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Blood on the Moon (1948)

Passed | | Western | 21 November 1948 (USA)
Unemployed cowhand Jim Garry is hired by his dishonest friend Tate Riling as muscle in a dispute between homesteaders and cattleman John Lufton.

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Writers:

(screenplay), (adaptation) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
...
...
...
...
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John Lufton
...
Milo Sweet
Clifton Young ...
Joe Shotten
...
Frank Reardon
...
...
Ted Elser (as Richard Powers)
...
Cap Willis
...
Nels Titterton
...
Bart Daniels
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Storyline

When a shady-looking stranger rides into town to join his old friend it is assumed he is a hired gun. But as the new man comes to realise the unlawful nature of his buddy's business and the way the homesteaders are being used, the two men draw apart to become sworn enemies. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

BLOOD RUNS FREE...(original 11x14 Lobby Card - all caps) See more »

Genres:

Western

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

21 November 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Nacht in der Prärie  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Early in the film, there is gunfire exchanged between Jim Garry and Amy Lufton. Jim fires his rifle 13 times without reloading. While it may seem this would not be possible, because of the size of the cartridges used on the Winchester Model 73, the magazine could hold between 15 and 20 rounds. See more »

Quotes

Jim Garry: I've been mixed up in a lot of things, Tate, but up to now, I've never been hired for my guns.
Tate Riling: Can you afford to be so particular?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Dead Man (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Somber and beautiful western starring the original noir cowboy
19 January 2007 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

The concept of the "noir western" is unthinkable without Robert Mitchum. Mitchum, who started his career as a heavy in B westerns and went on to be hailed as the "soul of film noir" for his world-weary cynicism and cool, doomed aura, defined the hybrid genre in 1947 with PURSUED, then followed with BLOOD ON THE MOON. The plot is essential noir: a man down on his luck is summoned by an old partner and cut in on a big deal; when he finds out that the deal is crooked and his friend is an irredeemable louse, he has to decide whether to accept his slide into corruption or fight to maintain his honor. The scheme just happens to involve cheating a man out of his cattle herd instead of some urban racket. The cinematography is literal noir; at least half the scenes take place at night, in a murk that rather obviously symbolizes the difficulty of seeing anyone's true nature.

None of the western clichés are here: there are no rowdy dance-halls or rip-snorting brawls or comical drunks, no steely sheriffs or white-hatted good guys. The mood is somber, tense and ambiguous, but the film does satisfy the requirements for a western: there are cattle stampedes, a savage fight, a gun battle and beautiful sweeping landscapes, including stunning scenes in a snow-bound pass, the white drifts sliced by the tracks of men and horses. All of the performances are restrained and natural. Barbara Bel Geddes and Phyllis Thaxter, as the daughters of the cattle baron targeted by the scheme, both avoid the glossy glamour that so often makes actresses look out of place in westerns. Bel Geddes is appealingly fresh, and does a good job with a character who starts out as a hostile spitfire in pants (she and Mitchum "meet cute" by shooting at each other) and then morphs into a gentle healer in a dress. Robert Preston is perfect as Riling, a smirking cad with an oily face and a plaid jacket; his former partner Jim Garry (Mitchum) sums him up with the classic line, "I've seen dogs that wouldn't claim you for a son." Walter Brennan adds seasoning as usual, this time poignant rather than comic.

Mitchum makes a beautiful cowboy with his long hair and elegantly rugged attire, at once authentic (on seeing Mitch in costume Walter Brennan reportedly declared, "That is the goddamnedest realest cowboy I've ever seen!") and romantic. In one scene he confronts a gunman on a wide, dusty street and walks towards him—that's all he has to do, just walk towards him and the guy knows he's outclassed. (Mitchum's panther walk is one of the glories of cinema—I would love to watch a whole movie of nothing but Mitchum walking.) I don't think Jim Garry smiles once (though he comes close in a gentle scene where the heroine, tending to his injured hand, asks about his fight with Riling, and he answers, "It was a pleasure.") He conveys a profound inchoate sadness, but as always he uses dry humor to keep emotion at bay. He's contained, laconic, defended. Not merely stoic, he's strangely passive, willing to let things go; his strength is tinged with melancholy because he can "take it," but he also feels it. Lee Marvin (Mitchum's one-time co-star) said it well: "The beauty of that man. He's so still. He's moving. And yet he's not moving."

Mitchum is mesmerizing because you sense so much going on behind the cool, impassive facade. It's partly his film-style acting, which happens under the surface, not on the surface. But under-acting can't fully account for his mystery. There's something fundamentally inaccessible, unknowable about Mitchum's characters, and this is what makes them so real. You never feel they are underwritten or inconsistent; instead you feel he's a whole and complex person who can never be fully explained. Despite his much publicized contempt for most of his work, Mitchum brings this tremendous gift to the slightest and shallowest of movies. BLOOD ON THE MOON, however, is worthy of him.


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