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Set in the Argentina of about 1875 in which a customary punishment for killing was a sentence to army service. A young gaucho deserts his army sentence and becomes a bandit leader and also gets his sweetheart pregnant. Seeing the futility of his ways, he takes her to a church to be married prior to surrendering himself back to the army. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Twentieth-Century Fox put together this unusual little adventure story, filmed almost entirely on location on the Argentinian Pampas. It's the tale of a proud young Gaucho and his long struggle against injustice. Rory Calhoun never quite made it as a big star, but he carries this one ably enough, though I found his unrelenting surliness a little wearying. It is worth noting that he does his own stunt riding.
A young Richard Boone is excellent as (what else?) the villain. His character, Major Salinas, bullies Martin (Calhoun) when the latter is forced to join the Argentinian Army. Martin deserts and becomes Val Verde, the brigand king. Salinas quits the Army and becomes chief of police, and is thus able to continue his vendetta against the Gaucho. What puzzled me is, if Calhoun can change names so easily, how come Boone has to wear the same uniform in two different jobs?
Gene Tierney, Fox's specialist film noir love interest, appears in this one as Teresa, the respectable woman who falls for the Gaucho outlaw. Tierney is great, affecting a softer, more natural look than in her urban crime movies and (unusually for her) hitting the screen in colour.
Jacques Tourneur directs with proficiency, capturing both the glorious freedom of the Pampas and the imposing beauty of the Andes. It is just a pity that Philip Dunne's screenplay is so artificial and wordy. Is it really necessary to put in stuff like, "Our knives are thirsty, but we will not give them drink yet"?
Val Verde knows that the Gauchos, the semi-wild ethnic group of the Pampas, are heading for oblivion. He chooses to defy destiny and fight against hopeless odds. His elemental heroism, and the urbane malice of Salinas, make this little picture worth watching.
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