Monday, August 25, 2014


In the woods near a resort lodge in a small town in Utah, vacationing lawyer Lex Barker is smooching with resort employee Anne Bancroft when they find the body of a young woman who has been brutally murdered, her throat cut and mutilating slashes across her lips and eyes. Everyone agrees she was, shall we say, a woman of loose morals, but hardly deserved that kind of demise. Local sheriff John Dehner has plenty of suspects: the woman-hating owner of the lodge (Ron Randell) who has had psychosomatic paralysis ever since a girlfriend left him; his overly-protective sister (Marie Windsor); a washed-up actor (John Holland) and his little totsy (Mamie Van Doren) who was friends with the dead woman; employee Indian Joe who is a little slow but also menacingly hulking especially with a knife in his hands; a mysterious man named Feldman who checked in after the murder; hunky young Frankie (Gerald Frank); even Barker and Bancroft come under suspicion. More people die before the culprit is discovered.

This outdoorsy mystery has some promise, and a plot that for the most part is easy to follow, but the actors all seem to be sleepwalking through it, and it runs out of steam before the 60-minute mark, overstaying its welcome by a good 20 minutes. Barker (pictured with Randell) is OK, and I liked Dehner as the sheriff—he seems to be auditioning for a TV series about a laconic small-town cop. The two characters with the most potential, Bancroft and Windsor, aren't fleshed out enough to really be interesting, and Randell's character, who is supposed to be somewhat sympathetic, is very unpleasant, both as written and as acted. The death of one character near the end at a lumber mill is confusingly shot and, as far as I could tell, completely unmotivated. Fans of Van Doren will be disappointed since, despite her third billing, she only has one big scene. There are psychological threads galore, though most go nowhere: in addition to Randell's odd paralysis, there's Windsor's overdone attention to her brother and Bancroft's cold-fish ways with Barker despite her surface flirtatiousness. Not to mention that strange death at the lumber mill. The Utah setting is a plus. Overall, the movie is not hard to watch but it's hard to like. [TCM]

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