A story of a range-war in the Texas Panhandle in which the 'bad' brother villain fights for what is right...and commits murder in its name, and the 'good' brother hero sanctions wholesale cattle rusting and, reluctantly in the end, comes to the realization that maybe he isn't doing the right thing. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It's a lucky thing for you, I happened to be passing through.
And you are gonna to keep on passing through too.
Why you kill me if I don't?
You know... someday it might come to that.
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A couple of technical surprises for a lackluster western
I was kind of surprised that a low budget studio like Eagle-Lion would actually fork out the cost of Technicolor film (expensive) and on-location filming in Texas (also expensive) for what is essentially an A- (minus) western. An A- western being something that had more money spent on it than a B western, but lacks the star power an "A western" would usually carry. It's not bad although the plot seems a little disjointed at times. It could be because of what an earlier reviewer had said about the studio atrociously editing down the running time of the film, even after all the money they seemed to have spent on it.
Robert Sterling and his "Younger Brother" (played by the recently departed John Drew Barrymore) are caught between competing ranch interests (led by John Litel) who want to lay claim to his land. The sheriff (Litel's son, played by Don Haggerty) even goes so far as to have one of Sterling's ranch hands killed. In walks Sterling's long lost brother, "Kid Wichita" (Robert Preston) who decides to do a little killing for his brother on his own. Sterling even weirdly agrees to it at first but then sees it getting out of hand and decides he has to kill his brother.
There is one memorable scene of Preston being whipped by one of Litel's men as he hides under a rock outcropping, then he grabs the end of the whip and the man tumbles over the ledge to his death, but otherwise this is fairly dreary stuff. Even near the end where Sterling confronts Preston in a draw only to have Sterling's ranch hand Sam Beers (Chill Wills) shoot Preston from the side, seems anti-climatic. It's as if everyone was sleepwalking through their parts, except for Chill Wills and the young Barrymore, who spends most of his time grimacing at the camera, making faces like he's trying to act too hard. But hell, he was only 18 at the time and it was his first film so I guess that's understandable.
Also notable for as an early role for Jack Elam as Earl Boyce, a neighboring rancher that Preston guns down in his own house, and Cathy Downs plays Elam's wife who may (or may not) have a thing for Sterling. That love interest looks like one of the things edited out of this film.
The Texas scenery is more interesting than the film itself and gives the viewer a break from the usual California locations that we've seen a thousand times before. VCI used a pretty good print for their DVD with minor blemishes and scratches. Considering the film stock's age, it looks in pretty good shape.
Worth a look. I'd give it a 5½ out of 10.
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