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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Belle of the Yukon (RKO, 1944)

A real dud

A lifelong fan of Randolph Scott Westerns, your Jeff finds it difficult to find much positive to say about Randy's mid-40s RKO effort, Belle of the Yukon. It’s probably alright if you like musical screwball comedies. Is that positive enough?

There’s an amusing intro, which augurs well:

If it’s blood you want
And cold you want
And the call of the Klondike night
If it’s mud you want
And gold you want
Or what Robert Service would write…
You’re in the’ wrong theater, brother!

But that’s about as good as it gets.

Scott (left) was very popular, though he always only seemed to get the lead in B-pictures or back up top stars in A-ones. Two Westerns before, in 1942, he had supported John Wayne in the rollicking and successful The Spoilers, and perhaps he thought that another Alaska tale would hit the spot in ’44. But it was a flaccid dud.

Part of the fault lies with his co-star, Gypsy Rose Lee. The burlesque artist (let’s be polite and call her that) was not a good movie actress and seen today she reminds me chiefly of Boy George in looks. The character she plays is also unsympathetic – arrogant and egocentric. She only has one song, ingénue Dinah Shore taking the lion’s share of the tonsil-work. Shore’s songs Sleigh Ride in July and Like Someone in Love had, as Bosley Crowther in The New York Times put it, “a vogue on the radio”. They come across now as very 1940s-schmaltzy indeed.
Boy George                 Gypsy Rose Lee
It’s too complex a story to tell here, and I haven’t the patience. Suffice to say that it involves romance, bank robbery and skullduggery in and around the fancy Klondike saloon owned by Honest John Calhoun (Scott). The saloon provides the context for the songs, though fortunately there are only four.

Scott went through the motions. Probably the best part was that of Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams (below, in a studio publicity shot) as the crooked and lazy town marshal. Williams was usually entertaining and had quite a gift for comedy. The role, though, would have ideally suited Edgar Buchanan.
It’s all in bright Technicolor, shot by Ray Rennahan, though there are almost no location shots, the action being largely confined to the studio-built saloon interior.
Shore and Marshall, rather less than stunning
Bob Burns as a visiting conman and Charles Winninger as Calhoun’s saloon manager and father of the Shore character both ham it up too much, going for slapstick. William Marshall as Shore’s paramour is bland to the point of the glacial. ‘Below the line’, often uncredited, you get the likes of Hank Bell as a barman, and Kermit Maynard and Jack Perrin as saloon patrons, but you only fleetingly spot them.

The whole shebang was directed by William A Seiter (amusing photo, right), a Keystone vet who found fame directing such acts as the Marx brothers, Abbott & Costello and Laurel & Hardy. You wouldn’t really think so, though, while watching Belle of the Yukon. It all rather falls flat. He had directed Scott in a (non-Western) musical comedy back in ’33, Hello Everybody!, but that was no better.

Bizarrely, James Edward Grant wrote it. Again, you would never have guessed. Wayne pal Grant was capable of classy work such as Hondo, Angel and the Badman and The Sheepman.

In fact, it’s hardly a Western at all. No gun is fired, for example. Sad to give a Randolph Scott picture only a one-revolver rating, but it doesn’t deserve more.

Alright if you like that kind of thing


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Riding Shotgun (Warner Bros, 1954)

André De Toth and Randolph Scott ride again

André De Toth (left) directed six Westerns starring Randolph Scott. This one and The Bounty Hunter later the same year were the last. Many thought of De Toth as an arty European director but he sure loved the hard-boiled American movie, noirs and horror, but Westerns in particular. He started with the superb Ramrod in 1947 and co-wrote the equally fine The Gunfighter in 1950; it was a stellar start in the genre. For me, De Toth’s best Western was Day of the Outlaw with Robert Ryan and Burl Ives in 1959 but the ones he did with Scott are more than competent. Man in the Saddle, Carson City, Thunder Over the Plains and The Stranger Wore a Gun preceded these two 1954 pictures. They are all watchable-to-good.

