Good bad guys
Since we’re on a bit of a George Montgomery kick at the moment, having reviewed The Lone Gun the other day (click the link to read) here’s another one, from the year after that. It was a ‘bigger’ picture, shot in Color DeLuxe down in Mexico and with Sidney Salkow at the helm. It was in fact a remake of a 1932 talkie starring George O’Brien, both movies based on the Zane Grey novel serialized in Collier's, October-December 1930. It was the only movie of Goldstein-Jacks Productions. Come to think of it, George had started as Western lead with a Zane Grey story, so he was continuing in the same vein.
George rides again
Tall, gruff and steely
Rancher Bruce Bennett and his sis (Sylvia Findley)
Former-Tarzan Bennett had quite a good sideline in Westerns, most notably as Cody in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre but also as Daniel Boone, Trail Blazer, and as one of The Younger Brothers. Of course he was not the first or last disabled rancher to appear in a Western – we think especially of Edward G Robinson in The Violent Men and Ray Collins in Vengeance Valley.
Good news: the two gangs of bad guys are led by Richard Boone, then 38, and Peter Graves, 29. Second-billed Boone still had two years to go before Have Gun – Will Travel started but he was already well launched on his Western career, having appeared in four Western features in 1952, several each year thereafter and in February 1955 (Robbers’ Roost was released in May) he was the chief bad guy in Ten Wanted Men with Randolph Scott. For me, he was always best as a villain.
When in doubt, translate the title as Desperados
Peter a bad guy
Boone is the badder bad guy and double-crosses Graves
Sylvia in her only Western (and practically her only film)
Good news, though: arch-heavy Leo Gordon is another gang thug. George gets to punch him out. Poor Leo, in Western after Western he got to lose fist-fights, whereas he was a genuinely strong and frightening man who could have beaten up the vast majority of his fellow actors with one hand tied behind his back – though George was no slouch himself as far as height and physique were concerned. Leo too was a heavy in Ten Wanted Men.
You don't want to tussle with Leo
Who is the mysterious stranger?
Tex seems to ask a lot of questions of everyone, and seems especially interested in where the gang’s horses came from. Is he perhaps an undercover lawman?
But now Helen finds a wanted poster on Tex. He’s really Jim Wall, and wanted back in Texas for murder. Oh no! She doesn’t let on to anyone but she sends him packing.
The source novel
She gets to bathe in a pool (you know how in Westerns however dry the terrain, there’s always a handy pool for the heroine to bathe naked in) and we see her daringly bare legs as she tiptoes into the water.
Boone double-crosses Graves, rustles the whole Herrick herd and hides out in Robbers’ Roost. You know, the Elzy Lay/Butch Cassidy hideout in Utah (no Butch or Sundance in this story though). The movie was actually filmed in Durango but it’s very attractive and very Western cañon country and will do nicely for Utah. There’s an especially good Mexican Hat-type rock where they keep watch.
They seem to be enjoying it
Well, it builds up to an exciting ending. The trouble is, it’s all rather confusing because there’s Boone’s gang and Graves’s gang and they are all galloping about and shooting each other around Robbers’ Roost, but as the characters have not really been delineated, and they’re not wearing uniforms, of course, we can’t tell who’s shooting and who’s getting shot, who’s winning and who’s losing. Furthermore, the sheriff arrives with a large posse and joins in the shootin’, so that adds to the confusion. I fear it was the fault of an over-complex plot and inadequate directing. Oh well.
I don’t think it constitutes a spoiler to say that the bad guys get deceased, Tex gets the gal, and we finally get an explanation for what he’s doing there. No, he isn’t a lawman.
Pretty good stuff, I reckon, though for me anyway not quite up to the standard of The Lone Gun.
What a hat