The Arizona wilderness, 1880. Gen. Fletcher Blackwell sends a message telling Capt. Walsh, who is escorting a wagon-train through Apache territory, heading for the fort at Furnace Creek, ... See full summary »
The Arizona wilderness, 1880. Gen. Fletcher Blackwell sends a message telling Capt. Walsh, who is escorting a wagon-train through Apache territory, heading for the fort at Furnace Creek, that he should cancel the escort and rush to another town. Apache leader "Little Dog" is leading the attack on the wagon-train and massacring everyone at the poorly manned fort. As a result the treaty is broken with the Indians and the white settlers take over the territory with the help of the calvary, as the Apaches are wiped out and only "Little Dog" remains at large. Gen. Fletcher Blackwell is court-martial-led for treason. The general's 2 sons, Cash Blackwell and Capt. Rufe Blackwell, each with a different disposition, go about trying to find evidence to clear their father's name. Written by
Forgotten 'Forties Western Stylish And Entertaining
Fury At Furnace Creek is a richly textured Western from 1948 starring charming second-tier leads Victor Mature and Coleen Gray. The mid to late 1940's, the Golden Era of Hollywood movies, produced such Western Classics as Red River (1948), My Darling Clementine (1946), and San Antonio (1945) (see my review). While not in a league with those blockbusters, this picture reaps the benefits of a big studio industry that was at the absolute peak of movie-making artistry. Though a medium budget picture, it gets the same glossy production values as any top-dollar 20th Century Fox number.
Mature and second lead Glenn Langan play long-estranged brothers uneasily reunited in a effort to clear their late Army General father of charges he caused an Indian massacre. Ms. Gray, as a pretty, but spunky diner waitress whose enlisted man father died in the massacre, makes a lovely romantic interest for the appealingly laid-back Mature. Formidable villainy is provided by Albert Dekker as a suave crime boss with henchmen Roy Roberts, Fred Clark, and the ever sinister Charles Stevens. Stevens, who claimed to be the grandson of Geronimo, was an asset to any Western. With his beady eyes, his weathered ferret-like face, and his wiry, stooped physique, he seemed the quintessential Western villain. Reginald Gardiner plays a pivotal supporting role as an alcoholic retired Army captain possibly involved in a conspiracy to frame the General.
Though director Bruce Humberstone directed only two other Westerns, he nevertheless shows a nice touch for the genre here, getting fine performances out of a diverse cast and brilliantly setting up the scenes for some dazzling cinematography. He and film editor Robert L. Simpson move along the critically acclaimed Charles Booth/David Garth story with silky smooth scene transitions and nary a wasted camera shot in a lean 88-minute running time. The colorful score, credited in the movie's opening graphics to Alfred Newman, not David Raksin as IMDb indicates, consists mostly of pervasive period honky-tonk music but works quiet effectively. Sets are lavishly detailed and costumes are colorful and authentic looking. All of which along with intelligent, colorful dialog, and Harry Jackson's stylish cinematography creates a rich, layered, ambiance. The style of Jackson's atmospheric cinematography, abounding with night scenes and starkly shadowed, obliquely angled camera shots, shows the influence of the dark, Gothic crime melodrama, now known as film noir, which was all the rage of the late 1940's. Look for some some real knock-out camera work in this modest Western, particularly the following: 1) a lengthy sequence of panicked Garder stalked through, dark streets, boardwalks, and alleys by Stevens -- 2) a shot of Mature descending a stairway viewed between the silhouetted hats of the two villains watching him -- 3) in the final reel horseback chase a pose of villains galloping across the top of a rugged cliff while the two fleeing brothers ride parallel to them at the bottom of the cliff, all in the same frame. And surely the climatic shoot-out scene in the ruins of the old fort accompanied by whistling wind, tumbling tumbleweeds, and screeching gate hinges, has served endless inspiration for a later generation of Spaghetti Western directors.
If you are a Western fan, or just a fan of classic movies, don't miss this one. Fury At Furnace Creek is a skillful blend of drama, intrigue, and action, exciting, atmospheric, and engaging from beginning to end. First-rate Western entertainment from Old Hollywood's Golden Years.
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