course the classic foes of Western heroes, and you do get the sense that the fraternal Smiths like and try to respect the genre. Various Western tropes are employed: it builds to a final showdown, the brothers want to go to California to start anew, Henry is kind to his horse in the first reel (though I don’t think movies have reels these days) to signify that he is a goody, and so on. You get the idea that the Smiths have seen a Western or two before. That’s good, though.

The two decide, reluctantly, to face the Western winter rather than wait in their cabin for the inevitable attack, so they take a minimum of equipment and leave.

Homespun philosophy

It is true that life on the wild frontier must have often been tedious and uneventful, and also that danger, when it came, would arrive unexpectedly. Thus, long stretches of quiet inaction onscreen punctuated by sudden flurries of violence do have a justification. This pattern also contributes to building atmosphere and our marveling at natural beauty. Still, the Smiths were making a commercial movie and as a viewer you do ask yourself if there is really enough plot for the 92 minutes’ runtime. The movie isn't fast-paced.

For most of the film the brothers are the only ones who speak – if you discount the war-cries of the Indians. So a lot of importance is placed on their lines and I’m not entirely sure the script can bear the weight. There’s a fair bit of pretty homespun philosophy in the brothers’ talk. If the fraternal relationship had developed in some way it might have been better but you get the impression that the brothers already know and understand each other utterly, and little changes in that regard.

They trek

The appearance of old mountain man Jethro (Richard Dean, entertaining) is a welcome relief, though. He trades them coffee for victuals and company but is caught trying to steal the coffee back in the night, which leads to shootin’. Later Jethro will signal danger to us in another way.

There’s guitar music. The score is minimalist, but it works, complementing the desolate landscape.

They wear no hats, curiously.

The fighting is not stylized or balletic. There are undignified scuffles rather than choreographed stunt work. The word authentic springs inevitably to mind.

The finale is certainly packed with Western action, as we get a brothers/Indians showdown. Dramatically, I think the bad guys ought to have been brought back in but they are written out altogether after the initial fight with Henry.

Two of the Smith brothers, Tate and Josh, co-directors and co-writers,
are interviewed (though not by Jeff)

All in all I thought this was a pretty good film. It would certainly repay a look if you get the chance. Though visually just about on a par with The Revenant and sharing some plot similarities, notably surviving the harsh terrain, it doesn’t have the quality of that picture, but still, it does have its points.

The acting of the two brothers, by the two brothers, is very good. It had to be - the film would have failed otherwise – but it is impressively done by Tate (Abel) and Porter (Henry), in their debuts, as far as I know. That, the convincing flurries of action and the almost National Geographic quality of the scenes make this a picture worth seeing. It’s original enough to stand on its own feet and I reckon the Smith family deserves considerable credit.

The picture won two awards, though not quite Oscars.



Sunday, January 13, 2019

Texas Lady (RKO, 1955)

Claudette, pretty little babe, Claudette - er, no, actually, not that one

The famous Hollywood actress Claudette Colbert (left), one of the top celebs of her time, who in the 1930s had starred in comedy-romances such as It Happened One Night (for which she won an Oscar) and Midnight, didn’t do Westerns. They weren’t her thing. She was cast for John Ford in the eighteenth-century drama Drums Along the Mohawk in 1939, if you call that a Western. In fact she got top billing in it, even though she was unconvincing as Henry Fonda’s frontier wife and her acting was very old-fashioned. Colbert also returned as co-star to Clark Gable (the male lead in It Happened One Night) in Boom Town in 1940, a drama-romance about wildcatters (Gable and Spencer Tracy) becoming oil tycoons and loving the same woman (la Colbert) but I wouldn’t call that a Western either. No, in reality, Texas Lady was the only true Western she made. Perhaps she thought the genre beneath her, I don’t know. But in any case she wasn't terribly suited to it.

Texas Lady was a proper Western, though, and it has certain points in its favor – though also some weaknesses. It was directed (his last film) by Tim Whelan, The Thief of Baghdad chap, who also didn’t really do Westerns, though he helmed two perfectly satisfactory Randolph Scott oaters, Badman’s Territory in 1946 and Rage at Dawn the same year as Texas Lady, both also for RKO.

Director Whelan (Alamy photo)

The writer was Horace McCoy, who worked on twelve big-screen Westerns, including the very fine The Lusty Men. It was a Nat Holt production. We might fairly call Holt a Western specialist. He did a lot of Randolph Scott oaters, including Rage at Dawn with Whelan and McCoy.

Horace was at the typewriter

Producer Nat Holt on the set of another picture, with Ann Jeffreys

There are some nice Columbia State Historic Park locations shot in ‘SuperScope’ and Technicolor by the great Ray Rennahan, and some chirpy (though occasionally slushy) music by Paul Sawtell.

