Late in the Civil War, three Confederate soldiers escape from a Union prison camp in Missouri. They soon fall into the hands of pro-Confederate raiders, who force them to act as "outriders" (escorts) for a civilian wagon train that will be secretly transporting Union gold from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to St. Louis, Missouri. The three men are to lead the wagons into a raider trap in Missouri, but one of them starts to have misgivings.... Written by
THE OUTRIDERS is a good workmanlike Western. There are no real surprises in the story, but there are some very strong performances. Joel McCrea gives his usual conviction to the hero role, with Barry Sullivan nicely devious as his comrade/rival. Arlene Dahl looks great, but tends to pout a bit much, James Whitmore lends sturdy support in the type of role normally played by Walter Brennan, Claude Jarman Jr. plays another of his doomed youths, and Jeff Corey is quite extraordinary as the villain (with almost expressionist make-up, and did he intend to imitate Kirk Douglas?).
But the movie is stolen by silent screen legend Ramon Novarro in one of his more substantial later roles. He essays his character perfectly, giving it much more depth than was in the screenplay. He also lends the part style, grace, dignity and humor (that "Pagan" sparkle never left his eye, despite his rather sad life).
In short, definitely worth seeing for the performances, and the gorgeous technicolor. What a shame the script and direction don't match them.
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