Ex-confederate officer Clay Fletcher jumps at the chance to reunite with his once lady-friend, Susan Jeffers, when his father, Judge Fletcher, sends him on an errand to El Paso, Texas to ... See full summary »
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Ex-confederate officer Clay Fletcher jumps at the chance to reunite with his once lady-friend, Susan Jeffers, when his father, Judge Fletcher, sends him on an errand to El Paso, Texas to get the signature of Susan's father, Judge Jeffers, on a legal document. Once there he finds the judge has become a drunk and a laughing stock, doing the bidding of local magnate Bert Donner and his running dog, Sheriff La Farge. Just as Clay starts straightening out the town's problems, events occur which force him to abandon the legal system and instead adopt the murderous tactics of a vigilante. Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
I see you found yourself a new coat.
Yes. A coat of a brave man who died defending the rights of his people. There were two bullet holes in the back of it. You heard of Señor Montez?
Montez made the mistake of interfering with the law. If you're smart, you won't make the same mistake.
If I do, Donner, I'll remember to not turn my back on you.
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Desite the very familiar nature of the film, it's well worth seeing.
"El Paso" is an ugly looking film. I assume it looked a lot better when it first debuted, but the print from Netflix is yucky looking. Part of this might be because it used Cinecolor (a very inexpensive but far from perfect color system) and part of it surely is due to the effects of degradation over time. All I know for sure is that the film is full of sepia tones and green-grays but many other colors are absent.
The film begins just after the Civil War. A lawyer (John Payne) is sent from Charleston to El Paso to get some papers signed by a judge who used to live in South Carolina. Unfortunately, when Payne arrives, he finds that the judge (Henry Hull) is a drunk and the town is run by an evil boss (Sterling Hayden) whose aim is to steal away everyone's land. Can Payne use the law to his advantage or will he and his new friends have to take the law into their own hands?
The evil boss-man theme is a very, very familiar one in American films of this era--perhaps THE most familiar. I am pretty sure it was used long before it was in "Birth of a Nation" (this was an evil boss film despite its sick racist message). Because it's become a bit of a cliché, "El Paso" certainly lacks originality. But, despite the familiar, the film is handled well on several levels. While the boss-man story is overused, using an alcoholic judge to help make the land-grab 'legal' was an inspired change to the standard story. Additionally, Payne and Hayden are both good actors and make the most of the material. In addition, it was nice to see the way Mexicans were handled in the film. Too often, they are simpletons in westerns, but here they are both noble AND manly--with Eduardo Noriega's character being one of the better ones in this era. Along for the ride is old reliable Gabby Hayes for a nice bit of comic relief. In addition, while the film might be a bit blood-thirsty, it sure did make it exciting and better than the usually over-sanitized western of the day. The overall package manages to breath life into an ancient sort of story and makes the film a lot better than it should be. Worth seeing--particularly if you like westerns.
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