Riding Shotgun, which, despite weaknesses here and there, is in the ‘good’ category, has quite a bit in common with the later Decision at Sundown, a Budd Boetticher picture. Apart from some first-reel location action, it’s set in town, with Randy holed up from 16 minutes in and for much of the rest of the picture in a ratty saloon (a barn in Sundown). Boetticher was not at his best in psychological-claustrophobic town Westerns but De Toth handled them extremely well. Many Westerns feature cretinous mobs and/or pusillanimous townspeople who jump to conclusions and assume without evidence that a man is guilty, and they feel entirely justified in killing the fellow – often with a lynch rope but a bullet will do. Riding Shotgun takes this a stage further: it is in fact the whole plot. In this one the women are just as bad, being titillated by the excitement. The town should have known better. The man they are accusing is Randolph Scott. I mean, doh.

Randy is Larry Delong and he has been ridin’ shotgun on stages for years, all over the West, searching for the man who, it transpires later in the movie, killed his sister and nephew in a stagecoach hold-up back in Wyoming. For three years”, he tells us, “I dedicated every waking moment of my life to scouring the frontier for a killer for a very personal reason. I'd worked at all kinds of jobs from Wyoming to Oregon. In the last year, I'd working every stage line between Canada and Mexico, riding shotgun. I knew that sooner or later my path would again cross that of the man I wanted - Dan Marady”. This Marady is a ruthless outlaw played by the always reliable James Millican. From The Man from Colorado in 1948 to Red Sundown in 1956 Millican was never less than solid in Westerns.

One of the main reasons that I like this particular De Toth/Scott effort is that a derringer not only appears but in fact is pretty central to the plot. You know how obsessed I am with derringers. You see, Millican (right) has one and the pocket gun is a ‘good luck piece’. The handle inscription tells us that he won it for marksmanship in St Louis in 1870, though anyone who can hit a barn wall with a derringer at more than a few paces must be accounted a very good marksman indeed. Perhaps Kirk Douglas had seen this picture before doing The Last Sunset. Anyway, this sneaky popgun, which takes .41 rimfire cartridges, we are told (fascinating detail for Westernistas), IDs Marady to Larry, as was intended. Later, Larry uses it (rather improbably) to escape captivity, and later still it will play a key part in the last-reel dénouement. Randy was no stranger to the derringer, as viewers of A Lawless Street will know. But rarely has the little stinger pistol played such a key role in a Western. No wonder I like this movie.

I also like the cast. Millican’s chief – if rather inept – henchman Pinto is Charles Bronson, still billed as Buchinsky in those days. He finally falls prey to another sneaky weapon, a slingshot wielded by a town boy. Bronson was never an Oscar contender but in this one he is effective as 2nd heavy.
Mr. Buchinsky
Joe Sawyer and Richard Garrick are the leading town conclusion-jumpers who do not care to bother with the formality of an actual trial. I always like Joe. He’d been in Westerns since 1934. He’d be Sergeant Biff O’Hara, a stalwart of Rin Tin Tin, shortly after but he appeared in other big- and small-screen oaters too. Garrick had started on Broadway in 1907 but you can spot him out West in the likes of Law and Order, Many Rivers to Cross and Powder River.
Randy with (rather perfunctory) amour Joan Weldon. That's Garrick in the middle.
Wayne Morris is the slightly Alan Hale Jr.-ish amiable lawman, a friend of Larry’s but struggling to do his duty. He is a fine trencherman, preferring to eat pie in the lunchroom to actually shooting anyone. The part would have suited Andy Devine, though Morris goes for the less comic approach. Former child star Morris was one of the last of the B-Western heroes before the 60-minute second feature programmer bit the dust. He was Bob Younger in Bad Men of Missouri in 1941 and promoted to Cole Younger in The Younger Brothers in ’49. He was in sixteen big-screen Westerns between 1937 and ’61 so he knew a thing or two about wearing a gun (and a badge).
Wayne Morris as amiable lawman
Dub Taylor pops up briefly, as does good old Frank Ferguson and Jack Perrin too, as townsmen. It’s rather a good line-up. There’s an excellent would-be lyncher (Vic Perrin, billed as Bar-M Rider with Lynching Rope’), a real creep, whom De Toth has ordered to be entirely silent. He just steals a lariat and fashions a noose from it and fingers the rope lovingly throughout the events.

