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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hell Bent for Leather (Universal, 1960)


A solid Audie B-Western

Audie Murphy, in the nineteenth of his thirty-three Western movies, leads in this big, color B-picture. Made in CinemaScope in quite stunning Lone Pine locations, it is visually superb and full credit to Clifford Stine for the photography.
Nice photography
But the writing is ho-hum and the complex plot overwrought.

Sadly, Audie was only rarely in A-films. I kinda like him in Westerns but he never made the big time of Western stars – although in this one he is better than he was in most. It’s the old mistaken-identity plot and he plays a good man taken for an outlaw. Of course the townsfolk want to hang him immediately without a trial in that friendly Western-town way they often have.

It's based on the novel Outlaw Marshal by Ray Hogan. The US Marshal Harry Deckett who captures Audie turns out to be evil and mad (Stephen – né Horace – McNally, villain in countless movies and badman in Winchester ’73 and The Duel at Silver Creek, to name but two).
Bad guy with a badge
The fair Janet (Felicia Farr, in her last Western) accompanies Audie and they are chased all over New Mexico by a posse. Felicia was beautiful, soon to become Mrs. Jack Lemmon, and had been very good in two excellent Glenn Ford Westerns, Jubal and 3:10 to Yuma.
Felicia learns to trust Audie
Good old Robert Middleton (Siringo in Love Me Tender and Ortero in The Law and Jake Wade) is in it, as a wounded and libidinous outlaw, and our old pal Bob Steele has a bit part too. The real villain, the one Audie is mistaken for, is Travers, played by Jan Merlin, a B-movie and TV Western character actor you’ll probably recognize.

All the actors have Californian tans, fifty-dollar hairdos and Pepsodent teeth.

The music (Irving Gertz and William Lava) is brassy and unattractive.

There’s a very fancy shotgun.
Like most Audie efforts it’s a two-revolver picture. No great shakes but no clunker either. As always with his Westerns, the production values are pretty high. It’s an enjoyable B-Western with quite good performances, rather let down by the writing.

As for the title, I don't know about you but I say "hell bent" or "hell for leather" but not both. Oh well.



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