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Roy Del Ruth
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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>
The Cloud brothers Tom and Jeff are in a mini war with some neighbouring ranchers who are stealing their cattle and want that land that they own. In these confrontations one of their ranch guys is found dead. Not too long James Cloud ('Kid Wichita') makes his way into the picture to help his brothers out on this outcome. Kid Wichita goes to any lengths to make sure that those neighbours pay back their interest. This means going out at night and herding their cattle to cover the costs, but there's more going on than that here. This situation gets more complicated when killing becomes apart of it and Tom can see his younger brother Jeff is turning out like Wichita and he doesn't see eye to eye to that. Realising now that he made a mistake by letting Wichita become apart of it, he must turn him into the law, alive or dead.
Pretty much a typical Hollywood western that seems to have put a lot effort into the production side of things (especially the Technicolor), but the story and pacing seems to be stuck in first gear throughout most of the picture. It's mostly a melodramatic and slow moving story that is rather chatty but still engaging no matter what. This is because the tough cowboy dialog between them is incredibly taut and that thrives throughout. That kind of makes up for sparse action and tension, but the momentum does picks up in the last 15 minutes with a revelation, which you have already guessed and a climatic showdown in the caverns. This is where the best moments occur. The shootout between the Cloud brothers and some rustlers up in the rocky terrains with its classic cowboy banter is fairly well staged. Like some reviewer has mentioned that really goes to the whip crazy incident. But after all of that you'll be expecting uplifting showdown between the brothers after the biting conflict amongst them earlier on, but sadly it all ends in a small whimper.
Being shot location also gives it a bit more credit. The Texas landscape helps for a nice backdrop, which makes for an easier viewing then actually just being made on sets. It one of the draw cards to make sure you keep on watching, that's for sure. Though saying that I was squinting to make out what's happening in those damn impossible moments in the dark. Some sequences felt liked they were chucked in without any thought, but that could be because of the editing. The editing was rather sharp and maybe too sharp, as some things were left open in the story with no much detail about certain scenarios that come to be. While the score was a bit over-bearing at times. But that's no real biggie. The characters in the film are well established and the performances are reasonably sound by the second-rate cast. Robert Preston as 'Kid Wichita' is the one and only enlightened character in the film. He spent most of the time amusing himself by making fun out of people he knew wouldn't fight back, well that changes. Robert Sterling as the flat Tom pales in comparison to the lively Preston and John Drew Barrymore as the younger Jeff wasn't too bad even if his performance was quite raw. Also Cathy Downs, John Litel and Jack Elam are decent in their roles.
A western that provides the usual set-up and clichés, but still mildly amusing and has a bit of style to burn.
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