Joan Weldon is the love interest but she has very little to do and in the movie she and Larry are little more than platonic pals.

Anyway, enough of the cast.

It’s shot in nice bright color by the great Bert Glennon, mostly on the Warners Western town set but with some nice rocky Californian locations too. There are some original and interesting angles and points of view, with De Toth and Glennon clearly playing around. The mirror in the saloon is used to good effect, in a Euro-expresssionist way.
Nice cinematography
The music is a chirpy David Buttolph theme which stays with you an hour or two after the picture has ended.

Randy narrates. These voiceovers can be at best redundant and at worst annoying but this one works somehow.

After all the hatred and tension, the happy-ever-after ending is too pat and sudden, but that was a common fault in B-Westerns.

De Toth took nine takes on one scene. Jack Warner was livid and urged more speed. De Toth replied by racing through all the rest of the movie with only one take per scene, so perhaps that's why it seems a bit rushed at the end. 

There are faint echoes of High Noon two years before as Randy stands alone against the whole town, but they were very faint Warner-Brothers echoes only.

It’s a satisfying if straightforwardly linear town Western that is worth a DVD purchase, I’d say. Even if you’re not derringer-obsessed.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Four Fast Guns (Universal, 1960)

Minor B-Western with some interest

A rather obscure black & white B-Western of 1960, Four Fast Guns does nevertheless have some interest. It didn't have a great start in life: Phoenix Films produced only three movies, two of them Westerns. Director William J Hole Jr worked almost exclusively in TV and this was his only big-screen Western. The cast was less than stellar, headed by James Craig, a sort of poor man’s Clark Gable who did the occasional B-Western in the 40s and 50s (see for example Fort Vengeance) and with Paul Richards, a regular on Western TV shows, as the bad guy. It’s a pretty standard town-taming plot as a tough hombre takes the job of dealing with the crooked activities of a saloon owner (Richards) and his lawless henchmen. So far, so unremarkable.
Arizona, 1873. We are in the town of Purgatory, visitors to which pass under a sign which reads ‘When You Ride Into Purgatory, Say Goodbye to God’, which though theologically inaccurate does have a certain ring to it. Edgar Buchanan is the rascally and bibulous keeper of the jail and narrator of the story, so that’s good. He introduces us to gunfighter Tom Sabin (Craig), who passes himself off as a ‘town tamer’, a tough gunman who will bring law ‘n’ order to a treed town. He sets about the task right away, talking tough to the wheelchair-bound piano-playing saloon keeper Hoag (Richards) who masterminds the rustlin’ in the area and has a team of henchmen to do his nefarious bidding. Hoag has a glam wife, Mary (Martha Vickers, a model who was a, er, protégée of David O Selznick and at another time Mrs. Mickey Rooney) who takes a shine to Sabin, which does not please Hoag much. In fact he sends a henchman over to the marshal’s office to shoot him but Sabin is too fast a gun for that and the henchman it is who expires.
Martha is handy with a Winchester
Hoag considers himself refined and, rather like saloon keeper Anthony Quinn in Warlock, has expensive luxuries imported from the east, even Europe, including a small Venus de Milo. The disabled man seems attracted to the brachially challenged beauty but I suppose it’s an ‘armless enough hobby. Still, refined or not, he’s certainly a ruthless town boss and so he sends for the three fastest guns in the West (who, with Sabin, make up the eponymous quartet) to gun the new town tamer down, and Hoag is ready to ante up thousands of dollars for the job.
Very much a low-budget b&w B-Western, even if it is in widescreen format
The lethal threat of the first to arrive, Mexican fast gun Quijano, is somewhat diminished when we realize it’s Chito Rafferty. Richard Martin played the cheery Irish-Mexican lothario so long that he doesn’t really convince as a deadly killer. Anyway he is soon disposed of, Sabin outdrawing him in the saloon. Next we get Blu Wright, in his only Western, as the lightning-fast gunslinger known as Farmer Brown (he used to be a peaceful homesteader until he was shot in the face and scarred and then became the most feared assassin in the West). He has a cunning plan to shoot Sabin under the poker table but we cease wondering if it’s going to work when we see townsmen hammering a cross with the farmer's name on it into the earth of his grave.
Chito an unlikely hired killer
Slick Johnny Naco all in black (Brett Halsey, more used to 50s low-budget juvenile delinquent pictures) is the last to try and he gets all ready to draw down on the town tamer when he suddenly recognizes his brother. Oops. He says he's going ahead with the job anyway but the last reel is taken up with the question of whether Johnny will go ahead and, fratricidally, earn his money or whether he and his bro together will gang up on the crooked town boss. Not many prizes for guessing which.

