Small and Nazarro ride again
Cripple Creek was another of the Westerns starring George Montgomery that Edward Small produced and Ray Nazarro directed for Columbia in 1952 – like Indian Uprising which we reviewed a couple of days ago. It had a similar blend of clunky writing and plodding acting and direction; the writer was Richard Schayer, as he was on Indian Uprising. I fear he was in little danger of winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Still, it’s in Technicolor and there is some nice location shooting here and there (most of the action takes place in town and therefore on a sound stage) and some rather pretty painted backdrops when location shooting began to stretch the budget too far.
As the title suggests, we are in Colorado in 1893. It’s a skullduggery plot with crooks and their henchmen and three secret service men, led by George, bent on unmasking the villains who are stealing wagonloads of gold ore and crushing it in a secret smelter in a ghost town. The actors spend much of the time explaining the plot to each other and it all reminded me of an overblown Lone Ranger episode. In fact Montgomery has more than a little of Clayton Moore in his delivery. He was only missing the mask. Or, come to think about it, with the three government agents it could have been one of those Three Mesquiteers flicks of the 30s.
The whole thing is unlikely to the point of preposterousness. But I don’t care. It’s still a lot of fun.
Nothing staged or posed, I assure you
The actors ‘ride’ those fake horses and there’s speeded-up film in the fistfights. There’s a lot of sneaking about and hiding and discovering the bandits’ lair and so on. It’s very much a boys’ Western from that point of view. The secret smelter is particularly silly.
The excellent John Dehner is in it, as livery owner Emil Cabeau (which they all pronounce kerBO) though wasted in too minor a part. The rest of the cast are a bit on the B side. It needed a slimier/charming boss crook, Dan Duryea maybe, or Lyle Bettger. But we got William Bishop as the besuited dastardly villain. Mr. Bishop wasn’t bad. He’d led in a couple of Westerns in 1948, Black Eagle and Adventures in Silverado, and had had quite a good part in The Walking Hills with Randolph Scott in ’49. He’d do several more Nazarro-directed Westerns in the following years, some as lead.
Don Porter was Bishop’s henchman and managed a hint of semi-sadistic menace but it really needed a proper heavy like Robert J Wilke or Leo Gordon.
Ray Nazarro with Adele Roberts
The love interest is Karin Booth but in an unlikely plot twist she turns out in the last reel to be in league with the villains. Spoiler alert. Oops, too late. She was Montgomery’s leading lady two or three times.
In fact unlikely plot twists are this movie’s stock in trade.
George’s partner agents are Jerome Courtland (bland) and Richard Egan (better). Mr. Egan started in Westerns in 1950. I remember him most as a sergeant in The Battle at Apache Pass, as Elvis’s big brother in Love Me Tender and as Jehu in These Thousand Hills.
Tragically, Edward Small had abandoned his amusing logo, a towering sky with a huge godlike SMALL. It always made me smile.
Edward Small and his logo
It all ends with a saloon brawl and a comic undertaker. I rather enjoyed it, I must say.