Bret Harte's "The Outcasts of Poker Flats" is one of his two best known stories (the other is "Luck of Roaring Camp") and while his reputation has receded over the past century, his humanism and warmth towards the unlikely inhabitants of Gold-Rush California is worth remembering and enjoying. But while the story and performances in this version are good, director Joseph Newman -- who got his start doing "Crime Does Not Pay" shorts for MGM -- never quite got over the need to drive every point through with a stake. So Joseph Lashelle's beautiful photography is over the top, the music by Lionel Newman -- no relation -- is overwrought and so forth. The result is a decent film, but the melodrama tends to overwhelm the characters.
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