The situation is complicated by a punk kid who fancies himself quicker than anyone on the draw (the aptly named John Swift) but he is dramatically de trop and should really have been edited out. In fact a lot of the editing is on the clumsy side.
Craig is fastest gun in the West
In the end Sabin moves on, heading for Tombstone, and Edgar Buchanan gets the marshal’s badge. The number of times he was a marshal or judge in Westerns is really quite amazing – usually a rascally one.

You could watch Four Fast Guns. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed.

 "They call me Dipper. Forget me real name."
Edgar has a dipper tied round his neck to drink from.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Luke and the Tenderfoot (unsold pilot for NBC series, 1955)

The best ever Western rascal

Among the many TV shows that might have been but never were was an entertaining 1955 pilot not taken up by NBC, Luke and the Tenderfoot, starring Edgar Buchanan in fine fettle.

Two episodes were made, The Boston Kid and The John Wesley Hardin Story. The second was actually aired, by CBS in 1963. Both are available now on YouTube and, in their limited 50s TV way, quite watchable.

Buchanan (left) plays Luke Herkimer, a traveling peddler and rascally if inept conman who in a dusty Western town comes across a young fellow from Boston, Pete (Carleton Carpenter). Edgar was at the height of his powers. After debuting in Westerns with a highly entertaining prologue and epilogue in When the Daltons Rode and an equally amusing part as dubious Judge Bogardus in Arizona in 1940 (and of course he was to make rather a thing of dubious Western judges) he appeared in many big-screen oaters, often with his pal Glenn Ford. But he was well known on TV having been Hopalong Cassidy’s sidekick Red Connors from 1952 – 54, and the year after this failed pilot he would be Judge Roy Bean for 39 episodes. To read more about the Western career of Edgar, one of the greatest of character actors, click here.

Actor, songwriter and novelist Carleton Carpenter, born 1926 and still going strong as far as I know, was rather good as Hewie in Vengeance Valley in 1951 and later appeared in half a dozen different TV Westerns but these were his only outings in the genre. He copes with the part of naive Easterner in the West with some skill.
Edgar and Carleton
He joins up with Edgar in The Boston Kid, in which the rogue merchant comes up with some nonsense about the boy being a famous Massachusetts pugilist and they find themselves railroaded into a prize fight by the town bully, two-gun Lee Van Cleef, on fine form as heavy. The young man has to fight three rube brothers, one of whom is Michael Landon. The guest stars in these shows were quite good.

In what would have been season 1, episode 2, we meet Charles Bronson as the Texas murderer John Wesley Hardin. Bronson had made his Western debut (as Chas. Buchinski) in The Roy Rogers Show in 1952, had a small part in Vera Cruz in ’54, then had increasingly big roles later that year in Apache, Riding Shotgun and Drum Beat. So some Western fans would have recognized him but he was certainly not yet a big star. Actually, he is rather good as the loathsome killer Hardin. With fellow swine Richard Jaeckel he takes over a saloon, demanding to see his estranged wife Stella, in a plot very reminiscent of the Gregory Peck movie The Gunfighter. Buchanan offers to smuggle him out under the noses of the armed townsmen in his wagon but there is only place for one to hide so Hardin calmly shoots Jaeckel dead, proving that he is even loathsomer.

All in all it was a pity the series didn’t launch. I think it would have been rather good.



Saturday, October 21, 2017

New Mexico (UA, 1951)

Not bad

Westerns liked states (or territories) for titles. California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and so on. And in fact Sam Peckinpah’s The Deadly Companions in 1961 had New Mexico as an alternative title (obviously, as it was set in Arizona). The 1951 New Mexico is not a bad member of the league, though like many of these pictures it could have been set anywhere in the generic Southwest in the 1860s, 70s, or 80s.

