Monday, November 09, 2015


Richard Trevelyan (Richard Todd) is on death row for murdering his wife, but gets a last-minute reprieve for a new trail. When it ends in a hung jury (one lone holdout for innocence gets five other jurors on her side), he is freed and heads out west to stay at an isolated ranch. Meanwhile, actress Shelley Carnes (Ruth Roman) has been sent to a dude ranch called the Tumble Moon for her delicate health; on her way, she gets stuck in the mud during a storm and stays the night at Richard's house—she recognizes him and he's standoffish and asks her not to tell anyone that she's seen him. The next day when she arrives at the Tumble Moon, she is told by its owner Liza (Mercedes McCambridge) that the place is closed, but Liza takes pity on her and lets her stay a while; the only other person around is Liza's crippled teenage brother String (Darryl Hickman). It turns out that Liza is an old friend of Richard's and was the lone holdout on the jury. Shelley, who has fallen in love with Richard, wants to try and prove his innocence, but he wants to let well enough alone. Also involved are Myra Nolan, owner of a nearby hotel, and her husband J.D. who have a possibly mysterious connection to Liza and Richard, and slick operator Harvey Turner (Zachary Scott) who is friends with Richard but may have his own agenda. And did I mention that: 1) Richard's wife had been unfaithful; 2) both Liza and String seem just a touch high-strung (no pun intended)? Shelley and Richard marry in secret, but on her wedding night, Shelly has reason to wonder, will she wind up just like wife #1?

This is a solid mystery/thriller with a lot of backstory, some interesting characters, and good acting. The focus is on Roman (the same year, she was Farley Granger's lover in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN) and she's fine, but the real reasons to watch the movie are McCambridge and Hickman (both pictured above); they give fine performances that are a bit showy but compelling and their characters are the most interesting in the story. Todd is rather bland; Scott's quite good but not in it enough, essentially winding up as a red herring (though he does play a crucial role in the climax). A couple of good lines: a reporter discussing Richard's wife's murder says, "It's always the good-lookers that get into trouble—nobody ever bothers to kill the dogs." Later, McCambridge, a little jealous of Roman, tells her, "You're fascinated by the smell of murder!" [TCM]

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