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Esqueda, an outlaw, attempts to force settlers King and Cordelia Cameron out of his territory. Esqueda's mother raised Rio as her own. Rio has loyalty to Esqueda but also feels the settlers should be able to stay. A showdown between the two raised as brothers is unavoidable. Written by
An unusual Hollywood western with an alluring script
Before I saw this movie, I had not heard of the director John Farrow. After some research I found that he was the father of Mia Farrow. I also found that he had good writing skills. This is apparent after you view this film closely. The lead characters are Rio (Robert Taylor) and Esqueda (Anthony Quinn) who turn out to be each others alter ego--one man slaps a woman who kisses him and the other kisses a woman before she slaps him.
It's an unusual western because there is no hero--only a handsome troubled anti-hero. It is an unusual western in that Mexicans are not always painted as bad or stupid--it presents them as human beings. Even the 'bad' Esqueda has reverence for God's blessings. This probably is a result of Farrow's Catholicism as it is in the case when the priest gives the final blessings to the dead anti-hero (whose body is not shown, for some strange reason). An unusual way to end a film.
Evidently Farrow espoused family values--the couple's marriage is strengthened and Rio says his adopted mother would not have approved of her son Esqueda's actions. The family bonds between Rio and Esqueda are the cornerstones of the script, with doses of Catholicism and social comments thrown in. Something tells me the film we see today is not what the director intended to show--perhaps the studios had their say. The loose editing makes one wonder what was going on.
As far as performances, I think this is one of Quinn's finest unsung performances. Taylor is handsome and plays the dark anti-hero well--predictably dressed in dark colors. Ava Gardner's role is supposed to be heroic--dressed in white--but is it so simplistic to dismiss it as such. Is it a coincidence that she behaves differently when she wears pink?
It is a strange and a fascinating trio--Taylor, Quinn and Gardner. Farrow had, in my view, a great chance to make a memorable film but somehow fumbled.
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