It’s a cavalry/Indians B-Western but it was no zero-budget program-filler. Shot in Ansocolor (though sadly seen nowadays on DVD and on TV in black & white) in glam New Mexico locations, and weighing in at 76 minutes, it also had a strong cast.

Unusually, it starred Lew Ayres (left). Greta Garbo’s leading man in The Kiss in 1929, Paul Baumer in All Quiet on the Western Front (another kind of Western, that) the year after, then Dr. Kildare from ’38 on, Oscar-nominated for Johnny Belinda in ’48, he was quite a star, but he didn’t do Westerns as a rule. He did some TV oaters later on, notably Frontier Justice, but New Mexico was his first and last big-screen Western. He isn’t bad, actually, as the principled and rather pro-Indian Army Captain Hunt battling obnoxious and stupid superiors to try to bring peace to the territory.

He is backed up by some good Western character actors: we have Andy Devine (right) as a slightly comic sergeant, only huge in 1951 and not yet gargantuan. Jeff Corey is rather good (as far as the limited script allows) as the Indian Army scout Coyote, who dies heroically. Raymond Burr is the racist bully Private Anderson (pre-Perry Mason Ray had quite a line in Western heavies) who shoots dead the young son of Chief Acoma, and Acoma himself is played by none other than our old favorite Ted de Corsia, who was often an Indian when he couldn’t be a thuggish gunman. Ian MacDonald and Jack Kelly are other troopers. It’s not a bad line-up.

The leading lady (for of course no matter how unlikely that a professional singer would be with the soldiers as they are besieged by savage Indians on a New Mexico mesa short of bullets and water, there had to be a glamorous blonde up there to entertain the troops with songs) was Marilyn Maxwell (left). A Monroe wannabe, Ms. Maxwell is described in the IMDb bio thus: “Tall and blonde with good looks and a pleasant singing voice, she scampered through a bunch of breezy, forgettable film roles.” She preferred light comedies to Westerns; this was the first of only three she did.  She has to play one of those really annoying dames who ignore warnings of danger, get it into life-threatening situations because of their stupidity and then have to be rescued by the very fellow who told her to stay away from Indian territory.

The picture was directed by Irving Reis, who had worked for RKO and Fox but whose only Western this was. It was produced by Irving Allen – this and a Brian Donlevy B-Western the same year were his only oaters. Considering all these non-specialists, the movie turned out quite well – probably because of Devine & Co.
Ted is Chief Acoma
It opens with a very saintly and noble Abraham Lincoln (Hans Conried) who has come out to New Mexico to make peace with Chief Acoma. You didn’t know Abe went out West between the end of the war and his assassination? Well, he did. He must have. It shows it in the movie. The bearded and stove-pipe-hatted president often appears in Westerns but usually back in DC planning to unite the nation by building a trans-continental railroad or something. He isn’t often seen getting out of a stagecoach in the dusty West to talk to Apache chiefs. In this picture he is assassinated with an 1870s .45, not Booth’s nasty little derringer.
Jeff and Ray are in the platoon too
Once he is out of the picture (in all senses) his successors oppress the Indians. Stupid martinet Col. McComb (Walter Greaza) and corrupt & cowardly Commissioner Wilcox (Lloyd Corrigan) blunderingly destroy Abe’s carefully-made peace and steal Indian land, and rather understandably Acoma and his thousand braves go on the warpath. That’s the plot. Nothing very original but reasonably well handled, and you’ll probably quite enjoy it if you give it a go.

Commissioner Wilcox comes to a sticky end


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Born to the Saddle (Astor Pictures Corporation, 1953)

Enjoyable B-Western

It could be argued that 1953 was the very high point of the Western movie. Paramount’s Shane, Warner Bros’ Hondo and MGM’s The Naked Spur were just some of the superb examples of the genre released that year, with many other enjoyable oaters chasing hard on the hooves of those big studios’ offerings, films such as Escape from Fort Bravo, The Stranger Wore a Gun or The Man from the Alamo. But of course the good old B-Western trotted on, unaffected by these bigger pictures. And you didn’t get much more ‘B’ than Elliott-Shelton Films Inc., Born to the Saddle’s production company, whose only Western this was, or Astor Pictures Corporation, which did the US theatrical release, which though it distributed nearly 300 motion pictures between 1925 and 1962, often re-releases, wasn’t exactly a major distributor of A-pictures. Never mind, they did their best.

