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In occupied France during the Franco-Prussian War, a young French laundress shares a coach ride with several of her condescending social superiors. But when a Prussian officer holds the ... See full summary »
On a Greek island during the 1912 war, several people are trapped by quarantine for the plague. If that isn't enough worry, one of the people, a superstitious old peasant woman, suspects ... See full summary »
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A Western to Stand Beside Lewton's Horror Classics
Like Lewton's horror films, one doesn't notice the low budget (the lowest ever for a color film at that time, per Lewton) because of the excellent character development and the plot tensions. And like his horror films, it's what you CAN'T see that's so terrifying. The final scene is in an adobe church with high, open windows. Outside one can hear the Apache drums and chants, the light from the burning town flickers on the walls, and one is forced to imagine the scene outside, as do the small band of settlers claustrophobically huddled inside. Indians appear at the windows from time to time like fun-house pop-ups. It's a nightmare situation mined for all its possibilities. Other scenes have a similar effect. A man without a gun comes on a just-massacred traveling party; suddenly, danger seems to exist all around him. Later, the hero is traveling with a party of armed men; suddenly he finds himself alone on foot on a flat plain with nowhere to take cover and a band of Apaches riding toward him at full gallop. And the opening scene: a gunfight occurs off-screen, shattering the peaceful scene of a kitten being served milk (an example of what Lewton called a "bus" scene after the sudden appearance of the bus in THE CAT PEOPLE). Though these situations may not be unique to this film, they are obviously the sort that appealed to Lewton, and are handled very effectively. But the core of the film is the characters: the protagonist, a card sharp who plays the angles (his nickname is "Slick") and is fast with a gun, a wise-ass who isn't all bad; the virtuous sheriff who isn't all good; the preacher, an old man with a lot of gumption, not a bad judge of character, but a reactionary Irish Catholic priest with a strong racial prejudice. Other typically interesting Lewton characters are the madam who's happy enough to leave town if someone will buy her out at a good price, the cavalry officer who understands the Indians, and particularly the stoic Indian scout, faithful to the settlers to the end. The very fact that these characters don't move to extremes in extreme situations, that they have both good and less positive traits, is what gives this film its grab. It's a film that doesn't force the viewer to follow its path, and doesn't automatically go to the dramatic limit suggested by the situation... That's why Lewton's films are great!
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