Friday, January 27, 2006


Nifty little B-western with the well-used plot device of a small group of people under siege, in this case, a bunch of travelers stuck in a small way station surrounded by unfriendly Indians. Our hero (third-billed William Lundigan) is the kid brother of a well-known hellraiser and bandit (Lloyd Nolan). After a stagecoach robbery, Nolan got away but Lundigan, who seems to have been mostly an onlooker, was arrested. The amusing opening scene has a traveling judge passing a 60-day sentence on Lundigan without even getting out of his coach. Since Lunidgan has already served 90 days, the judge amends his sentence to 90 and Lundigan is freed. He goes back to his employer at the stagecoach and is given the job of running a way station in the middle of rough and tumble Apache country. With help from a Mexican woman (Connie Gilchrist), her young and lovely daughter (Donna Reed), and a friendly bunch of deputies, Lundigan settles into his job but is soon challenged when a group of travelers are stranded at the small walled-in fort during an Apache uprising. Nolan also shows up, coveting the Wells Fargo payroll box, and it turns out that the Indians are (literally) on the warpath because, in the midst of being made an honorary Apache, Nolan stole a valuable medicine pipe. After an initial raid, the Apaches ask for Nolan to be given up to them or they'll continue their siege of the fort. Lundigan refuses to give up his own flesh and blood, but in the end, Nolan sacrifices himself to save the rest. Nolan and Reed are top-billed, and Nolan is quite good as the shifty villain, but Reed has very little to do except use her best Natalie Wood-style Mexican accent while flirting with the hero. Lundigan does nicely as the handsome, wholesome, and sturdy hero. In notable support are Chill Wills as a wounded visitor who joins the group at the fort, Fuzzy Knight doing a stuttering comic-relief role (and getting a serious moment when his close buddy is killed), Miles Mander as a sickly frontier artist, Gloria Holden (who played Dracula's daughter in the 1936 film) as his wife, Tito Renaldo as a "good-guy" Indian, and Anne Ayars (who at times look just like Ruth Hussey) as a Civil War widow who flirts briefly with Lundigan. There's perhaps a little too much plot here for the hour-long film, but it's an enjoyable hour, and being an MGM B-film, it looks as good as any A-western of the time. [TCM]

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