Born to the Saddle was directed by William Beaudine (left), who started as a silent movie actor in 1909 but who directed literally hundreds (some say as many as 500) movies between 1915 and 1970, an astonishing record. 80-odd of these were Westerns, usually ultra-low-budget ones. He is probably best known for the drive-in horror classics Billy the Kid Versus Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, both 1966, which no doubt you have thrilled to. To say he didn’t have a clue would probably be unfair; after all, he must have been able to direct a cheap Western in his sleep. But if you rely on a director to elicit good performances from the cast and for a pacey, well-developed plot, then I fear you are going to be disappointed by a Beaudine picture. Never mind again.

It’s the story of a quarter horse – in fact it’s based on the Gordon Young novel Quarter Horse. Sadly Adele Buffington’s screenplay from it is clunky and plodding to a degree. And the actors are, mostly, unable to deliver such obvious lines with anything like authenticity. Still, at the risk of repeating myself, never mind.

It starts with a young boy, Bill, coming to town to find his uncle. Well, I say a young boy: he’s often referred to as that in the script but he was played by Chuck Courtney (right), 23 at the time. Anyway, Bill asks Matt Daggett (Donald Woods), a frock-coated saloon keeper, so obviously therefore a crook, though this time, bizarrely, he has no pencil mustache or derringer, where his uncle might be. The answer is right behind him because just at that mo’ the uncle is taking aim at Daggett. He misses, and shoots the boy in the back. Oops. The uncle is killed by Daggett but the boy survives, nursed back to health by the saloon keeper’s kindly and slightly posh wife Kate (Karen Morley).

Daggett has henchmen, naturally (they were obligatory in them days) and the good news is that one of them, the evilest one of all in fact, is none other than Glenn Strange the Great (that's him in the middle on the left, henching). Any Western, even the B-est of Bs, is lifted by Glenn as a thug. And then a kindly local rancher, Bob Marshall, who has raised the quarter horse and a niece, is Big John Cannon, more than a decade before he bossed The High Chaparral. Leif has black hair, dye altering his Nordic looks. James Arness did the same about this time. Good guys aren’t generally blond in Westerns, I don’t know why. Actually Mr. Erikson topped the bill. I guess he was the biggest star they had, though I would have made Glenn Strange the star myself.
The Daggetts, not a happy couple
The horse he raised is a good one, and the boy a natural to ride him (hence the movie title) but the niece, Jerri (Dolores Prest) is less of a success. In fact she is arrogant, snobbish and bossy. So we understand in a trice that she and Bill will find true love in the last reel, which they duly do.
Tiresome niece
Now Daggett is smarmy and to all outward appearances respectable but in fact he beats his wife and dallies with saloon girl Doris, the cad. Bill has developed a schoolboy crush on Mrs. Daggett while being nursed and he gets pretty riled up when he discovers this two-timing behavior on the part of the saloon owner. We sense a showdown looming. It all climaxes on race day, when Bill rides the quarter horse in a big race and of course Daggett tries to nobble the horse, but it wins anyway.
Leif is a rich rancher but not yet on the High Chaparral
It’s all very predictable and also a little juvenile. I don’t care. I thought it was rather good.

It was shot in Trucolor but is usually now seen in black & white.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Blood on the Arrow (AA, 1964)

Dale is a good badman

Essentially a 1950s Western, with only a slightly more visible amount of bosom and leg and a little more tomato-sauce gore, this straight-down-the-line Allied Artists color actioner was a post-Tales of Wells Fargo Dale Robertson effort.

