Wednesday, March 08, 2006


The critics tend to like this Western, maybe because it's in color, or maybe because it was directed by Fritz Lang. I thought it was about par for the course for a western of the era. Randolph Scott stars as a member of an outlaw gang which also includes his brutal brother (Barton MacLane). One day, while on the run from the law, Scott finds Dean Jagger, a surveyor for Western Union, injured in the desert. He picks Jagger up and drops him off safely in town. Months later, they meet up again: Scott has renounced his ways and Jagger is chief engineer for the telegraph company. Out of gratitude, Jagger gives Scott a job as head scout for a group of men setting out through Indian territory to string telegraph lines. Robert Young plays a tenderfoot dude from back East who has come out for some manly work. Despite his citified ways and overly spiffy clothes, he's basically a good egg and is eventually accepted by his fellow workers, but there's trouble when both he and Scott take a shine to Jagger's cute sister (Virgina Gilmore, who looks a bit like June Lockhart) who works in the main telegraph office. There's even bigger trouble ahead from a band of drunken Indians who raid the small camp of line workers. It turns out they did it because Scott's old gang, trying to sabotage the line in the name of the Confederacy, paid them to. Events come to a climax when MacLane and his men burn down the worker's campsite, leading to a confrontation between the brothers which plays out in town at a barber shop, more like in a gangster movie than a Western. The lead actors are all fine, and the color cinematography is lovely. John Carradine plays a doctor, and Chill Wills and Slim Summerville provide solid if predictable comic relief. [TCM]

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