We open in 1885 with Barry Sullivan well cast as a smooth riverboat gambler being taken to the cleaners by a superior poker player. He is not worried about losing the fifty grand, just the damage to his reputation. This is because the winning gambler is a woman (it’s Claudette, of course). It turns out that the very competent card player has been in training for years, specifically in order to clean Barry out. You see, her pa had embezzled fifty thousand dollars from the bank where he worked, lost it all to Barry at cards and then committed suicide. So she was out for revenge. She gets it, but still, you can sense an attraction of one gambler to the other.

He loses

Well, Prudence (Colbert’s character is named Prudence) pays off her dead daddy’s debt and then sets off for darkest Texas where she intends to take charge of the only asset her late pa left her, a small-town newspaper, The Fort Ralston Clarion.

Unfortunately, the managing editor, Clay Ballard (our old pal Douglas Fowley) refuses to accept the ownership document and is generally surly. He is anyway in the pocket of the two local rich men who run the whole place. Mica Ralston and his partner Whit Sturdy founded the town, driving out the Indians and taking over the land, two million acres of it. They are classic ruthless rancher types, and will have no truck with a woman (a woman, indeed!) running a paper and maybe criticizing them for being overbearing. Ralston is played by Ray Collins and Sturdy by Walter Sande, two regulars of our beloved genre. Sande’s character is a bit on the bland side, and he is overshadowed by Collins’s Ralston, who takes ruthlessness to quite some lengths. Collins was good in this, I thought.

The ranchers have a hired gun, an illiterate thug who nevertheless wears a deputy’s badge, Jess Foley, played by Gregory Walcott (right), a square-jawed former Warners contract player who did a lot of TV Westerns but who started big-screen oaters in ’55 with this picture and another lady-in-town one, Strange Lady in Town with Greer Garson. The thing is, Deputy Foley and the would-be newspaperlady Prudence are supposed to feel a mutual electricity, a sort of fatal attraction. Alright, but even Barry Sullivan, whom she had semi-romanced in the first reel (but who has been written out of all the middle part of the movie), was nine years her junior. OK, true love knows no age and all that. But Walcott was almost young enough to be Colbert’s grandson and this part is implausible, if not even slightly creepy. Walcott himself said, “I had done so many great films and worked with so many great directors that I didn’t want to be identified with such a piece of trash.” That was perhaps a bit harsh but he was right that his part in the movie was not terribly convincing.

Prudence gradually manages to win over the townsfolk to her side, aided by a broken-down alcoholic lawyer whom she reforms and who acts for her (James Bell) and the saloon owner, who is, unusually for Westerns, a goody (our chum John Litel), and, especially, by gambler Barry when he turns up. Of course deputy Foley is very jealous of the gambler, and being a hired gun, vows to kill him. There is to be a classic Main Street showdown, though at the rather unhabitual hour of four p.m. (we are rather more used to dawn, noon, sundown, etc.) Are you ready for the good news? You might have guessed it already. Barry defeats the gunslinger, wounding him and sending him off with his tail between his legs, with a derringer! Not only that, one of those sleeve types that you can dash into you palm because it’s on a spring. Well, that certainly sent the film up in my estimation.

Saloon owner Litel is a goody

There’s another good bit when the widow in black (Celia Lovsky, below) of a homesteader that the deputy murdered goes to visit the gunman, with a shotgun.

Widow v. gunslinger

There’s a ‘fandango’ at the local saloon, the Wigwam. So that’s good too.

In this one the railroad is a symbol of progress and a force for good. Once she gets control of her newspaper, Editor Prudence campaigns for one, while the old-style ranchers are dead set against the idea. You’d think they’d be in favor, for getting their cattle to market, but no. We are so used to railroads being the very exemplar of corporate greed, riding roughshod over the rights of decent homesteaders, that it comes as rather a refreshing change to see them portrayed as goodies.

"Such a piece of trash." Maybe a bit harsh.

Well, spurred on by the power of the popular press the people rise up, kick out the ranchers’ corrupt officers and elect a new judge, mayor and sheriff. Will ‘the people’ win out over the tyrannical bosses, and succeed in bringing ‘progress’ to the West? Of course they will, assisted by a couple of Texas Rangers who turn up in the last reel to being some law ‘n’ order, to whom the ruthless ranchers rather surprisingly meekly and suddenly bow.

To be brutally frank (and when, dear e-readers, is your Jeff anything less?) Texas Lady was not the best Western to come out in the mid-1950s. The late Brian Garfield summed it up pithily as “Predictable, rambling, slow.” And I think Ms. Colbert was probably right to eschew the genre. Poster slogans like WOMANLY WILES WERE HER WEAPONS! and A LADY TILL THE FIGHTING STARTED, THEN WHAT A WOMAN! sound a bit outdated these days. Still, it does have its plus points here and there. I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand, e-pards. You could give it a go.