Dale (left) is of course best known for his TV horse operas, particularly Wells Fargo but also later Iron Horse and as host of Death Valley Days. But he did a good number of big-screen Westerns too, starting as a cameo Jesse James in the Randolph Scott picture Fighting Man of the Plains in 1949 and leading from 1952 on - The Outcasts of Poker Flat was his first star role. We’ve reviewed quite a few on this blog: try, for example, The Silver Whip, City of Bad Men or The Gambler from Natchez. Blood on the Arrow was in fact his last feature Western (if you discount the cartoon The Man from Button Willow). Afterwards it would be only TV. As a boy I was a dyed-in-the-wool Wells Fargo fan so Dale could do no wrong.

In Blood on the Arrow Dale is badman Wade Cooper, wanted in Bisbee (so someone had been reading Elmore Leonard or watching 3:10). He is backed up in Blood on the Arrow by the less then spectacular Wendell Corey (right) and Martha Hyer. Corey was never good in Westerns, unsuited to the genre in my view. He was a Hal B Wallis find who got a contract with Paramount but like Dale he did mostly TV work. As for big-screen Westerns, he was miscast in Anthony Mann's The Furies in 1950, was an unconvincing Frank James in the Paramount B-Western The Great Missouri Raid in ’51 (with Macdonald Carey as an equally unlikely Jesse), and he himself became a silly Jesse in the Bob Hope comedy Western Alias Jesse James in ’59. In Blood on the Arrow he plays an unpleasant and abusive husband and father who has struck it rich with a mine in 1871 Arizona, with Coyotero Apaches under Chief Kai-La (Robert Carricart) on the warpath.

Martha Hyer (left), Corey’s long-suffering wife in the movie, had been Jock Mahoney’s amour in Universal’s Showdown at Abilene in 1956 and the year after Blood on the Arrow she would be John Wayne’s in Paramount’s The Sons of Katie Elder. She would soon also become Mrs. Hal B Wallis. In Blood on the Arrow she does OK, I guess, looking very mid-60s though, with done-up blonde hair and plunging décolleté. She is first seen in one of those pools which are always conveniently situated in the desert in Westerns for women daringly to bathe in.

The plot concerns Corey offering rifles to the Indians in return for their lives. Dale proposes to steal the weapons from the quartermaster’s stores at nearby Apache Bend in return for a big chunk of the gold in Corey’s mine. The Apaches take the little boy hostage as a guarantee. As you know, providing the Indians with guns in Westerns is a crime somewhere on the scale of evil between cannibalism and matricide. The Army captain (Boyce Wright) expresses disgust than even a man such as Wade Cooper could “turn against his own people” – for, you see, Apaches are not Americans. Actually, though, we know perfectly well even in the first reel that as it’s Dale he won’t actually hand the firesticks over to Kai-La. They’ll probably end up blown up in the mine or something.
Martha spends much of the movie in a rather un-1871 blouse
The best thing about the cast is Wade’s gang, when they turn up (they have been lurking in Nogales) because they contain Ted de Corsia as Jud and Elisha Cook Jr. as Tex. Ted is quite dandified and appears to be still wearing the costume he had donned as Shanghai Pierce in Gunfight at the OK Corral seven years earlier, though it now seems rather the worse for wear, understandably. Elisha, always dependable as a gang member, was far from at the end of his Western career (he’d still be soldiering on in Tom Horn in 1980). There are another couple of bandits, Mike and Charlie (John Matthews and Tom Reese) but they are soon dispensed with, Mike gunned down by Wade in a quick-draw showdown and Charlie falling prey to an Apache arrow. You see, this picture is about four bad men and a badman. Regular readers will recognize the distinction. And if you’re not a regular reader, well, shame on you.
Ted as Shanghai
The picture was directed by good old Sidney Salkow (that's Sid, below) and written by equally meritorious Robert E Kent. Oft have we waxed lyrical on the careers of these two. It was shot in nice southern Arizona locations (so plenty of saguaros) in a bright color. There’s action all the way. I thought it was rather good.
You will not be surprised to learn (so no spoiler here) that the US Cavalry arrives at the last moment, all the bad guys are eliminated and Dale and Martha go off with the little boy to start a new life in California, a new family unit, just as in HondoThe Tin Star, Yuma, Face of a Fugitive, Quantrill’s Raiders, Trooper Hook and any number of other Westerns you care to name.

Definitely watchable.